10 Scientifically Backed Tips to Ace Finals

by on Nov 23rd, 2018

Fall Term is SO close to being over and all that’s standing between you and 2 weeks of homework free bliss are final exams. Time to buckle down and prepare for the battle of Finals Week. Don’t worry though – you’ve got science on your side. By using the following scientifically backed study tips, you’ll breeze through your exams and have a well-deserved relaxing break.

1. Active Recall

Instead of reading the same material over and over and over again until your brain starts to melt, try reading it over once and then recall everything you can remember about what you just read. The concept of active recall and its efficiency in studying has been long documented over several studies and is one of the easiest study hacks out there.

STUDY TIP: Flash cards are a great example of active recall and are an easy, effective way of helping you study! Use the Leitner System for maximum impact.

2. Get Fit

Go for a run, lift some weights, check out an exercise class – your options for squeezing in a workout are endless and the benefits are totally worth it. Recent research has shown that exercising grows your brain by increasing the size of your hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for consolidating memory.

STUDY TIP: The most effective method is to study, wait a few hours, and then go exercise! You’ll remember more than if you study and exercise right away.

3. Ditch the Late Nights

Pulling an all-nighter might sound like the solution to all your studying woes, but science tells us the exact opposite is true. In fact, studies show that even one night of sleep deprivation can have adverse effects on your memory and ability to concentrate.

Sleep reinforces your memory, which is why getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep is extremely important, especially while studying.

STUDY TIP: Research has shown studying more difficult or important information right before bed helps with future retrieval.

4. Plug in Your Headphones

Even the library comes with distractions – occasional coughs and quiet shuffling all interrupt your studying for brief moments. Research suggests putting on some headphones and playing background music is the best method for combatting distracting noises.

STUDY TIP: Listen to neutral, mellow and repetitive music or try classical music – studies show these have the greatest impact on your productivity and memory retention, whereas popular music can interfere with your concentration.

5. Switch it Up!

Researchers at UCLA have shown that by simply alternating between study subjects, students can enhance their long-term recall of information. So instead of studying the same subject all day, try studying for different exams by switching up subjects throughout the day!

6. Say It Out Loud

Time to temporarily ditch the silent approach and find a nice place to talk out loud. Talking out loud creates what is known as the production effect, which enhances the distinctiveness of what you’re studying. You not only remember what you read, but you also create a distinct memory of you saying it out loud, which allows you to recall it more easily in the future.

STUDY TIP: Determine which pieces of information are the most difficult or most important to remember, and repeat them out loud to create a distinct memory.

7. Take a Mental Break

Step away from the books. Studying requires energy and attentional resources; when you study non-stop you deplete these resources and learning becomes harder. Instead, you should take brief mental breaks to restore your energy and keep you focused.

8. Stop Multitasking

We all like to think we’re masters of multitasking, but the truth is, we’re not. Multitasking disrupts studying by inhibiting your ability to absorb and process information.

Multitasking doesn’t just distract you either – recent studies and articles argue that it also drains energy reserves in your brain, making it harder for you to retain information. We all love sending a good Snapchat Story, but during exams, it might be a better idea to put the phone away.

STUDY TIP: Try downloading apps like SelfControl or FocusMe to block distracting websites while studying.

9. Study in Intervals

The spacing effect and is a really simple concept that can have a serious impact on your studying, especially if long-term memory storage is your end goal! All you need to do is read over the material and learn as much as you can, wait a bit, and then revisit the concepts. A general rule of thumb is that the study period and break period should be around the same length.

STUDY TIP: Revisiting the material can include reading it over verbatim, paraphrasing the concepts, looking over examples or doing practice tests.

10. Teach

Time to partner up with a classmate or give your own lecture to a friend. Studies find that when students teach a concept to another student, they do better on future recall and answer more questions correctly!