Hello, friends! I’m glad you decided to join me again here at The NEW!

It’s February, and like some of you out there, I’ve already been hit with a tidal wave of midterm exams. Especially in this quarantine era, many professors are opting to go for multiple term tests rather than two big exams to help lessen the burden on students. Nonetheless, many of us still end up having to suffer from many gruelling hours of studying for these dreaded exams.

But there are still some tricks to making it through test season with your grades intact. Here are a selection of my favourite ones that I hope you’ll find helpful in this exam season, and hopefully throughout your entire university career.

First and foremost, start studying early and avoid cramming. I know this is a tip that many people are tired of hearing, but if you take up any of my suggestions, I think it should be this one. Ultimately, cramming for your exams isn’t going to help you learn. More often than not, it becomes a case of trying to memorize the material and just repeating it back to the professor. And while that strategy may suffice in some courses, I don’t think it has a positive impact on your education in the long run.

Making a schedule and writing it down are important parts of planning ahead. Allocate your time well, and study often, and you may find yourself less in need of cramming come exam time. Image by Estée Janssens via Unsplash.

This is where that ever-crucial skill of time management comes in. Whenever you have some free time, consider allocating it towards reviewing the notes you took for that difficult course that you want to do well in. If you review your notes relatively often, you’ll find that come exam time, you already know most of the material that you need to know. It’s much easier to just cram a few details rather than try to memorize the entirety of the material you’ve learned thus far in a few days. Often, it’s difficult to commit things to memory on short notice.

Naturally, be sure to take breaks as well. Your brain will work better when it’s not burned out from studying, and you’ll be more enthusiastic about learning too if you haven’t been staring at the same material for the last six hours (trust me on this one).

Avoiding distractions is much easier said and done. However, I find that there’s one distraction that most people encounter which is extremely difficult to deal with: social media. See, most people are as hooked to social media as I am hooked to video games—in other words, a little too much. And while taking breaks is undoubtedly a good thing, it’s a little too easy to tell yourself to check your Instagram feed for a minute or two and, next thing you know, three hours have passed and you’ve even forgotten what course you were reviewing material for.

It’s important to stay focused when studying, but social media can be a major source of distraction, especially for those in our generation! Image by dole777 via Unsplash.

Why is this a bigger problem than the rest of the distractions we can encounter? We naturally want to know what’s going on in our social media feed. There are many possible reasons for this, of course. Many people use social media to stay up-to-date on the news. Others frequently use it as an outlet to help them unwind. Some use it as a platform to chat with their friends. The list goes on, but one of the major factors that keeps us glued to our social media is FOMO—the fear of missing out.

We usually know that we aren’t missing out on much by ignoring our neighbour playing heavy metal rock at 10 o’ clock at night, but the same cannot be said for social media. There’s always something going on there, and we just have to stay updated! There are many articles out there on how to fight FOMO, but out of all the things I’ve read, two pieces of advice stick out to me in particular: shut off notifications and physically distancing yourself from your devices.

The first one is obvious, in a sense. If the notifications on our social media apps are constantly going off on our phone, we’re constantly reminded that there’s something there for us to see. And the fact that you receive a notification about it will make it feel even more urgent than it actually is. Getting rid of those pesky notifications is a step in the right direction if you want to shake the temptation to check your feed.

The second tip is one I actively use. I still hand-write most of my notes (I do believe it helps us remember them better), so I often leave my phone and computer in one room and move into my kitchen to study. There’s no device on which I can check my social media in the room, which does help curb the temptation to reach for my phone to check my messages.

I think both these tips help you stay a little more focused on what you’re studying. If nothing else, it helps to remove one major distraction that many of us have to deal with on a daily basis.

Stay healthy. This one’s fairly broad, but it’s nonetheless extremely important especially during a stressful time like exam season. Taking care of yourself is crucial to making sure that you not only feel ready to take on your exams, but it also helps you remember your course material better. Seriously!

Many people will tell you to make sure to get a good night’s sleep before exam day because it helps you remember things better, and I can tell you that it does have an impact. But that shouldn’t be the only factor that you take into account.

I’m going to suggest that you make sure to eat healthy and get some exercise when possible. I know gyms aren’t open here in Ontario, so that option is out, but doing some light exercise in your room helps get the blood pumping and will let you function better. Similarly, eating a nutritional meal will be much more beneficial to your brain than eating that back of chips stuffed in your snack drawer.

I mean, I guess those aren’t chips, but come on! Please eat healthy, everyone. 

Seriously though, staying healthy will help you function better come exam day, and it’s also good for you in the long run. What’s not to love? I think it’s really important that you take care of yourself during stressful times, and this is just one part of that.

And that’s about it! Those are just some tips for preparing for the upcoming exam season. I encourage you to leave a comment down below if you have any suggestions that I didn’t mention in the post above.

Exam season can be really stressful for everybody, and I truly hope you’re all doing well. I’d also like to quickly promote this list of mental health resources that are available to New College students once more at this time. I wish you the best of luck on your upcoming exams!

Until next time, friends,

~ Jimmy