Features

Illustration: Kim Wiens.

Even though we all know we should prep for finals throughout the semester, no one really does that, right? So, in order to make up for this lost study time, here are some scientifically proven methods on how best to tackle those pesky final exams.

Take study breaks

Although you might be tempted to spend six straight hours reviewing a whole semester’s worth of calculus notes, you’ll retain a lot more information if you alternate between 45 minutes of studying and 15 minute breaks.

These numbers are based on a study performed in 1967, which found that the decision making ability of an Air Force radar operator was compromised after about 45 minutes of continuous work.

While most of you don’t have the same level of responsibility of someone in the military, taking breaks is still a good idea. During these temporary reprieves, you should leave your enclosed study environment to reset your brain. Go outside, phone your grandma, or make a snack.

Don’t just re-read your notes

Going over notes that you’ve already taken might help you memorize the information, but that isn’t going to help you when you’re asked to think critically and analyze something complex during an exam.

In reality, the best way to prepare for exams is to test yourself. To put this into practice, download some free flashcard apps, or write out some questions and have a friend quiz you.

Research has shown that recalling information through this method strengthens your knowledge of the subject and helps you retrieve it later, meaning it can counteract blanking during exams.

Sleep and eat properly

We all want to turn into insomniac hermits during exams, but that kind of approach definitely has a negative impact on your ability to absorb information.

Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease brain activity, especially in the areas of the brain that deal with language skills. It also weakens your immune system, and decreases your body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

The food you eat has a big influence over your brain function as well, so don’t skimp on some serious study time snacking. Some of the foods that have been shown to improve brain function include fish, tomatoes, broccoli, and nuts.

Don’t highlight

It might seem like you’re doing work, but highlighting text in green or yellow or pink doesn’t actually require you to read and process that information.

In fact, a report released by the Association for Physiological Science suggested that highlighting offered no further benefit from reading the text, and could be detrimental because it may disrupt the process of making inferences or drawing connections.

Stay optimistic

Positive thinking is linked to lower stress, a stronger immune system, and an increased lifespan. Just think about how happy you’ll be when you finish your final exam and summer is finally here! That should do the trick.