Research Reveals the Best Ways to Prepare for Exams

Nia Hendricks
Break out the #2 pencils — exam season is here.

The heat of summer is encroaching upon us, which can only mean one thing — the school year is almost over! But, before you can turn on cruise control, you’ve got some exams to ace. We did a little research to uncover some science-backed facts about the most effective ways to study and prepare for final exams.

Skip the All-Nighter

Cramming the night before a test could do more harm more than help, and there are a few reasons why. Primarily, trading time you typically spend sleeping to stay up studying is actually counterproductive, according to research from UCLA. Sleep deprivation impedes learning, and the study showed that fewer hours of sleep led to lower levels of academic performance.
Trading time you typically spend sleeping to stay up studying is actually counterproductive.

Eat a Nutritious Breakfast

The last thing you want to be thinking about is your growling stomach in the middle of a test. Despite the widespread understanding that the morning meal is the most important, only 36% of high school students eat breakfast reported a Kellogg’s survey of almost 14,600 people. A nutritious breakfast jump starts your metabolism, and gives your brain and body the fuel it needs to function well. Don’t skip it!
Only 36% of high school students eat breakfast.

Stick to A Study Schedule

Ditch cramming the night before a test and study in increments instead. Ideally, students should review subject material throughout the school year — but even a couple months before a test is enough time to space out your studying. Create a schedule that spaces out study time across several days and weeks. Dedicate a designated amount of time, say 15-30 minutes, for each subject and take brief breaks — do some stretching, walk outside, clean your room — before moving on. Your ability to recall information is improved by spacing out studying rather than participating in one long memorization marathon, says a report from Wissman and Rawson.
Your ability to recall information is improved by spacing out studying.

Practice Tests Make Perfect

Practice tests are helpful on multiple levels. Biologically, practice tests reduce stress, which in turn benefits the brain’s ability to recall information, found researchers from Tufts University. Practice tests can also reveal which areas of the subject you need to revisit. CollegeBoard provides free practice tests — they’re actually past exams — with answer keys that you can use to prepare for AP exams.
Practice tests reduce stress, which in turn benefits the brain’s ability to recall information.
 
Don’t procrastinate! You’ll save yourself time and stress by consistently studying every week, rather than cramming a few days before. Get together with some friends in the same classes and hold each other accountable to preparing for your final exams. Luck favors the prepared.
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