No cramming! Yes, really
This might sound silly and counterproductive to the hectic rollercoaster that is exam block, but it’s true. Studying in intervals of around 25-minute increments with 5-10 minutes in between is far more beneficial than studying for hours on end without a rest.
This type of distribution of studying over time with a regular break pattern has shown benefits to long-term retention more than a short period of cramming. An example of this type of time management technique for studying is the Pomodoro Technique.
Fun fact: The Pomodoro Technique was developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. He used a tomato-shaped kitchen timer to measure his work and rest sessions (pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato!).
Conclusion: breaks are important and increase productivity, not waste time!
Eating well (during studying, and before the exam!)
Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day – but it’s so easy to skip this in lieu of more study time, or a bit of an extra sleep-in. However, research suggests that nutrition plays a role in helping you focus better, having more energy and essentially studying better.
Implementing the following into your diet can be beneficial to your study: protein, antioxidants, omega-3, dietary cholesterol, monounsaturated fats, moderate amounts of caffeine, and of course – water!
Move your body
It seems counterproductive to make time for something else while you’re studying – but research says that just 20 minutes of cardio in your day can improve your memory, as well as increase your energy level and reduce the effects of stress.
Grab a group of your study buddies and go for a walk around the campus, or hit the gym or the park for some stretches, yoga or jogging.
Time management – of course!
As we mentioned above, cramming before your exams can cause anxiety which lowers your ability to retain information. You can avoid this by developing a balanced study plan and schedule. If you’re struggling more with one particular unit, prioritise it and spend a bit more time on this one, making sure you still plan time for the others.
You can also plan weeks in advance to an exam to allocate your study time, as well as making sure you dedicate time to other things that matter to you, whether it’s playing sport or catching up with your friends. We have a great blog post that dives into this more: Tips for Planning – Your Life, Your Study and Your Goals!
Avoid an all-nighter
While this can seem like the best option for you at the time, it can be detrimental to your performance. A 2008 study shows that all-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days.
Another study from Dan Taylor, director of a sleep and health research lab at the University of North Texas also finds that all-nighters interfere with rapid-eye movement (REM) which aids with memory. However, Taylor suggests reviewing the toughest material right before going to bed the night before the test, as it’s easier to recall later.
Remember, you’ll want to feel well-rested for your exam – there’s nothing worse than feeling your eyelids get heavy while doing a tricky exam!
While reviewing, re-reading, highlighting and summarising would seem like the best way to study, this isn’t the most optimal way to prepare! A 2013 study found that these techniques do not consistently boost students’ performance, and that practice testing through the use of flashcards or practice exams were a highly effective studying technique.
That’s why it’s a great idea to either ask a household member or better a classmate to practice together through quizzing and maintaining an instant feedback loop.
Try out these tips if you are finding yourself in need of exam study tips. Good luck!
Updated Oct 2023. Originally published Oct 2021.