By Tamar Zmora
Midterm season, that necessary evil that falls between the two highest of holidays -- Oktoberfest and Halloween, natch -- is upon us. That faint sound you hear? It's the collective screams of Boston's college students, the 24/7 brewing of their coffee pots, and the echoes of their exhausted brains as they fall asleep on that 1,000-page Intro to [Insert Subject Here] textbook. At least everyone's in this together.
Block out that evil noise and listen instead to these fool-proof study techniques that'll get you on the right path to acing your Physics exam and finishing your paper on the Spanish Civil War.
Choose a Conducive Study Space. Get out of your room -- it's a far too distracting place, especially when that little dorm cube doubles as your kitchen, dining room, and living room. That dusty corner that's been that way since you moved in yet suddenly absolutely must be cleaned -- it can wait. So can your DVD collection, which, trust me, doesn't need to be organized right this second.
Find a place with minimal disruption. The ideal study environment will differ from person to person, but try a quiet coffee shop, the library, or the back corner of the student union -- find a spot that fits your study habits. But, no matter what, just get out of the dorm.
Take Breaks. Breaks will help you stay focused, healthy, and happy. After long hours of staring at a screen, skimming through your notes, or reading a Moby Dick-sized book that you may or may not have had all semester to read, breaks are:
A) Something to look forward to.
B) A change of pace.
C) A chance to relax and recharge.
D) All of the above.
The correct answer is D. (Don't worry, this won't be on your exam.) Studies have shown breaks actually help you remember all that knowledge you're trying to cram into your head, too. A movie-length break is probably a little too long, but 15-20 minutes should do the trick.
Form a Small Study Group. If the information you're attempting to absorb is dense -- tantamount to memorizing the names of all the Duggar and Gosselin kids on 19 Kids and Counting and Jon & Kate Plus 8 or something like that -- a study group can lessen the load.
Divvy up the chapters or information you need to cover, and make sure your group is made up of equally motivated and intelligent people -- slackers need not apply. Become an expert on the specific topic you're assigned, then meet a few days prior to the exam to go over the material.
Use Note Cards. The sheer repetition of reading information and jotting it down helps you absorb the information. After all, practice and conditioning is what studying is all about.
Create a Stellar Music Mix. Easy listening and soft music will keep you from memorizing the words to the latest Top 40 hits rather than the Periodic Table of the Elements. But as you take your occasional short break, it's good to also consider unwinding a bit -- I prefer "Breathe, Stretch, Shake" by Ma$e or "Too Legit to Quit" by M.C. Hammer. Just resist the desire to dress up in Hammer pants or pull out your favorite '80s ensemble.
Eat Well. Don't forget to eat or snack -- healthily, of course. To stimulate those brain cells, eat blueberries. Put down the caffeine pills and fifth cup of coffee; try dark chocolate or freshly brewed tea instead. Both contain caffeine, which should boost your energy and level of concentration. Or much on one of these other "brain foods."
Exercise. Studying can make you tense up and become a ball of nerves. Sitting on an uncomfortable wooden chair doesn't help. A quick workout -- even as simple as pulling out a yoga mat and relaxing in Child's Pose or doing some squats and calf raises -- can relieve tension in your muscles, pump up your endorphins, and make you more alert (and burn off all the study snacks).
Share your tried-and-true tips in the comments. From all of us at TNGG, good luck!
Photo by John Althouse Cohen (Flickr)
About Tamar -- I'm a recent Wellesley College grad with a degree in English and studio art. I grew up in the Midwest and briefly lived in Europe and the Middle East. My name is often mistaken for Tamara from "Sister, Sister." I love exploring coffee shops and am almost always highly caffeinated. I am very interested in films, the arts, theatre, painting, photography -- you name it -- '90s TV shows, and music.
The author is solely responsible for the content.