The end of the semester is stressful. There are papers to write, projects to complete, presentations to give, and, of course, finals to take. The hours are long and arduous, and you feel like there's no end in sight. I remember getting to college and thinking, "duh, of course I know how to study. I've been in school forever." I did fine and made it through, but I probably shouldn't have shrugged off study skill improvements. There are a lot of mistakes you can make when studying without even really realizing it.
From pulling an all-nighter to skipping "optional" reading all semester, there are a lot of things that can derail your final exam studying. There's no need to panic, though, most final exam studying mistakes (and general test prep mistakes, for that matter) can be corrected if you know what it is you might be doing wrong. It's true there's not a one-size-fits-all plan for test prep or test taking, but there are proven tips that can help boost your efficiency and productivity while studying and help keep you sane until the semester is over and vacation starts. Knowing these common mistakes you're making while studying for finals can help you avoid pitfalls and rock your finals.
1. You're Pulling An All-Nighter
I pulled a grand total of one all-nighter in college. And I regretted it. Besides the obvious no-sleep drawbacks, David Ernest, a Texas A&M College of Medicine sleep expert, said that you actually get more and more inefficient for each hour of sleep deprivation. More inefficient? Who needs that?
2. You Cram The Night Before
According to researchers at the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), cramming doesn't help a whole lot, as it's tied to same the sleep deprivation issue as all-nighters. Your brain needs sleep to recover. University of California-San Diego (UCSD) scientist Sean Kang also warned against cramming because you don't have the benefit of "spaced repetition", which leads to less long-term knowledge retention.
3. You're Overdoing The Caffeine
I know, caffeine is key for any final exam studying. Well, there's good news and bad news. Johns Hopkins University researchers found that some caffeine can boost your memory, leading to knowledge recall 24 hours later (good for finals week). According to Shape though, overdoing it can make you more anxious or frazzled than you already were and inhibit your ability to concentrate.
4. You're Studying Without A Plan
Studying aimlessly, without a set plan, can waste time. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), setting up a plan and sticking to it can help you make sure you're ready without feeling overwhelmed. You can prioritize studying based on your exam schedule and final paper deadlines. Plus, you can pencil in some time for a much-needed nap.
5. You're Only Reviewing Answers
Reviewing past problem sets, homework assignments, and tests can be super useful when preparing for finals. But if you're only looking at the correct answers, you're cheating yourself. Harvard University's Bureau of Study Counsel suggested working through problems or answering questions again to make sure you understand the process, not just the answer.
6. You're Not Taking A Break
It may seem counterintuitive, but not taking study breaks can actually be impeding your successful studying. According to a 2011 study conducted by a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, periodic breaks help you reset and refocus. Just don't let them last all night.
7. You're Not Leaving Time To Exercise
Get out of the library and hit the gym. According to a 2009 study from University of Illinois researchers, exercise is linked to improved learning and memory. Plus, a workout is a great way to take a break.