Sacrificing sleep to study is common practice in college dorms and high school students’ bedrooms across the country. Hunched over texts and notebooks while armed with enough coffee and Red Bull to last the entire night, students continually cram for exams even though research claims it does little or no good.
When you find yourself in a text anxiety panic because you aren’t prepared for the exam you have to take in the morning, make sure to avoid these common blunders:
1. Hosting your own self-pity party. Wasting your precious study time feeling sorry for yourself isn’t going to help in this situation, which was most likely caused by your own procrastination or negligence. In the future, make note of all upcoming tests and due dates in your calendar or planner or set event reminders on your phone. Meet with the instructor or visit the tutoring center if something isn’t clear or you’re having trouble understanding a concept.
2. Reading and rereading and rereading again… Rereading your text and handouts (or listening to podcasts and recorded lectures) for the fifth or sixth time in hopes of magically learning the information probably isn’t going to help you remember things when cramming for an exam that you have to take in mere hours. You’ll most likely give yourself a headache.
3. Highlighting everything in the book. Highlighting important names, dates and concepts might help them stick with you, but filling an entire page or paragraph with neon pink and yellow will do little more than make your eyes hurt. Oh, and according to TIME, a study released by the Association for Psychological Science found that highlighting and underlining text is one of the most ineffective common study habits out there.
4. Studying with a group or partner. Pairing up with the smartest person in the class because you hope his knowledge will somehow rub off on you is a seemingly clever plan that can easily backfire. You might wind up more confused than you were to begin with, or even jealous of the fact that you have no idea what you’re studying and your partner does. If you attempt to study with people who seem as clueless as you feel, the entire group could give up and turn the study session into a Netflix marathon.
5. Skipping the practice tests. Most textbooks have practice questions at the end of each chapter. They’re there for a reason! Skipping practice tests—or optional class meetings and help sessions led by the instructor—just because they aren’t mandatory or won’t contribute to your overall course grade will do more harm than good. Practice tests can help you determine whether or not you actually understand the material and give you an idea of what might be on the exam.
6. Blaming your teacher or professor. There’s no denying that instructors have different teaching styles and some are “better” than others in students’ eyes. Just about everyone has wound up with a professor or teacher that they didn’t like. Even so, blaming him or her because you find yourself holding an eight hour review session the night before a test isn’t fair. Help outside of class is usually pretty easy to find.
If you disagree with the abovementioned advice because you simply swear that cramming for exams really works, consider this—a UCLA study found that although students who studied more than their peers on a regular basis generally earned higher grades, surveyed students who skimped on sleep to study more than usual experienced more academic problems the next day. In short, a good night’s sleep may help you more than a few extra hours of studying.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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