Finals week is fast approaching, and you know what that means for most students—sweatpants, newfound caffeine addictions, frequent indulgences in junk food, and long nights spent in the library, falling asleep amongst piles of books. Contrary to popular belief, the studying habits that students frequently engage in prior to final exams aren’t exactly the best ways to ensure A’s on their exams. Oftentimes these behaviors do more harm than good. Avoid falling into the following habits, and you’ll be sure to ace your next final exam.
Bad Habit #1: “I can easily learn the information by cramming the night before an exam.”
Studies have shown that the use of long-term memory is more effective when studying for an exam. In order to store information in the long-term memory, a student must study the same information for a certain amount of time each day, over the span of at least a week instead of last minute cramming. So, start studying a few weeks early, for about an hour each day, increasing the daily amount of time as the test approaches.
Bad Habit #2: “I’m going to stay up all night until I understand this.”
Research from a Harvard medical study suggests that the quantity and quality of sleep have a profound impact on learning. The study showed that the focus and attention of a sleep-deprived person tended to drift, and therefore inhibited learning. Without an adequate amount of sleep, neurons in the brain can’t function properly enough to comprehend information, so a student loses the ability to access previously learned information.
Bad Habit #3: “I often study in my bed just before I go to sleep so that the information sinks in.”
The best way to prepare for an exam is to mimic the setting of the actual test. A student’s ability to recall information is better when the study context—the physical, mental and emotional states a student is in while studying—are similar to the exam setting. Find your own niche in the library, and study there each day.