Achieve end-of-semester goals by following this advice
- Ditch the fries.
Greasy foods tend to slow mental cognition. This means loading up on fries and burgers in the dining hall on your way to a study session might not be the best route to concentration.
Several scientific studies support this claim.
In a 2009 study issued by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, a group of scientists monitored the effects of food on cognition among 32 lab rats. At the start of the experiment, all of the rats were fed low-fat items and, with time, the rats demonstrated they learned a maze path. Then, half of the rats were fed high-fat items. All of these rats did worse in remembering the maze path than their peers.
Biology major Brittny Balog recommends students eat carbs and plenty of protein.
“I drink a lot of coffee, but I try not to get over caffeinated because that’s unproductive,” she said. “But anything that’s a complex carb, like a granola bar, is great for your brain. I like Cliff bars when I’m studying.”
- Less caffeine, more water.
Caffeine can only help to a certain extent. While passing by the Griz Café on your way to the library is tempting, keep in mind that, like any other stimulant, coffee can only provide energy for a short amount of time.
To promote greater concentration and alertness, stick to one of the world’s most natural resources: water.
According to a Psychology Today article, not drinking enough pure water can disrupt the balance of cells in your brain. This imbalance can prevent short-term memory and harm the recall of long-term memories.
Junior Nicholas Brems, a software engineering major, says he relies primarily on coffee during finals week, though he recognizes its drawbacks.
“I rely heavily on caffeine,” he said. “No, it’s not good for me. I’m in a coffee class right now, and I’ve learned that caffeine is not good for the body. But it’s four years of my life. I can take it.”
Grab your water bottle and stay hydrated while studying for finals.
- Write (and rewrite) those notes by hand.
Researchers Pam Mueller of Princeton University and Daniel Oppenheimer of UCLA for Psychological Science, a professional journal, determined that students who take notes by hand versus a laptop retain more from in-class lectures.
If it’s too late for you to start the habit, it is also recommended that students rewrite notes by hand. This can be as easy as writing definitions several times, making flashcards by hand or drawing diagrams from memory.
Junior Bethany Moll, an art history and photography double-major, uses this strategy.
“Because they say if you write things it helps you remember, I tend to do that. I write out definitions or I make Quizlets,” she said.
Bonus points: Use a red or blue ink pen, depending on the type of exam. For exams requiring recall of lots of material, use a red ink pen to improve accuracy, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia. For more intuitive exams and essay sections, write out your notes in blue to boost creativity.
- Don’t procrastinate.
A 2012 PEW Research study reported the majority of late high-school to college-aged students felt that the digital age worsens their procrastination habits.
With a deadly mixture of looking at bright-screened computers hurting the eyes to the ability to switch from drafting a paper to social media with a few keystrokes, students reported they felt more “impatient” and “shorter attention spans.”
The common theme? Almost all student featured in the study reported technology as limiting their ability to focus.
That said, when it comes to studying for finals, take the time to do it the “old-fashioned way” to deter procrastination. Print out your notes and articles to annotate them by hand.
Instead of typing your notes, buy an extra notebook to revise by hand. The soft paper is easier on the eyes and allows you to incorporate both visual and kinesthetic learning, or “learning by doing.”
Most importantly, turn off your phone and put it in a place where it won’t distract you. If this is impossible, reach out to those who might contact you during the study session and ask them to give you some space for the purposes of studying.
Junior Alexis Varvel, a graphic design major, says time management is key, particularly in programs that require projects as finals.
“Manage your time well,” she said. “That’s the best way to go about finals. Make sure you have enough time to make sure all of your projects look really good.”
- Strike a balance.
Sleep is just as important as learning the material. Above all else, students interviewed say self-care is essential to personal success.
“The way I survive finals is I have a rigorous sleep, study, sleep, study schedule on repeat,” said Brems. “I’ll take a 30-minute nap. I’ll study for probably three hours, then probably go back to sleep for another hour or so. Then I’ll wake up and study again and keep repeating the process.”
Public relations major Collin Merkel agreed.
“For me, it’s not necessarily about trying to cram. I look over the stuff prior to the exam but I mainly try to get as much sleep as I possibly can the night before,” he said.
According to studies made by UC San Diego, the best way to help yourself fall asleep in the face of test anxiety is to separate your study area from your sleeping area. Do your best to study at your desk or, better yet, in an area that’s not even near your bed.