With exams right around the corner this can be a stressful time of the year for many students (and parents)! To ease your anxiety, we’ve asked PhD student Yeji An to share her top five study tips!

1. Study regularly in short intervals.

In a study done by UCLA research found that cramming was scientifically proven to be an ineffective study method. This study indicated that students underestimated the value of sleep for academic performance, which is compromised when cramming. The most effective approach to studying is by pacing yourself and setting a schedule. This means completing regular homework, consistently reviewing your notes, and studying well before your upcoming test!

2. Go to class and pay attention.

This sounds like common sense, right? However, this two-step process is most commonly overlooked. Students, not only do you have to resist the temptation to skip class, but you also must actively pay attention (which means keeping your phone away, and saving social talk for after class). In fact, teachers and professors often emphasize certain concepts and material in class, which will give you clues on what to study and how much time you should spend studying each particular concept. Knowing this, you can better prepare for the test if you can anticipate the questions.

3. Discover what kind of learner you are and use corresponding study methods.

Gardner’s multiple intelligences highlights that all students learn, remember, process and understand information differently. For example, I am an auditory learner, so I learn most effectively when reading my notes out loud to myself. Other people might learn best through group discussion, forming your notes into a song, or drawing out pictures. Discover what learning style/s work best for you and use them to your advantage. If you’re not sure what kind of learner you are, you can take a free test here.

4. Practice with old exams from previous years or tests you’ve done thus far.

Get into the habit of saving your tests throughout the semester. At the end of the term redo each test and see which questions you struggled with or got wrong. These challenge areas are topics you’ll need to focus on. Leave sufficient time to thoroughly address challenging concepts and don’t be afraid to seek support from your teacher or tutor. Once you’re feeling more comfortable with the content, redo past tests again to see if you’ve improved and how you can continue to improve.

5. Study in an environment that resembles the testing environment as it will help trigger your memory when writing tests.

In a study done by Iowa State University, research has shown that studying in a similar environment to that which you’re writing your test in will improve academic performance. In the same way, try to mimic the environment you study in to the environment that you’ll be taking your test in. For example, I used to wear the same outfit and write with the same pen that I studied in when taking my exams. If you’re able to, study in an empty classroom, a quiet library or office space.

Yeji An is a PhD candidate at the Department of Molecular Genetics, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Prior to her graduate studies she obtained her Honours Biology degree with a specialization in Physiology at McMaster University. She is experienced in advising students pursuing research or graduate studies and editing scientific writing. 

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