The second half of the semester is kicking in which means stress levels from exams and papers are building up as well. With so much to read, review and memorize, it can be difficult to determine where to even begin! Well, first take a deep breath… studying for your exams can be stressful, but planning ahead and utilizing smart study methods can help you manage your workload better. We’ve put together a list of smart, strategic and even scientifically proven methods so you can ace your upcoming exams, term papers, presentations and more!

1. Ask The Right Questions

You don’t want to be underprepared to face your exam on test day. To prepare more thoroughly you should first get answers to some important questions before you begin studying. The important questions you should to ask your professor before the exam are:

  • What materials will the test cover? Is the exam cumulative?
  • Will there be a review session?
  • What is the format of the exam? Will it be multiple choice, short answer or will there be
  • How many points is the exam worth?
  • Do you have specific study tips to help me prepare?

2. Sort Out Your Schedule
You can spend less time studying if you begin with a great game plan. Make a list of the topics you need to study and create a schedule of when you will review them. Be sure to start your study schedule early and map out how much time you will need to study each day to stay on track.

3. Organize Your Study Space
If your study space is cramped, cluttered and uncomfortable, chances are that you will have a harder time focusing. The Princeton Neuroscience Institute found that due to competing stimuli, people with too much clutter in sight had a significant reduction in productivity. Therefore, ensure that you are comfortable without any distractions. Keep your study space organized with only important materials you need for studying.

4. Self-Study Or Group Study

There are advantages and disadvantages to self-study and group study. Thomas Edison State College comments that self-study allows you to study at your own pace emphasizing focus on certain topics with minimized distractions. However, group study can help increase your knowledge retention while expanding your access to information through shared notes and boosting motivation, but only if you stay on topic. Both options can be beneficial in helping you learn, but it’s always best to find which works best for you.

5. Take Breaks

Surprisingly, studying too much can actually be counter-productive. A University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign study found that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders an individual’s productivity. So, be sure to take regular study breaks to give your brain a rest and allow for better retention of information.

6. Stay Hydrated & Work Out

Drinking plenty of water is essential for your brain to work at its very best. The Human Performance Laboratory found that even dehydration of around one percent of your body weight resulted in a degraded mood, lower concentration and increased frequency in headaches among women. The Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine found that dehydration of about two percent in men decreased working memory and increased anxiety and fatigue.

When you work out, your brain is flooded with nutrients, more blood and rich oxygen, which makes for a healthier brain overall. Exercise is also known to stimulate the hippocampus, which is responsible for reasoning and memory. Finally, working out serves as a stress-reducer, which comes in handy when you have exams right around the corner.

7. Eat Brain Food

While studying, you may not have time to grab a treat or cook, but the foods you are eating can highly impact your studying. When eating while in study mode, you should stay away from junk food, and treat yourself to nutritious foods that will help your concentration and memory such as salmon, walnuts, blueberries and even dark chocolate according to USA Today.

8. Sleep Still Matters

Pulling an all-nighter might seem like a good idea, but the true key to your success is a healthy sleep schedule. WebMD states that sleep deprivation can impair your focus and ability to learn and retain information effectively. Therefore, be sure to get plenty of rest to give your mind the chance to refresh each day leading up to the exam. Don’t stress when it comes to preparing for your test. Use these tips to help guide you toward acing your next exam. Good luck and remember, you’ve got this!

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