Weekly Academic Success Tip: Tips for the Exam Period

How are you doing?  Most of you have exams beginning this week.  Some of you are balancing exam study with papers/projects.  Here are some ways to make the remaining days of the semester more productive:

  • Each day make a detailed “to do” list.  A detailed “to do” list will help because (1) you will not forget tasks; (2) you will be more efficient and effective with your time; and (3) you will be more realistic about what you can accomplish during the day.  Include all the tasks that you need to complete broken down in small steps.  Schedule next to the task the time period when you will complete it.  Include non-school items with times as well. 
  • Take short breaks throughout your studying to let your brain “file away” material that you are working on immediately prior to the break.  Confine short breaks to 10 – 15 minutes.
  • Take longer breaks after 3 or 4 hours of intense studying.  Depending on the course or task, you may have to adjust your study stretches before a longer break is needed.  If possible, go for a walk to defuse stress during your long breaks.
  • Take at least an hour break for a meal during study periods that are not up against an exam session.  Sitting down and relaxing over a healthy meal will aid your studying more than standing up at the counter wolfing down a microwave dinner.
  • The night before a morning exam or the morning before an afternoon exam, restrict your studying to light review.  Read your outline through a few times or complete a few practice questions.  Avoid cramming up to the exam because you will increase your stress level and get minimal retention of the material.
  • After an exam, take a 2 - 4 hour break if at all possible.  Your brain will be worn out.  A relaxed break will allow you to go back to studying later with a refreshed mind and more positive outlook.
  • If you get sick or have a personal crisis, contact Associate Dean Bean to discuss your options.  If you are too ill to focus or too upset to think, you do not do yourself any favors by taking the exam.
  • Put a paper draft aside for a full day if possible before you re-read it.  You are less likely to miss errors in logic or to miss style, punctuation, or grammar problems.  A fresh pair of eyes on a paper is invaluable to a better finished product. 
  • Choose your study locations wisely.  Avoid distractions such as television, computer games, and chatty studiers.  Avoid places that will increase your anxiety level.
  • Avoid talking about the exam afterwards.  You gain nothing by rehashing the exam questions.  You cannot change anything.  You will become more stressed if you think you missed an issue (and the other person may be wrong).  You will waste valuable energy that you need for studying.
  • Get plenty of sleep.  Staying up late to cram is non-productive.  You are very likely to go into the exam less alert, more stressed, and more confused about material.