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Study tips from an exam-averse grad

When I was in undergrad, April was a month of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, the promise of spring and summer was in the air; on the other, exams were looming, and I was not keen on exams. Even now, in my master’s program, I deliberately took courses without exams so as not to have to battle text anxiety this month.

But next year, I won’t be able to avoid at least a few finals for some required courses I just can’t avoid anymore. With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about what helps me study best, and these are some of my tips.

Study with friends. This is definitely a personal preference, but for me, I find studying with friends to be really important. My preference is to study with friends who are studying for different things than I am. So we’re not working together; we’re just working with one another, giving each other granola bars, or taking a break together to watch a Youtube video or grab a coffee. I find it really comforting to have a friend to look up at for a smile when I start to feel stressed, and I also find I work harder around people I know because I want the study session to be productive for all of us.

Me and my friend Alex studying in the Junior Common Room.

Another good reason to study with friends: study selfies! This one taken with my friend Alex in the Junior Common Room in University College.

Study where your exams are (or near to them). If you have an exam in a building where there are study spaces or classrooms, I find it helpful to study in that space and to try to get confident with the exam material in that space to jog my memory when writing the test. If you are a spatial learner like me, you can use visual cues to remind you of what you’re studying, regardless of whether you’re in the building where your exam is.

Use visual cues. Wherever you’re studying, you can look at the space around you and associate the content you’re studying with objects or peculiarities. When you’re writing the exam, take a deep breath and imagine yourself back in that space, and gathering all the knowledge you’ve mentally placed around it.

Reach out for help. This is key! Remember that your community at U of T wants you to succeed. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors and TAs and your peers to ask questions or talk about course material. You can also turn to Student Life for help, like going to the Academic Success Centre to get help from a Learning Strategist (learn more about appointments at the ASC here). If you’re feeling sick or overwhelmed, consider going to the Health and Wellness Centre. Most importantly: if you feel like you need help, reach out for it. There are lots of people at the university who care and want to give you the tools you need to succeed.

Prioritize self-care. Don’t compromise when it comes to sleep, eating well, going to the gym – all the parts of your routine that make you happy and healthy. Going into an exam exhausted after a pizza-filled all-nighter may seem like a good idea at the time, but your brain won’t be operating at its strongest if you haven’t slept. Take care of yourself. It will make your studying more productive and you’ll do better for it!

These are my study tips – but your study habits are personal. There’s some general wisdom, but you should study the way that works best for you and don’t compare yourself to others. The finish line is near – you’ve got this! And your summer is just around the corner.

Get more study tips on the Academic Success Centre site. Share your tips and ask questions in the comments or on Twitter with @UofTStudentLife. 

danielle

Danielle is the summer 2015 Communications Intern at the Office of Student Life. She wrapped up her undergrad this year and will be entering a master's program at U of T in the fall, studying in the Faculty of Information. She previously studied English and Jewish Studies with a minor in History. Danielle studied abroad twice, in Jerusalem and Berlin, did a service learning course, and did a few work-study positions. Her favourite part of her undergrad was working at The Varsity, the campus newspaper. She was the editor-in-chief in her final year. She's passionate about good writing, student journalism, reading, knitting, long walks (on the beach or otherwise), and table tennis, which she insists she is very good at, though her friends may not agree. You can reach her on twitter @lifeatuoft over the summer if you want to chat!

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