20 Tips to Help You Ace Your Exams

We all dislike exams, and often times studying for them can be dreadful. But fear not, here are some effective study tips to help you ace your next exam!
10/21/2014 04:18 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We all dislike exams, and often times studying for them can be dreadful. But fear not, here are some effective study tips to help you ace your next exam!

1. No All-Nighters

A sleep-deprived person cannot focus attention optimally and therefore cannot learn efficiently. In addition, sleep itself has a role in the consolidation of memory, which is essential for learning new information. In 2007, Pamela Thacher a St. Lawrence University Psychologist, found an association between pulling all-nighters and lower grades.

2. No early morning cramming
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Waking up extra early can disrupt REM sleep crucial for solidifying memory.

3. No distracting music

Listening to music while studying can obstruct the brain's ability to concentrate, and store information. However, studies show that some students can study effectively with music playing, while others are distracted by any outside stimulus. So if you need a constant soundtrack, listen to instrumental pieces like classical or jazz.

4. Find alternate study spaces

We learn by making associations between the things we're learning and our environments, and varying our surroundings creates more of these associations.

5. Join a study group
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Dividing and conquering is an effective way to reduce your workload, and to make sure you understand the material. Plus you might even make a new friend in the process.

6. Make flash cards

Writing notes and definitions more than once will help imprint information in your memory. Flash cards are a great way to develop and use mnemonic devices and associative phrases.

7. Manage your time wisely

The only thing worse than having a deadline is missing a deadline. Stay organized, cut down on procrastination and your workload will feel much more manageable.

8. Don't drown yourself in material from one subject

Immersion is not an effective method of study, the New York Times reports. Rather than sticking to one subject and spending hours attempting to master it, you should switch between a few (related) topics. It's less boring - and you'll learn more.

9. Take frequent short breaks

You'll work more efficiently if you have something to look forward to. Use the Pomodoro Technique: for every 25 minutes of studying, take a five-minute break.

10. Exercise regularly

Strong body, strong mind. Exercising improves brain function by growing new neurons and slowing/reversing cognitive decay. Plus it's a great excuse to take a much needed study break.

11. Eat a balanced and nutritious meal
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A study at The University of Oxford revealed that students performed worse on tests of attention and thinking speed after being fed a high-fat, low-carb diet for five days, while performance did not decline for students who ate a balanced, nutritious diet.

12. Get enough sleep

A tired mind is a slow mind. Get enough sleep and watch your GPA rise. Countless studies have proven that sleep deprivation ruins memory. All-nighters won't help you if you can't remember what you stayed up learning.

13. Go to class

The best way to prepare for tests is to attend classes and participate. You'll have already begun the process of reviewing and will know what to expect on the exam (especially if you haven't done the reading).

14. Test yourself

As much as we may hate tests, formal evaluations not only affirm knowledge but also enhance it. Consistent testing can help us relearn and recall information, and it pays off when preparing for final exams.

15. Take a caffeine break

If you find yourself requiring a midday boost, drink a caffeinated beverage right before you take a nap. It takes caffeine about 15 minutes to kick in, so your body will wake you up naturally (but set an alarm just in case). This way you won't oversleep and you'll be twice as alert when you wake up.

16. But don't over do it...

Though you may think it's your best friend during finals, too much caffeine can have adverse effects and can actually cause you to crash in the end.

17. Don't categorize yourself

We often categorize ourselves as visual or auditory learners, or as being left-brained or right-brained thinkers. It is more important to figure out which study strategies work for you than to worry about where you lie on the learning spectrum.

And remember...

18. Don't get too stressed

19. Don't quit

And...

20. Relax

You'll do great on your exams

Good luck!