Cramming? Here are some effective study methods and self-care tips for finals week

by To Duong

Cramming for finals? You might want to check out these study methods to make the most of your time before those difficult exams. These study methods are compiled from a psychology study from UCSD, a study from the University of St. Augustine, and from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).

1. Spaced practice

This method of learning involves spaced repetition of materials over a set amount of time. Instead of reviewing the same flashcard over and over in your head, mark it down and return to it after a few cards. This enables your brain to actively recall the concept instead of passively reading those cards. A good program for this spaced practice method is Anki, widely used among the population of medical students when they have to learn a large amount of information in a short period of time.

2. Retrieval practice

This method of learning involves active brain recollection of concepts and materials. The more you work on recalling the material, the more likely you will learn and recall it with accuracy. To maximize the effect of this study method, it is best to practice it over an extended period of time.

3. Teaching method

This method involves you teaching a concept to someone else. This person does not need to know the concept beforehand since you are teaching them with the assumption that they do not know anything about it. Thus it is your job to explain it to them in a way that they can understand. This method is effective because it not only helps you recall the concept, but it also forces you to think through it in order to rephrase and describe it to someone with no background information.

4. Connecting concepts

This method requires you to think and truly understand each concept in that you are looking at the bigger picture. Rarely do lessons taught in school stand alone, so it is a good study method to see how all the concepts exist relative to each other. Concept map-drawing, where you jot down a concept and start connecting other concepts to it and explaining the relationship (it would look like two circles connected with a line of explanation), is a good tool to utilize in this case.

5. Taking practice exams

A good way to get a measure of your knowledge is to take practice exams and reflect on any incorrect answers. By thinking about the questions you answered incorrectly, you get an idea of where you need to spend most of your study time.

Although studying plays a major part in preparing for finals and exams, it is also important to take care of yourself. Consider trying out these suggestions this finals season:

1. Plan a feasible study schedule

Often when students plan out a study schedule, they create an unrealistic one. This is strongly discouraged because seeing unfinished tasks on your schedule is likely to decrease your motivation to study. The same logic applies to seeing too many tasks on your schedule; it might be overwhelming and make it harder to get started. Planning a feasible study schedule with break times in between will help keep your mind focused during study time and help you feel accomplished at the end of the day when you cross that last task off your list.

2. Get a good night of sleep and eat well

It is important to get adequate rest to help keep your brain at optimal function. Most of the time a sleep-deprived brain retains significantly less information than a normal brain, so instead of staying up those one or two extra hours, you should get some rest and start bright and early the next day. It is also important to eat well. Although knowledge feeds the brain, it needs actual nutrients to keep it functioning well.

3. Plan out small rewards for yourself

Some students have reported that planning small rewards for themselves throughout their study schedule — such as a short walk, a cup of ice cream or a phone call with your SO — helped motivate them and allowed their brains to relax before having to concentrate on studying again.

Most importantly, you matter more than a bad grade or two, so remember to take care of yourself this finals season!

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