How I Survived Finals

Shineon

Before I tell you the whole procedure, I’d like to note that this quarter was one of the most important quarters in my college career (so far). The thing is, there is a certain GPA requirement to get admitted to the Psychology Major. It’s not very high, but various past circumstances have forced me to retake a class to raise the GPA. That wasn’t fun, obviously, but I will talk about that later sometime. The point is, raising the GPA takes a lot of effort, and this quarter was extremely stressful because of that, since my admission to the major depended on it.

I must say now that I did pretty well – scores above average, and good enough to raise the grades suitable for the admission. Three finals in a row wasn’t super fun, though, and it took me a lot of effort to get organized. Here’s what I did:

1. Create a study schedule and follow it.
I know this one is a little obvious, like you would have totally thought of that without me saying it for the millionth time. I’ve written a few posts about this, you can check them out here: How to Make a Study Plan Make a Study Guide.

2. Use every free minute.
I think my scores definitely had some room for improvement, and I definitely had enough time to study for it. My laziness and procrastion got in the way, unfortunately, and I now regret every minute I spent watching Gilmore Girls instead of studying.

3. Prepare your snacks!
I don’t know about you, but to me it seems like the more studying I have, the more hungry I get. Is it because I’m secretly bored or maybe my stomach is trying to distract me? I don’t know, but having some snacks and a cup of hot tea nearby creates a more comfortable and cozy setting for me.

4. Sleep.
Probably the most important thing you can do to get all your energy (large dozes of caffeine excluded). Most teenagers and adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night, and not getting all of them takes a toll on your test performance. Here are some more posts about that: The True Value of SleepThe Power of Naps, No More All-Nighters

5. Actually study.
Here it is, the mistake that brought me to failure to many times. Just kidding, I’ve never failed any subject really, but I’ve definitely received scores below the ones I’ve expected. As easy as it sounds, studying doesn’t mean simply rereading the textbook or your notes. This quarter I tried to do all the practice problems assigned and quiz myself as much as possible. This technique is called active recall, which works when you retrieve the information from your memory so many times that it actually stays there. Read about it here: About Memorization. There are several Memory Techniques you can use to make the best of your study time as well.

How do you get through your finals week? Comment below!

What Is “Studying”?

“Studying” has at least two components: what you do in class and what you do at home: 
1) In class your job is to listen very actively, participate and take notes. It’s important to understand the new concepts IN class, so you’re not too lost at home.

2) At home, it’s a good idea to read the textbook (before you come to class so the amount of new information in class is not overwhelming), review your notes from previous classes and doing practice problems and tests.

Important note: Everyone studies differently. You don’t have read, take notes and review in that same order I told you: you have to develop your own system for studying, that will work for you and produce good results. These are just ideas and some things I know everyone does in one way or another.

Another important note: Don’t cram and do all of these the night before a test. This should be done consistently throughout the week. That way, if you have short study sessions everyday, it will be less stressful and useful than having one huge one the night before a test.

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Small Things That Affect Your Concentration

 

Humans can’t pay full attention to two things at once: it’s a fact! (Source 1, 2, 3). While we think we can do two things at the same time, like doing homework and watching a TV show- we’re actually doing neither.

Thus, when there are distractions around us, we cannot fully focus on our work no matter how hard we try. Small things that we usually don’t think about affect our concentration, but are easy to control:

1. Cell Phone
-put it on silent, out of reach and check only once an hour. It can totally wait and whoever texted you can wait a few minutes.

2. Mess
-It sets the mood. The messier your room, the less organized YOU are! Clean and organize your desk, make your bed, and make a schedule everyday.

3. People
-I’ve found that if I study at home, everyone always bothers and distracts me because they know I’m home and can answer a question, clean something, drive, etc. To avoid the same fate, go to the library! Bring a snack, some tea or coffee and focus!

