Surviving Finals and AP Tests
Worried about your upcoming finals or AP tests? Reduce stress and ace your tests by using these study tips from a graduate student.
- Find a study space that suits you.
For students who need a bit of chaos while they work, coffee houses usually have the perfect amount of chatter and noise while also having private study nooks. For students who need isolation and quiet, a bedroom with the door closed and simplynoise.com (a white noise generator) playing is ideal. (Serious studiers should consider the private study rooms in the school library. Make sure your surroundings are comfortable to you before settling in for studying.
- Enjoy your favorite beverage and some snacks while you study.
It might be a long night – treat yourself. I suggest something like cheese and crackers, granola bars, vegetables with dip, or peanut M&M’s.
- Never study where you sleep.
As it gets later in the evening, and you begin to read your notes in an exhausted, monotone drawl, it will be too easy to slip into sleep. Sitting upright in a chair will keep you in study mode much longer than lounging on your pillows. Your bed will beckon you at one some point in the evening, resisting will be much easier if you aren’t already on it.
- Don’t try to learn anything new the night before.
This tip is directed especially at those who take part in study groups or work with study buddies. If one of your peers uses a different approach to get their answers and it helps you – good. However, if you force yourself to learn their approach because you are not confident enough in your own too close to test day you could ruin your chances. Stick to what you know.
- Don’t put all of your time into one area.
It may be tempting to spend 3 hours on science, and 1 hour on everything else because you feel that science needs your attention most, but this is a huge gamble. You run the risk of not preparing well enough for an entire cluster of subjects because you were in a panic over one. Attack the chapters and the problems where you struggle most so that you use your time well. Spending some extra time here or there is not an issue, but give every subject the attention it is due.
- Avoid thinking “I should have” and “I would have.”
It is useless to have an emotional breakdown about how you should have asked that question or met with that study group the night before the test. Your notes and the knowledge will have to do, and if you study right they’ll be enough. You can waste time if you are getting upset over things you cannot affect. Do your best, that’s all there is to it.
- Beware the allure of “study buddies.”
Contacts are important for when you are feeling stuck, but committing to a study buddy is not always clever. Everyone studies differently. Your friend may enjoy going over Brown v. the Board of Education with his Pandora station all the way up and a case of sugar-free Red Bull, but if you are the type of student who needs calm and quiet to absorb information you will be completely lost. Be certain that your study buddy works in the very same way that you do before agreeing to give up your focus time.
- Take breaks while you study to stay sharp.
Study in blocks of 60 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between. If your focus is especially weak, start with study blocks of 30 minutes with 5 minute breaks. Set alarms on your phone to let you know when to start and stop, and stick to them. During your study block you should only be studying – don’t pet the dog, don’t check your e-mail, don’t text, just hit the books. Find apps to help you stay focused and on task.
- Do something enjoyable before you go to sleep.
Don’t study up until you go to sleep, it will make actual sleep a challenge. You’ll lay there questioning whether or not you will remember things tomorrow, and if you learned them correctly. Instead, give yourself at least 30 minutes before you go to bed to do something completely unrelated that makes you happy and takes your mind off of things. Watch an episode of your favorite show. Click around on Facebook. Play a video game.
- Get 7-8 hours of sleep.
This tip will give you a serious advantage. The student next to you may have studied their notes 6 times over, but with only 2 hours of sleep they aren’t likely to remember as much. Monster or Red Bull will keep you alert, but the same cannot be said for your mind. Get some real sleep and your nerves will thank you.
Use assignments and appointments in GuidedPath to help you with pacing as you prepare for finals. Set appointments for study groups. Use assignments to record project or class deadlines, and pace your studying of subjects.