Test taking tips for final exams: How not to fail

Planning ahead for final exam prep can ease stress and help you sleep better once finals arrive.

Planning ahead for final exam prep can ease stress and help you sleep better once finals arrive.

It’s final exam time again. You know what you’re supposed to do and what you’re not supposed to do. Don’t forget your test taking tips, practice good study habits, get some sleep and exercise. If you don’t want to fail all your final exams, disappoint your parents, waste your tuition money and become a bum, here are some study tips for college and a list of what not to do.

Don’t ignore the teacher. If you find some material confusing, get a consultation from the teacher; he or she is there to help. The important information you need to understand thoroughly shouldn’t be a mystery to you at this stage. Teachers have clearly posted office hours. Don’t stay alone in your dorm room fussing over it.

Don’t wait to study until the night before. Start studying weeks ahead of time, gather your notes, clarify any information you missed and pace yourself. There’s no way you’re going to cram three months of material into a six-hour study session the night before the test.

Don’t stay up all night studying. You need a full night’s sleep to rest your brain. A tired, foggy mind is one that can’t concentrate or recall important information for the test. “Studies show that sleep is crucial for memory consolidation and retention. So if you study hard in the evening, and then you get a good night’s sleep, you should remember a lot of what you learned,” said Kenneth Lichstein, director of the University of Alabama’s Sleep Research Project in “Sleep ‘crucial’ for memory consolidation retention” posted by Jordan Cissell in the Crimson White, October 22, 2012. Lichstein added, “But overnight studiers don’t have the benefit of that consolidation, so they will retain less information when it comes time to taking the test the next day.”

Don’t over stress.  Don’t ruminate over and over how you’re never going to understand all this and never going to remember it all. Take a coffee or tea break, go for a 20-minute jog around campus to get the blood flowing or listen to relaxing music to de-stress.

According to a contributor to Huffington Post in “Study tips: 10 stress-reducing strategies for acing your next exam,” posted April 25, 2013, “Meditation has been shown to boost focus and improve test scores. A recent University of California at Santa Barbara study found that mindfulness meditation improved college students’ testing ability, and another study found that students who meditated before a lecture got better scores on a post-lecture quiz than students who didn’t meditate.”

Don’t stay in your dank dorm room to study. Get some fresh air, a change of scenery and friends to study with. Staying cooped up in your dark, stuffy room, breathing in dust and reading your notes through blurry encrusted eyes won’t help you.

Don’t go it alone. Ask your friends and classmates to help you study. Gather a study group, ask each other questions, go over the material together and help each other understand difficult topics.

Go it alone. Okay, this is a contradiction to the tip I just mentioned. Sometimes you have to be alone. “Say NO to the people who want to take up your time. Say NO to the distractions and be selfish for a day,” advised Elisabeth Duncan in “Tips for studying for finals,” posted on the University of Pittsburgh website. “Find somewhere to study that is conducive for concentrating and learning.” Duncan recommended choosing a place of study that is “quiet, comfortable, and distraction-free (no cell phones, Facebook, etc.).”

Don’t eat junk food. Lots of sugar, fat and salt are perfect for weighing you down and making you feel bloated and lethargic. They also shut the brain right down. Don’t eat pizza, fries, burgers and sugary soft drinks while you’re studying. A light sensible meal with whole grains and vegetables with fruit as a snack will perk you up. And drink plenty of plain water to keep your body hydrated.

Take a shower. Seriously, showering, shaving, brushing teeth, washing hair and putting on clean clothes will brighten your spirits. If you look and feel sharp, you’ll be sharp, body and mind in perfect harmony.

What final exam tips do you have to share?

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