Studying during Finals Week

All semester, you’ve been going to class, diligently taking notes, and participating in class discussion. You’ve done your best to set yourself up for doing well in the class and building knowledge for future semesters. But did you know that how you study and make connections between material can help you succeed on your finals?

  1. Make a plan and stick to it. Be realistic about the amount of time you have left in the semester to study. Rather than trying to review all of your notes and the class material in the final 48 hours before an exam, set smaller, easy to achieve goals along the way that will lead to mastery.
  2. Build connections between different topics and different units. Students who can organize their knowledge do a better job of retaining information and understanding how that information fits together. “We tend to build associations between events that occur in temporal contiguity (for example, a causal relationship between flipping the switch and a light turning on), between ideas that share meaning (for example, a conceptual relationship between fairness and equality), and between objects that have perceptual similarities (for example, a category-member relationship between a ball and a globe). As these associations build up over time, larger and more complex structures emerge that reflect how entire bodies of knowledge are organized in a person’s mind,” according to How Learning Works. Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching. If you want to build an enduring connection between sets of knowledge, you need time.
  3. Avoid cramming and get plenty of sleep. Studies show that cramming can actually be detrimental. Researchers at UCLA found that “sacrificing sleep for extra study time, whether it’s cramming for a test or plowing through a pile of homework, is actually counterproductive. Regardless of how much a student generally studies each day, if that student sacrifices sleep time in order to study more than usual, he or she is likely to have more academic problems, not less, on the following day.” Be sure to give yourself the advantage of a good night’s sleep!
  4. Eat healthy! Food is your body’s fuel, so get at least three square meals a day. Reduce coffee consumption to help you avoid the jitters, and try to avoid energy drinks and caffeine pills. They may help you remain awake, but artificial alertness won’t help you retain information.

Remember: you’ve been a good student all semester, so you won’t have to spend your time memorizing everything. Take care of yourself and work on reviewing what you’ve learned, building connections across the course and throughout your discipline. You’ll do fine!

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