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10 Tips for Successful Studying

If you have to prepare for a standardized test or certification exam in the near future, there are a few study tips that you can use to get the most out of your study time. Preparing for a major, life-changing exam, such as the SAT or a nursing certification exam, is often stressful because people are focused on the future outcome and what it will mean for their life, instead of focusing on the task itself. Wrangle in your thoughts of the future, focus on your exam, and follow the study tips provided below to ensure that you pass your next test with flying colors.  

1.    Set Realistic Goals

You will not be able to cram everything that you need to know to pass the exam into just a few hours of studying the night before the test. A month or two before the exam, it is a good idea to sit down and set a goal for how much studying you need to get done on a daily basis. If you break up your study time, you will be able to retain more of the information and avoid becoming overwhelmed. Also early on make sure to schedule times and dates closer to the exam on which you will take practice exams. These can be quite useful in seeing how you will actually perform on the day-of. See a related article on this website, Your Very Own Test Plan, for more details.  

2.    Reward Yourself for Your Hard Work

It is important to reward yourself for a job well done after every study period. This will keep you motivate. Allow yourself to unwind with friends, watch a movie, or enjoy a great book after each study session as a reward for the effort you put into your studying. It is important to only reward yourself when you have put in your best effort and really deserve a reward.  

3.    Enlist a Friend to Help You Study

Studying with a friend can be fun and more interesting. You will be able to help quiz one another and will be able to do it in a jovial way rather than staring at the pages of a book over and over again. You can make flashcards to ask one another or invent a fun game that you can play together to help learn the information without getting too bored in the process.  

4.    Consider Alternative Study Spaces

Studying does not only have to take place at a desk. Many people make the mistake of staying in a library or bedroom to study for hours on end. This can be very dull and cause you to stare at the clock more than the books that are in front of you. Go outside and sit under a large tree to study. The fresh air will help your body to stay focused longer and help to banish the boring monotony that comes from studying indoors. Also finding a nice cafe near you can be a nice change of scenery, as well as provide much needed caffeine. It is much harder to dose off in public than at your desk at home!  

5.    Study for Short Periods at a Time

Studying for hours on end will not help you get a better score on your test. Your mind needs to be able to rejuvenate and refocus. Studying for an hour at a time will allow you to take ten to fifteen minute breaks after the hour has passed and still study efficiently. Studies have shown that you retain more information and stay more focused in shorter spurts!  

6.    Give Your Body the Nutrients It Needs

When studying, many people want to munch on salty chips, sweet donuts or candy. These foods can be very tasty, but they will not help with your studying. They will make your body lethargic and cause your mind to lose its sharpness. Sugar highs and lows will affect your ability to concentrate. Opt for fresh fruit, vegetables, and protein, and plenty of water instead. See the related articles on this website called Five Memory Boosting Super Foods and The Stomach-Mind Connection: What to Eat before an Exam for more information on eating right!  

7.    Sleep When Your Body Needs It

Staying awake to study after your body has tried to tell you it needs sleep can actually cause you to do worse on your exam. Your brain may not be able to retain the information you are studying if it is sleep deprived. If you retain the wrong information, you will answer a question wrong on the test. Give your body the sleep it needs and pay attention to what it is telling you. Most people need about eight hours of sleep a night and don't do well on exams after pulling an all-nighter.  

8.    Don't Wait Until the Last Minute

Make sure to prepare for the test well in advance! Gather all of the information you need in advance so that you can be ready to study when it is time to study. If you use part of your allotted study time running around to find the books or study materials you need, you will lose the valuable time available to you. Keep everything in one place or gather it throughout the day so that when you sit down to study, you can focus and study hard.  

9.    Remember Why You Are Taking the Test

When you feel stressed or overwhelmed or start to lose motivation to study, it is a good idea to sit down and remember why you are taking the test in the first place. If you look at it as a stepping stone toward your future rather than a hassle, you may be able to focus better while studying.  

10.    Try to Banish Your Jitters

Go for a run, a walk, a swim, or do some athletic thing the day of the test. This will allow you to get out some of your jitters before the exam, which will help you think clearly when you take the test. Also, try to avoid too much caffeine on the day of the exam as it can increase anxiety and your heart rate. And most importantly, remember most tests can be retaken after a certain period of time so don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

The Memory Town or Memory Home Technique - Test Taking Skills