10 Methods To Study Before An Exam

Several techniques and strategies to get the most out of your study hours.

In the educational systems of most countries, the exam is that moment in which our learning becomes an all or nothing task.  

Days or even weeks of attending classes and studying on our own can fail if we fail when taking the tests that are given to us in the exams. That is why mastering study methods well is very important when it comes to making the most of our knowledge and skills.

Facing difficult exams

Spain is a country with a serious problem in its educational system; both in primary and secondary schools do not teach students  effective ways to study, something that should be key in the learning process. In my freshman year at university, I just limited myself to memorizing, a task that was very tedious for me, so I started looking for other methods of studying for exams.

As soon as I had mastered these new methodologies (as there is no single infallible one) my grades improved a lot; In most subjects I went up to more than three points (in exams with a maximum score of 10). The truth is that I doubt that I would have gotten such good grades without these study techniques; University is tough and at that time I had to understand and assimilate a lot of information. It was clear that the study methods worked for me, and I think they can also be useful for anyone who needs to pass exams. That is why I have decided to share them.

The best study techniques and methods

The tips that I will explain will be useful for any subject: exams for oppositions, English, etc. However, these study methods are not the panacea for laziness: effort and perseverance are the foundation for success!

1. Awards

Thinking about the image that you have 2-3 hours of study ahead of you is, shall we say, un … exhilarating. But there is a way to make it less heavy:

Take a break every 50-60 minutes and do some activity that you enjoy for 10 minutes : watching TV, reading, exercising, etc. It is a question of you knowing that the effort is not going to be superhuman, rather the opposite; It is about combining the effort dedicated to study with pleasant or leisure activities, thus we unconsciously associate study with something positive and bearable.

2. Away with distractions!

Are you the classic student who is in class looking at facebook every minute or doodling in the notebook? Fear not, there are many of those. They are the same ones who study 1 hour out of every 4.

This is because it takes almost 10 minutes to reach a full state of concentration. At this point, if this concentration process is interrupted either actively or passively, you will have to restart the process.

And what can we do to avoid being distracted? Avoid social networks, hide the mobile or turn it off, stay away from the TV, etc. They are small details that although they seem insignificant, they matter. This study method can be summarized as follows: when it is your turn to rest, rest and do not complicate your life, but when it is time to study, do not dedicate yourself to something else.

3. Music to focus

We will agree that playing heavy metal or electronic songs to study works for very few people … but despite the popular belief that when it comes to studying you should not listen to music, there are certain melodies and sounds that can help enter a state of relaxation. You can try, for example, with musical pieces to meditate.

Other tips about music when studying:

  • Avoid putting on the typical catchy song, or one that you really like.
  • Choose a playlist of at least 50 minutes, so you won’t have to search for songs after a while.
  • The radio is not working. The voice of the presenters can be irritating when studying.

4. Study in advance

In my career I never studied the day before the exam, nor the same day. Not for the most important exams like the finals. The key is to study months in advance, a little each day. If you study an exam that you have in two months for an hour or two a day, you are guaranteed success.

The information will be structured in your mind in the long term, it will be preserved for a long time and you can make use of it when you need it. If you study in a hurry the day before, or two or three days before, you may pass, but the knowledge will not be well established and you will eventually forget it. Things will get difficult for you in the future, when teachers assume that you remember the contents of previous lessons.

5. Mind maps

A mind map is a schematic image used to represent words, ideas, or concepts linked around a central idea. Mind maps are a great way to memorize information. I recommend it!

6. Get physical exercise

Although it may not seem like it, exercise can be part of the study methods. According to a study from the University of Illinois, doing 20-30 minutes of exercise before a test improves concentration. Many times, before an exam I have gone to the gym to de-stress, after all I had studied well in advance and could afford (as a reward).

From my point of view it is a big mistake to think that the day of the exam or the day before you have to spend it studying until the last minute. Allow yourself time to rest and train your muscles to be in the best physical condition possible before submitting to the  pressure of an exam. We are humans!

7. Change study places

If you change places where you study, you will improve your concentration and you will be able to retain more data. This is because studying in the same place, actively or passively, ends up irritating us. Introducing new variables in the study breaks that routine and gives us an oxygen balloon to study.

A good option would be to alternate between your home and various public libraries.

8. Eat well and healthy

Hunger will make you run out of energy and distracted. I recommend that you eat something before studying, especially almonds (containing phenylalalin, which stimulates neurons) and beets (uridine monophosphate helps improve cognitive abilities).

9. Keep a positive spirit!

A positive mindset goes a long way when it comes to getting good grades. Many classmates, by giving too much importance to the results, worry excessively about what they do and experience fits of anxiety before the exams, which conditions and keeps them distracted (the self-fulfilling prophecy). That is why it is important to stay calm and have a positive attitude.

Also, being pessimistic about the results we are going to get gives us an excuse to stop trying. It is a phenomenon similar to what is known as learned helplessness.

10. Do mock exams

Mimicking an exam using a mock up is many times more useful than reading or underlining. You reconsider possible logical questions (which will possibly coincide with those of the real exam) and you will help to regulate  previous anxiety, since the “real” exam will only be one of many.

In addition, taking mock exams is one of the most useful study methods, because it helps you discover gaps and weaknesses in your knowledge.

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