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There are two ways to prepare for an exam: studying or cramming.
If your end goal is good grades, both can be effective. Obviously, cramming is a bit riskier, but it’s certainly a way to get by.
If your objective is to learn something that’ll help you move forward in life, then studying is a way better approach.
When we cram, we don’t actually absorb the information. We keep it at the front of our brains until the test is over and forget it shortly afterward.
Consistent studying, on the other hand, enables you to retain information better. Plus, it’s a much more balanced and stress-free approach to academic life.
In order to stop cramming and start studying, you must develop good study habits. Different things work for different people, but here are seven that can help you study better and ace your exams
#1 Get Organized
Staying organized is far and away the most important study habit. To make good use of your time and plan accordingly, you must keep track of deadlines and know what’s expected of you.
So, when you find out about an upcoming exam or assignment, you should make a plan immediately. Figure out what you need to study and how much time you’ll need to spend on it.
Then, work backward from the day of the exam. Set aside enough time to review your notes and reread any assigned texts.
Write out your plan, too. Use a personal organizer or calendar app to track your schedule. That way, you’ll avoid putting yourself in a position where you’re forced to cram.
#2 Be Active
There’s a big difference between learning and memorizing. When you cram information into your brain, it just sits on the surface long enough for you to take your exam. Eventually, it disappears.
Studying enables you to absorb information. Then, you’re able to access it later on in life.
However, studying only works if you actually engage actively with the information. Unless you highlight and take notes, everything you read is likely to pass right through your brain.
The first time you read something, underline the important parts. The next time, take notes. On your final review, look for things you may have missed and make sure you understand them.
Ultimately, this increases the chances the information will stick with you during the test.
It’s also important to consider your own personal learning style when developing study habits. Some people are visual learners who can retain information by looking at it. Others are aural learners who prefer to have things explained to them.
If you don’t know which learning style is most effective for you, find out. Identifying your preferred learning style will help you become a much more effective student
#3 Study First. Play Second
You must make studying your first priority if you want to succeed. Balance is crucial, of course, and spending all your time buried in books will only lead to exhaustion. But the most successful students are the ones who study before they do anything else.
Find a way to get your studying done before you relax or go out with friends. Convince yourself to study (and study well) before you leave the library.
This will not only make your free time more relaxing, but will ensure you don’t fall behind on academics. One thing you might try is studying in the morning. If you get to work as soon as you wake up, you’ll have more time to hang out at the end of the day.
#4 Keep Distractions Out
We tend to be really good at convincing ourselves we can study and do other things at the same time. How often have you tried to study while simultaneously watching a game or scrolling through Instagram?
Unfortunately, this type of behavior doesn’t yield the best results. Social media and TV are enormously distracting. If you want to be the most effective student, you need to close yourself off from these distractions.
Keep your phone on silent while you’re working, and save Netflix for after you’ve finished. You can take it out for a quick break, but being on it while you study will prevent you from retaining information as well as you could.
In many cases, study groups can also be distracting. They’re helpful for social learners if the entire group is equally focused. But we often use them as an excuse to hang out with friends while we “study,” which only wastes time and puts your success at risk.
#5 Plan Based on Goals
When studying for larger exams, it’s important to break things down into chunks. This not only makes them more manageable but also helps you retain information.
For example, if you need to study six chapters of a book, and you have three weeks to do it, plan to spend three days on each chapter. That way, you’ll avoid trying to cram the entire book at once.
When taking this approach, make sure to leave some for review. Set aside a few days to go back over your notes, quiz yourself, and look for any relevant info you may have missed.
#6 Take Breaks
It’s easy to fall into the logic that you need to study nonstop to succeed. But, taking care of yourself is equally as important.
Breaks can actually help you study more effectively. If you don’t set aside time for rest, you’ll eventually burn out and negate some of the progress you made.
As a result, it’s essential to schedule breaks into your study sessions. Make sure to get up at least once an hour and stretch, grab a bite, and relax. Then get back to it.
You should also schedule some “off days” where you can forget about studying entirely and just have some fun. This will keep you energized and help you to be more productive once you get back to the library.
#7 Eat Well
Make sure that you accompany your academic life with proper nutrition.
Don’t eat heavy meals right before or during a study session. Big meals cause a lot of blood to rush from your brain to your gut, making you feel tired and less focused.
Instead, eat healthy foods (whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.) on a regular basis, and snack well while you study to support your brain function. Potato chips and Coke do nothing for you and are not going to boost your performance.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you can’t reward yourself from time to time. But make sure the food you eat will help propel you toward your goals.
Adopting these study habits won’t happen overnight. It will take time, and you’re likely to experience some setbacks along the way.
But, if you keep in mind that these habits will help you get ahead in both school and life, you’ll find it much easier to start making changes. By re-organizing your schedule, adjusting the way you study, and tending to your health, you’ll be able to ace exams and perform at the highest possible level.
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