Have you ever awoken in a cold sweat realizing you are nowhere near prepared for your final exams? Panic taking over, you make a steaming pot of coffee, burn the midnight oil, and start an all night cramming session.

I have been there many times, and it never worked. If I wasn’t prepared the night, the day, or the week before, I wouldn’t be able to make up for it with one long night of studying.

It might be obvious, but studies have shown that sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on memory retention. Couple that with stress and caffeine coursing through your veins and you get a recipe for, “what did I just read?”.

So, here are 5 study tips to help you avoid that all-nighter and accompanying stress.

We recently wrote a blog on How to Study Online Courses and a few of the tips laid out there will make a guest appearance.

1. Start Early

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As we have just discovered, it doesn’t pay to wait until the last minute.

This is where you break out your calendar and start planning. See how much time you have until your finals and start setting study sessions.

Keep the sessions short, between 20-30 minutes (an hour at the most), and make them as frequent as possible.

In fact, making your study sessions routine will help you build it into a habit. A habit that is hopefully hard to break.

Keep in mind that a study session should be a time to review what you have already learned in class. It gets a little more complex if you are taking self paced online courses.

In this case all you will need to do is make a slight adjustment to your study schedule. To do that you can set the beginning of a week as the time to learn the new material and the end of the week for review.

2. Have Pinpoint Goals

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For each study session have a specific goal of what you want to learn. The more specific the better.

For example, if there’s a chapter in your textbook you need to review don’t cram it into one study session. Break each subheading into its own session and spend the time to truly revise and exam it.

3. Location, Location, Location

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So, you have your study schedule set, and your goals for each session, now where are you going to study?

Ideally you want to set up one spot in your place that is dedicated to studying. Keep this spot clean and distraction free.

This means no phone. You can turn it on airplane mode, but the best thing to do is placing it in a room far, far away.

In addition, you should avoid distracting websites. Just say no to Facebook, Twitter, and all social media.

Also avoid cat, puppy, and/or adorable animal videos. They can easily eat up an entire study session, I say speaking from experience.

4. Treat Yourself… With Animal Videos?

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After each study session give yourself a reward.

Better yet, make the reward specific to finishing a study session. If there’s a show you’re watching, and you want to see the next episode, make it conditional that you need to complete your study session first. No study session, no episode.

Other great rewards:

  • Read your book
  • Listen to your favorite podcast
  • Eat a delicious snack
    • One cookie now or two after your study session, you decide

5. Take Practice Quizzes

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As you complete sections of what you’re studying you should start to quiz yourself.

Depending on the class/course you are taking there might be quizzes built in. If there are no quizzes you can create your own.

A simple way to quiz yourself is to create flashcards. You can create them as you study. When you find important information/facts/concepts you can write it down in your notes and mark it, ‘Flashcard Worthy’. Or just create the flashcard right then and there.

You can go old school with physical cards or use an app to create your flashcards. I like to use an app called Quizlet.

As you’re out and about, and have a few minutes here and there, you can take out your flashcards and quiz yourself on the go.

Furthermore, make sure to ramp up your quizing towards the end, and even take a full practice exam.

With Saylor Academy’s courses you can take the final exam at any point. After finishing the course you can take the final exam right away. If you pass, then congratulations, you’ve earned a certificate! If you don’t, you can see where you need to brush up and then take the exam again in a week.

Alternatively, if you plan to take a proctored exam to earn transferable college credit you can take the free open exam as practice.

Honorable Mentions

  • Form a study group and teach/quiz each other.
  • Get a full night’s sleep the night before the exam. Skim through your notes and flashcards if you must, but at this point you’re ready and should relax.
  • If you ever get stuck, and the learning material isn’t helping you grasp the information, consult YouTube. Not all learning videos on the platform are created equal, but there is a good chance you’ll find something that can help you.
  • If you are taking a course/class that is outside of Saylor Academy you can use our courses to provide supplemental study material, quizzes, and exams.

Remember that preparing for the final exam of a class/course is just code for learning. You are studying something new, you are expanding your knowledge and skills, and at the end you will be a better person for it.

Take a deep breath and one step at a time and you’ll do just fine.

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