Birds are chirping, flowers are blooming and the line at Starbucks is even longer than usual — which means finals are in the air! If you’ve only made it to that 8 a.m. class once this quarter and have been using your textbooks as door stops, these study tips are for you … and for everyone else currently living at Robert E. Kennedy Library.
1. Use flashcard apps
Want to maximize your efficiency? Download an app like Quizlet or Flashcards Deluxe and use it while you’re walking to class, waiting for your order at Einstein Bros. Bagels or standing in front of the microwave waiting for your food to heat up — basically, all the times you’d normally be on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.
According to psychology professor Laura Freberg, scanning the highlights of your notes will help you form long-lasting memories of not only the major points, but also the entire material.
2. Chew gum
In a 2011 St. Lawrence study, researchers found that chewing gum right before a test improved the number of things students could recall as well as how fast they remembered them, thanks to “mastication-induced arousal.”
Chewing actually increases blood flow to the brain, which means chomping on a stick of Extra right before your final might net you a couple extra points.
“I always carry around a pack of gum with me,” biomedical engineering freshman Fina Beauchamp said. “I figure if it helps me concentrate, why not?”
3. Pace yourself
Let’s not forget it was the tortoise, not the hare, who won the race. Freberg suggested you study in intervals — but stop after you have accomplished precise goals, like reading a certain number of pages, not after periods of time. She also recommended giving yourself small rewards, such as checking social media.
4. Avoid distractions
Unfortunately, motivation is not like a muscle that gets stronger every time you use it, Freberg said. Willpower actually dwindles steadily throughout the day. Keeping this in mind, try concentrating your studying earlier in the day and make an effort to remove all distractors from your work environment. What’s one of the biggest offenders? The internet. Chrome Nanny, StayFocused and TinyFilter are all great options to block certain distractions. Phones can also be a huge temptation, so put yours in a drawer or across the room.
5. Eat brain foods
You may not actually be what you eat, but your brain’s functioning power is definitely affected by your dietary choices. Megan Coats, Cal Poly’s registered dietician, said her No. 1 tip is to avoid sugar, which students often mistakenly believe will give them the hit of energy they need.
“I suggest crunchy vegetables, low-fat microwave popcorn or sunflower seeds,” Coats said.
These snacks will satisfy your cravings while helping you avoid the “finals five.”
And if you do like to treat yourself with snacks, don’t overdo it.
“Be careful — you don’t want to have a piece of chocolate after every chapter you read,” Coats said. “Save it for the end of the night, or maybe after you come back from a walk-break.”
6. Use context-dependent cues
Research suggests studying in locations similar to where you will test — like quiet rooms in the library— can jog your memory, thanks to context-dependent cues. This means your brain will subconsciously associate what you’re trying to memorize with a peaceful environment, so when you go in to take the final, it will be easier for you to recall everything you studied.
In addition, you can create your own contextual cues. Try spritzing a certain perfume or cologne in the air every time you look over chemistry formulas, and then wear that scent to your final. It may sound silly, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
7. Use Polyratings
You may usually use Polyratings to get information on professors and rate them at the end of the quarter, but it’s worth scrolling through the comments and seeing what former students had to say about their tests.
Of course, you don’t want to base your entire studying strategy on what people have written, but you can definitely pick up clues about testing styles.
“I use Polyratings to gauge how much, and what, I need to study,” English freshman Jenna Glucs said.