4. Too many pens
-For those of us who like to color code….let’s use up to 3 colors. The more pens and pencils, staplers and little stickers we have around us, the more distracting they are. Three colors are sufficient enough to mark 1) important terms, 2) explanations, 3)titles (that’s an example, you can do it differently). When there are purple, orange, blue, green, red, yellow, etc. colors, the point of highlighting gets lost- your notebook becomes a rainbow.

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Remember Better: Active Recall

To remember new information better, we have to look at studying at a more biopsychological level.

When new information enters our brain, it is first processed in the working memory. This type of memory is not very big- with it we only remember things for about 30 seconds. Example: when you do a math problem, you think about the numbers you’re working with. However, when the problem is solved and you move on to the next one, the numbers are forgotten immediately.

In some cases, the information (now a memory) moves to the short-term memory (STM), where it is kept for a few minutes longer. However, if this memory is not recalled enough times, it will be forgotten. That’s why when we procrastinate and leave the memorizing and studying until the last minute, we don’t remember that information after the exam.

Now for the final part, to transfer the new memory from STM to Long term memory (LTM), we have to use something called active recall. Basically, it’s like quizzing yourself: the more times you remember/recall something, the better you’ll remember it in the future. Like finding your dorm room- the first few times you get lost, but eventually you remember it and have no trouble finding it.

Paper vs. iPad

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Hey everyone!

I received many, many questions recently regarding taking notes on paper versus on a tablet. I will be talking about an iPad in this case, because it’s the one I’m most familiar with.

Taking notes on paper:

+ You’re able to write things down yourself, which should help remember things better
+ You can organize your notebook any way you like and use any note-taking technique you want
+ Journals aren’t very expensive!
– Too many notebooks add up to a heavy backpack.
– To annotate any other files, readings or powerpoints, you”’ have to print those out before class
– “Should I keep my 7th grade science journal in case I need it in the future??” Um, the most important question you’ll ask yourself during spring cleaning.

 

Taking notes on an iPad:

+ You can hand write (with a stylus) or type (attachable keyboard) your notes
+ There are many, many apps to take notes as well as keep you organized and stay on task.
+ All your work can be backed up on a cloud. Also, no more “should I keep this journal?”
+ All you’ll need is an iPad and a stylus/keyboard. No more heavy bags!
+ Expensive. $270- $500…

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Textbook Read Tips

I got some questions recently on reading a book/textbook and taking notes. Here is the part about textbook reading, I’ll come up with novel-type book reading soon!

The three main things you can do while reading a textbook are:

1) Stop highlighting and start writing things down- on margins or in a notebook. Because you’re thinking while writing, it will help you remember the information more.
2)Take concise notes, don’t include details. Key concepts and short descriptions only, no ramblings.
3) Look at the big picture. Summarize the chapters you’ve read, organize all information on paper. In the end you will know the key ideas and will just need to sort out the smaller details.

Happy reading!

Multiple Choice Exams

Quick Tips for Answering Multiple Choice Questions

1. Read question and underline what it’s asking you.
2. Cover the answer choices (a, b, c, d) with your hand and try to answer the question yourself, without any help. Seeing the answer choices will just confuse and distract you.
3. Use the Process of Elimination: 
– Eliminate what is obviously a wrong answer
– Now only focus on what’s left. Now you won’t pay attention to the wrong answer choice and it won’t distract you anymore.

Note* Strongly-worded answer choices are rarely the right answer! See example on the picture :)

My econ professor told us a few of these- you still have to study, but these techniques makes it easier for you to find the right answer among all the wrong ones that distract you.

** If you have any more tips you’d like to share with us, Submit them to me and I will post them and credit you, of course, or comment below!

Multitasking

The Pro’s and Con’s of Multitasking.

Big picture: when you’re studying, try to get rid of all distractions. Listening to music, watching TV or texting while studying makes us divide our attention. So in the end, we don’t fully concentrate on either task neither of them gets done 100% well.

Sources: Psych 101; 2