Exam Prep

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It isn’t final exam season yet. And that means it’s the perfect time to start thinking about final exams. To avoid getting caught in a dreaded “cramming” scenario, start your exam prep early with these research-backed tips. 

Whether you’re taking a senior final through a ministry inspected online high school, or you’re taking college exams in person, these tried-and-true tips will help you chart a path for success.

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Worry About It – But Not Too Much

Research shows that there’s a sweet spot for worrying about a test. If you roll into the exam room without a care in the world, chances are you won’t perform well. On the opposite end of the spectrum, excessive concern with an exam can cause stress, which actively inhibits our brains from functioning at their peak capacities. 

Reach for a “Goldilocks” level of worry. Take the exam seriously, but try to contextualize it in the greater scheme of your education so that it doesn’t overwhelm you. It’s a consequential test, to be sure. But as long as you prepare amply, everything will probably be fine. During the exam, consider performing some stress-regulation tips to keep yourself from over-worrying. And always remember to breathe!

Take Time Management Cues from the Experts

Effective time management will be your best friend during exam preparation. More than any particular study method, allotting yourself the requisite time to absorb and retain material is essential. 

There are a few ways to practice excellent time management, but they all start with creating a schedule. Months in advance of your exam, create a detailed schedule for studying that breaks down the course by unit, chapter and ultimately, individual concepts. Then, it’s just a matter of staying the course. Regularly check back with your schedule to assess your progress, and make a note in the margins if you need to circle back to some “nagging” concepts that are giving you trouble. 

Tend to Your Basic Needs for Better Results

Your brain isn’t an island. It requires the full support of your body to function at its best. All of those movie tropes about drinking coffee into the wee hours of the morning before an exam completely miss the mark. According to scientific studies, students who get proper rest and a complete diet perform better on exams than those with poor sleep habits and dietary habits. 

The sooner you start, the better. Get a full 8 to 10 hours of consistent sleep – that means attempting to go down and wake up at similar times each night. Eat plenty of vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. And steer clear of excessive stimulants like that third cup of coffee. 

Take Better Notes

According to experts, note-taking methods aren’t created equally. Some notes are more effective than others at sticking out in our brains. Brains crave visual representation and mnemonic devices to help recall complex information. Therefore, most experts advocate for the “Cornell Method” of note-taking. 

Cornell notes are straightforward. Essentially, they involve breaking up your page lengthwise into “main notes” and “cue questions,” with room at the bottom for a summary. You can learn more about how to take Cornell notes from the titular university’s resource, linked here

This year, kick the cramming habit. Consider the advice, strategies and best practices above for a smoother exam season.


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