Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Studying for Finals

It's that time again...FINALS.  The dreaded last stop all students must make in the effort to achieve summer freedom.  At this point in the school year, most students are completely burned out.  The last thing they want to do is a marathon study session to prepare for the test that can make or break their grade.  In reality, a marathon study session is probably the worst thing a student can do to prepare for these monster exams.

Here's a solid study plan:

1.  Study in small time/information increments.  How many times have we heard this one, but it is so true.  Research on how the brain functions has proven time and time again, that we remember mostly what we study at the beginning of a session and at the end of the session.  Most things in the middle get lost somewhere.  Therefore, study a little bit at many different times, and you will remember more.

2.  Create a study outline.  Make a master list of all the chapters, concepts, or topics that will be covered on the exam.  Take how many days you have left to study for the exam and divide the chapters/concepts into the days.  If the exam covers 14 chapters of the chemistry textbook and you have two weeks until the exam, study one chapter a night.  This seems so very obvious, but most students do not do this.  In following this idea, you will be adhering to step #1 as well.  DO NOT try to learn 14 chapters in one night.

3.  Memorization technique:  I learned this in a psychology class in college and will never forget it.  The professor gave us a list of 20 random words to memorize.  He told half of the class just to repeat the words over and over (also known as rote rehearsal) to try to memorize the words.  He told the other half of the class to make up a story in their minds using all 20 words (also known as mediation/bridging).  Guess which half of the class remembered more?  The side that made up the story.  You have to be active in your learning and make what you are learning meaningful otherwise you will forget the information.  Just repeating something over and over is not going to do much for you on the exam.

4.  Determine where you study best.  Do you work best sitting at a table, lying in bed, outside under a shady tree,  on the floor of your bedroom?  Some people actually do study best in bed.  I personally will fall right to sleep in this scenario, so know thyself well on this one.

5.  Different subjects require different techniques.  When studying for a math exam, redo your math homework, quizzes, and tests.  When studying for an English exam, review your class notes, re-read important quotes from novels, study vocabulary.  For history, make elaborate time lines to organize the information covered or a family tree of the British dynasty covered on the exam.   For science, review notes, memorize vocabulary and formulas (see #3) review past experiments.  Come up with a plan other than stare at a textbook for hours and hours.

6.  Sleep.  But, not while you are supposed to be studying.  This is more on brain research, but your brain has to sleep to retain all the information you are trying to absorb.  If you "pull an all nighter"  this is one of the worst things you can do to prepare for an exam.  Your brain has to process all the information to retain it.  If you don't sleep, your brain can't process and you won't remember what you studied.

This should get you started.  Good luck on those finals!