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6 tips for performing your best during finals

6 tips for performing your best during finals

It’s finals week, and a lot of Cougs are feeling stressed and overwhelmed with all they have to do. To overcome test anxiety and perform your best this week, try some of these tips for studying effectively and staying well during finals.

1. Take short breaks. One study method you may find effective is the Pomodoro Technique, where you focus on a task for 25 minutes, and then take a five minute break. These short breaks give your mind a much-needed rest, and give you a chance to hydrate, get a snack or check your social media feeds.

2. Break up big tasks. Breaking up a big task into smaller steps can help it feel manageable and make it easier to get started. For example, if you need to write a paper you could break it down like this: find research articles, take notes, write paper outline, include citations, write introduction, etc. If you’re struggling to get started on a big project, make it your first task simply to open a new file and create a title page.

3. Set specific study goals and deadlines. Once you’ve broken your big tasks down into manageable chunks, set deadlines or schedule time for each step. Instead of just writing “study for chem final” in your planner, try setting a specific goal like make flash cards, review lecture slides, rewrite class notes, meet with study group or complete practice test. Planning study sessions with specific goals will help you study smarter.

4. Eat that frog. Let’s imagine you have to eat a frog today. Because eating a frog sounds awful, you keep putting it off. But once you eat the frog and get it out of the way, the rest of your day will be easy by comparison.

What’s the most difficult and stressful task on your to-do list? Try tackling that task first – eating the frog – to give yourself a sense of accomplishment and help you feel ready to take on everything else.

5. Take care of yourself. Having a healthy body and mind can help you succeed during finals week. This means eating before you take a test, staying hydrated, scheduling some self-care activities and getting enough sleep.

6. Be aware of what you’re telling yourself. Try not to get angry if you get off track with your study plan or procrastinate. Getting mad at yourself only increases your stress levels, and it can create a cycle of procrastination, anger and more procrastination. The key is to practice self-compassion.

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8 ways to study smarter

students studying together at a table

8 ways to study smarter

Want to overcome exam stress and maximize academic performance? There’s no sure formula that works for everyone, but there are some basic principles you can adapt to fit your classes, schedule and learning style.

  1. Schedule your study sessions. It’s easier to motivate yourself to study if you already have it on your schedule for a specific time.
  2. Take breaks. Giving your brain a rest every 30 minutes to 1 hour is better for learning than studying for hours with no breaks. Try setting a timer to study for 30 minutes, then take a 5-minute break and repeat.
  3. Make flash cards. Flashcards are often more effective study aids than highlighting, underlining, rereading or using mnemonic devices. Flashcards incorporate multiple learning styles, including visual, verbal and motor. Make sure to use your flashcards for review after making them!
  4. Set a specific study goal. Feeling overwhelmed? Set a specific goal before you start studying. For example, instead of saying “I’m going to study for biology lab tonight,” commit to reviewing your lab reports and quizzes or doing practice tests.
  5. Create practice tests. Creating practice tests is a great way to thoroughly learn concepts. This strategy also helps memory recall, which can reduce test anxiety.
  6. Practice by teaching others. Explaining material you just learned to others can improve your understanding the material. Just be sure to avoid getting off topic when studying in groups.
  7. Find a quiet study space. Try studying in an environment similar to the classroom where you’ll be taking your test.
  8. Remove distractions. Yes, that means turning off your phone and closing your internet browser. Removing distractions can significantly boost your focus. Listening to music can be distracting, and some studies suggest it may be less effective than studying in silence. If music helps you relax, try listening to it before and after your study session.

Everyone learns differently, so try out a few of these tips and see what works best for you. If you want to learn more about study skills, consider signing up for an educational workshop.