During a final exam I was taking, a very funny experience occurred and I had a huge realization! I was calm and comfortable, grinding through the test questions and time was running out.
The stress was high and you could feel the uneasy anxiety emanating from the other students. A teacher’s assistant came into the room and gave a “10 minutes left” warning. Suddenly multiple students in this giant lecture hall began sobbing, and I couldn’t help but find it both sad and hilarious.
It wasn’t that they had not studied. In fact, many had studied much longer than I did, spending eight to twelve hours in the library a day. They should have been more prepared and better off than me, but they weren’t. They had the wrong strategy, and I am here to give you the right one.
College classes and exams can be quite different from high school. Here are some study tips for college students to be more prepared and achieve better success as they battle through their academics.
Low Effort, High Reward – Study Efficiently
You want to study in the most efficient and effective way; not the ways of the masses or the ways that high school teachers forced you to use. There will be plenty of students who spend an entire day in the library “studying” and will still get worse grades than you do. Maybe this was you, but not anymore!
They think more is better, and they are simply wrong. The human brain is made for short bursts of attention and archives only the most crucial information. The human brain is also built to recognize patterns and link concepts together for maximum survival and effectiveness.
Simply put, long bouts of constant studying of a large amount of material is plain dumb. Less is often more, IF you do it correctly. Here’s how!
Repetition is the Key to Mastery – Own Your Academics!
With repetition in a certain fashion, you will not need to spend long amounts of time studying before exams. You can be confident that you are prepared and enjoy your life while other students freak out and cram until they cannot function.
1. Take written notes in class! This makes a huge difference. This is your first time “studying” the material. You are hearing it, seeing it, and mechanically putting the information onto paper. Three methods of ingraining the information.
2. Study your written notes directly after class! This is critical and will be your second time studying the material. As you read through your written notes from class, fill in any holes that you did not get written down, and highlight or circle important information in your notes. Literally take notes on your notes. You are creating your own study guide!
3. Study your notes collected from the current day right before you go to sleep! This will be the best trick for academic success you could ever use. This is your third time studying the material, and your brain connects concepts by building and repairing neural networks while you sleep. Studying directly before bed will help you to learn the information and recall it later!
4. Each weekend, take a small amount of time in the mornings to look through the highlighted portions of your “study guide” from the past week. With this being your fourth time studying the material, it will really help the large concepts to stick. This may take an hour or two each day of the weekend, and then you have the rest of your weekend to do laundry, grocery shop and party as hard as you’d like!
After You Study Your Notes, Study Someone Else’s
Your notes are great, and if you used the strategy from above, you have already committed much of the information to memory. As you get closer to exam time, it will be very beneficial to go online and search for your class’s notes utilizing the course code within a search engine.
My go-to site was Quizlet, where you can search your course code to find the flash cards that other students have created for your class (past and present). Most of the time, their questions and answers on the flash cards will be very similar to your quiz and exam questions.
Find things you did not have within your notes, and focus on filling the holes of your understanding! You are creating your own bulletproof knowledge bank for the exam. Some professors will post study guides, which you will easily be able to complete for yourself with the notes you have made and the Quizlets or online sources you have found.
Take Care of Your Mind and Body! Prepare for Performance!
As a student, you are an academic athlete! You must keep your mind and body in optimum shape for the best performance possible in the exam room! Eat healthy, balanced meals, and exercise regularly (maybe as a study break, or a date with that cute and fit person you met).
For balanced meals, make sure you get plenty of protein from meat sources such as chicken, fish and eggs, or from vegetable sources such as beans, nuts and tofu. Fats should come from healthy sources such as fish, olive oil, avocados and nuts. Your carbohydrates should be mainly from delicious vegetables and fruits! You will have a beautiful and colorful plate with a variety of foods made by nature for optimum performance.
Stay away from fried and greasy foods, pizza, and sweets. Especially before exams! They will drain your energy and leave you feeling uncomfortable. Who wants to be sluggish and bloated while they are trying to take an hour long exam?!
Hydrate well with water! If you “don’t like water” I am sorry but grow up. You are made of mostly water. Almost all of your cells contain mostly water, and this includes your brain cells that are your soldiers on this exam’s front lines! Remember, optimum performance!
Some Hacks and Tricks for Maximum Success
Visualize your success for exams often. What you focus on is what you will most likely get. Meaning, if you want to do well on a test, focus on the desire to get an A and how great it will feel when you achieve that! Do NOT focus on NOT failing, because good or bad, what you focus on is what you will get. If you focus on positive results and stay confident about it, subconsciously your brain will help you achieve it!
Chew gum while studying and while taking an exam (or enjoy a mint). Make sure it is consistently the same brand and flavor while you study and when you take your exam. This will enhance recall of information because your brain associates the information you studied with that flavor. My strategy was to chew a different flavor for each class. Also, peppermint can enhance cognitive function.
Cram right before your exam! Even though you will be very prepared with the tips from above, and you will not need long bouts of studying, a quick look-through before your exam can mean the difference between an A- and an A. While our goal and mission was to learn the material, little cracks in your memory will always be there. A quick cram allows for maximum performance by temporarily filling the cracks using your short-term memory.
If You Need Extra Help!
During a few of my courses, I realized that my grades were looking grim and I was greatly struggling. I hadn’t used the tips from above, and it was already too late to begin learning all of the material from early in the class.
My saving grace was Course Hero, which I highly recommend IF you desperately need some extra help. I was able to raise a D to a B and save my GPA with the tutoring and notes that the site provides. It allows for a free membership which is awesome, but in that bind I paid for the help to get my grades up and then went back to the free membership afterwards.
Check it out and give it a try!
Crush your exams, Conquer your academics, and Dominate your life!
I believe in you and wish you unimaginable success in all of your future endeavors.
Also, if you are interested in more hacks or lessons learned for all aspects of your college experience, check out my book on Amazon called Conquer College; Academically, Physically, and Socially.