Study Smarter – Final Exams

With the end of the school year fast approaching, I thought it might be relevant to post a few hints on studying smarter for exams. Some of these hints have probably been listed on here before, but I think they bear repeating:
• Speaking of repeating – repetition is one way to get what you need to remember to stay in your head. Learn it over and over again. One method I am extremely fond of involves recording. Make a tape, cd, or mp3 of whatever it is you need to remember. If you want to make the tape even more powerful, record the same information more than once. Go through everything once, and then repeat it 2 or more times. Then, listen to the tape whenever you can; just let it play over and over. You’re not necessarily concentrating on it, just listening. It’s kind of like listening to the radio and learning the words to songs that you didn’t intend to learn. The fact that it’s your voice will help reinforce the learning.
• Involve your senses. The more senses you can involve in the learning process, the more you will tend to retain the information. Listen to the lecture (or your tape), write down notes and important facts, read the book or your notes out loud. See if getting up and moving while you read out loud or listen to your tape helps; it does for me. Post notes or facts you need to remember around the room, so that you see them as you walk around. Put your book in one place and your notes in another, so that you have to walk from one place to the other.
• Speaking of senses, try peppermint. Peppermint has been shown to aid in clearing the mind and keeping it alert. Get some peppermint flavored gum, or even better, some candy (gum loses its flavor). You could even get some peppermint essential oil, and put a drop or two on a cotton ball to sniff now and then (aromatherapy).
• Eat well. Stay away from junk food or too much caffeine. Give your mind good food and lots of water to help it function better. And while you’re at it, get enough sleep.
• Create a study area that helps you study. That doesn’t necessarily mean a desk, good lighting, and absolute quiet. It also doesn’t mean having the TV on and your cell phone nearby. Choose a place that’s relatively private and quiet. Music is OK as long as it’s not your favorite stuff. Instead try classical or jazz. You want something soft in the background that will mask other distracting noises. Sit, stand, move as you need to; do what makes you comfortable.
• Take breaks every 15-20 minutes. Get a snack or something to drink, take a walk, or stretch. People contact is OK as long as you limit it to a couple of minutes. Exercise is an excellent idea, too. Your brain needs a few minutes down time to absorb what you’ve been studying.
• ADDers tend to be visually oriented, so do as much as you can to make your study time a visual experience. Use color in your notes – different highlighters, pens, whatever. Draw pictures to clarify your notes or condense text into easy to understand diagrams. Make a collage of the concepts you need to remember. Draw a colored box around a manageable- sized chunk of information – say half a notebook page. Study all of that information as one chunk, and practice picturing that box with its contents in your mind. Sounds weird, but it works. Get creative with the process, but not so much that you get lost in it.
• Put key information everywhere, so you see it over and over. The bathroom mirror, the shower doors, the fridge – you get the idea. Repetition again.
• Tie in studying with something you love to do. Let me explain: my son played hockey as a kid. He ate, slept, and breathed hockey. He had a hockey stick permanently attached to his hand, and he was always shooting pucks (or whatever could stand in for a puck). He had an area in the basement that he could shoot pucks at; his dad had set it up with targets on it to improve his shooting skills. When he needed to study something, I would put big pieces of paper with important facts on them around his shooting area. (This was meant as a supplement to his normal studying, not a replacement. ) Because he was doing something he enjoyed, he was relaxed. And because he was relaxed, his mind was more open to taking in information. Plus, as he shoots again and again, he sees the papers again and again. Repetition (again). You could recite your notes as you dance, or do football drills, or whatever it is you enjoy.
• Try to apply what you are learning to something you already know. Not always possible, but useful when you can. Here’s an example: years ago, I taught classes at Daimler Chrysler to assembly line workers who were preparing for a skilled trades exam. One gentleman I worked with was having a hard time understanding percentages until I explained it in terms he could relate to: let’s say you let your buddy have $100, and he’s only paid you $30 so far. How much does he owe you? He got it right away, because the problem went from theory to practice, and he could relate.
• If you are in a real time crunch, and you seriously need to cram for the final because you’ve been blowing off class all year, here’s my best advice: don’t try to cram an entire semester into a few nights. Ever hear of jack of all trades and master of none? You’ll know a little bit about a lot of what the term was about, but not likely enough to help you pass. Pick a few key areas and study them well, until you really know them. This gives you a better chance of at least getting some of the questions right; hopefully enough to get you through. And by the way, if the test is multiple choice, and you don’t know the answer at all, look for the answer with the most detail and no absolute words like “never” or “always”.

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About Brenda Nicholson

I am an ADHD Expert, Coach, and Consultant. I want you to learn how to celebrate your life with ADHD too.

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