Unless you’re one of the lucky few who love the structure of test taking, preparing for an exam can be a real pain. The two most challenging aspects of studying are 1) making the time; and 2) finding the motivation. Because let’s face it: even if you happen to have three free hours on a Sunday night, it’s easy to waste them catching up on your favorite show. Hopefully, the following tips will come in handy for your next big exam.
Making the Time:
No matter how busy your schedule, as a student, academics must always come first. Most students work part- or full-time jobs while working towards their career, which can make finding time to study a challenge. Invest in a physical paper calendar, whether it be a planner that you can carry with you or something to thumb tack over the desk in your room. Start planning study sessions about three weeks before an upcoming exam. Write it in a bold color so that it stands out every time you glance at your calendar. Make your own detailed schedule, including how many hours you’ll study and how many breaks you’ll take, and then stick to it! Staying organized will help you find the time to study. If your days are filled with work, class, and appointments, look for opportunities where you can squeeze in half an hour of studying, like during your breaks, before dinner, or early in the morning. Carry note cards or textbooks with you so you can always study on the go. Studying everyday leading up to a test serves you better than cramming for hours the night before.
The thought of studying can be overwhelming, which is why taking it one step at a time helps. First, get into comfortable clothing. Second, find your perfect study spot, whether that is the library or your kitchen table, but avoid your comfy bed at all costs! It’s easy to become distracted by the lure of sleep. Third, set out all your study materials (books, flashcards, writing utensils), as well as water and snacks. Fourth, remove all distractions from your study area, namely, your phone and social media. Apps like SelfControl, Cold Turkey, and StayFocsd allow you to block distracting websites like Facebook for certain periods of time, so you’re guaranteed to stay focused. Set small study goals for yourself and then reward yourself once you complete those goals. For example, spend 30 minutes memorizing DSM-5 criteria, and once you’ve actually accomplished this, take a 5 minute break to reward yourself. Taking short intermittent breaks keeps your mind sharp and open to new information. You might eat a snack, watch a music video, call your mom, or have a dance party; whatever motivates you to get your work done. If your own daydreams cause you to become distracted, think about the end goal: not just acing this test, but getting your degree and making a difference in the world. Visualize yourself at your dream job, and then make that dream come true.