The end is near…

The weather is becoming bearable, and the sun is finally out after many cold short days. You probably started making summer plans, which consist of anything but school-related endeavours, so it’s only natural that studying is the last thing you want to do right now.

We deal with a lot of pressure when it comes to studying, so why not find a good way to do it? Most of the time we throw ourselves into books and our notes and hope something sticks. Studying, however, is an art.

After reading through a ton of tips, and talking to a few students on how to cope with exams, we came up with a step-by-step guide on how to study. So grab your highlighters and change into your sweats – it’s time to get started.

Step One: Gather everything

Young person carries a tall stack of books to a podium and they all topple over once he tries to set them down

Remember that syllabus? If your teacher didn’t give you a study guide this will be your next best bet because not only does it list all of the areas you covered in class, the course outline should also tell you when everything is due, which will be ideal for planning.

Next, it’s time to do a bit of digging. Try to find old quizzes and midterms, any class notes you may have, or even any online announcements your teacher made that may relate to course material. All of this extra stuff will help buff up your study guide.

Step Two: Plan

Overhead image of a person flipping through a bullet journal

Planning is just as important as the actual studying you will do. If you plan your exam preparation, chances are you’ll be less stressed, and you will be able to cover a lot more than if you jumped in head first. Here are some things you may want to do before you get started:

  • Make note of all the chapters and areas you need to cover. Talk to your teacher if you need help narrowing your focus.
  • Start by marking down all of your deadlines, finals, and even your work shifts on a calendar. This will give you a visual representation of how much time you actually have to study.
  • Give yourself enough time each day to cover every chapter on your list and study for all of your finals. It’ll pay off when you’re writing that exam.

Making realistic goals will give you a sense of accomplishment even when you feel like you’re drowning in information. Try breaking your study time into manageable chunks. Instead of writing “Do essay questions” in your planner, plan to research the questions, work on the outline, and edit.

It may be hard to focus on finals, especially when you know school is coming to an end. Phone apps like Habitica or Forest will help you stay on track.

It’s also important to prioritize. You know yourself best, and you know what areas you need to focus on the most. Adjust your calendar to meet your needs by either giving yourself more time during a day to study those areas or reviewing that material more often over the span of a week.

Step Three: Ask for help

Boston Red Sox Hanley Ramirez helps catcher Sandy Leon stretch his arm

It’s okay to ask for help. If you don’t know what areas to study, or if you don’t quite understand something, talk to your teacher or classmates.

There are great tutoring services on campus at Humber and Guelph-Humber and IGNITE offers additional services that can help you ease the stress, and balance your responsibilities.

Step Four: Study

Person playing a game on their phone while its resting on an open book

You planned and prepared, so it’s time to stick to it! If you’re a major procrastinator, try out apps like Self-Control for iMacs, or Freedom for iMacs, PCs, and smartphones. They will block distracting websites and apps so you can focus on studying.

Some things you may want to keep in mind:

  • Stick to the 50-10 rule: Study for 50 minutes and take a 10-minute break. You’ll give your brain a break and let the information sink in.
  • Stock up on healthy snacks: Foods like nuts and fruits will help you stay awake during those long, tiring hours.
  • Swap coffee out with water: This one’s hard, especially for us who like to drink a lot of coffee. It’s been proven that water is better than caffeine at keeping us awake. Tip: throw in some cucumber and lemon slices in your water – it’ll restore electrolytes and drinking water will be more enjoyable! Also, check out more ways you can stay awake without coffee.
  • Exercise: Get out of your chair and do some simple exercises. Or do some chair yoga!

Taking notes while flipping through the chapters might not be enough. Try writing a summary paragraph or bullet-point notes after you read a chapter in order to fully grasp the concepts and see if you retained any information. That way, you’ll see if there are any problem areas.

The day before

Let’s face it, we’re no strangers to cramming the day before an exam. Here are some tips on how to do it right:

  • Look over class notes: Looking over existing notes may spark some memories, and it might help you realize how much you already know.
  • Prioritize problem areas: Rather than reading over topics you understand really well, focus on the areas you’re not too comfortable with.
  • Use skimming techniques: Read the first two and last two pages of each chapter. Another way is to look for bolded terms and try to define each subheading. You can also scan the index for terms that you know will be on the test
  • Take notes: You may not have the time to read the whole chapter and go back to write your notes. At this point, any note-taking will be helpful. Write them and then read them before going in to write your exam.
  • Sleep: Pulling an all-nighter to cover everything is worse than just going to sleep and studying only some of the material. Having a good night’s sleep will also ensure you’re rested for your exam.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed during exam season, that’s why it’s really important to take time for yourself. To help you balance your stress, try practicing some mindfulness techniques. Having a clear mind will help while you truck through all your exams.

Good luck on your exams!