Exam season is rapidly approaching, and you know what that means? Lots of studying!
To make studying as pleasant and productive as possible, first find a study space with minimal distractions and adequate resources in which you feel physically and mentally at ease (but not to the point of sleepiness).
My favourite study space is the engineering computer labs because they are conveniently open 24/7, decently quiet, and physically comfortable. However, no matter how perfect computer labs are for me, if I spend 5-10h there daily for about a week (which I tend to do during exams), I get bored and start loathing the mere thought of going back to the lab. I know I’m not the only one who begins to get sick of my otherwise perfect study space during finals weeks. So what’s the deal?
A mistake that students commonly make during exam time is sticking to only one study space. It is important to recognize your learning atmosphere needs and preferences aren’t static. Studying for different courses may require different atmospheres, and trying to study everything in the same place might get a bit repetitive and boring. So, if you find yourself getting bored of your usual study area, try switching it up once in a while to keep your mind refreshed. For example, if you need a quiet atmosphere to absorb Calculus knowledge, but like doing your readings in a place with background noise – review Calculus in the library, and finish your readings in a coffee shop! There are many different places where you could study, each with their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve explored a few of them below.
Studying in your own home can be comfortable and convenient. You can wear your comfiest pyjamas as you hit the books. It is time-efficient because you don’t need to pack your study supplies, get ready, or commute anywhere! Furthermore, resources such as your laptop chargers, electrical outlets, and food are readily available. However, your house can be extremely distracting. Some distractions include loud family/roommates, unfinished chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.), and proximity to your bed. Additionally, your house doesn’t have access to academic resources such as school computers, library books, or classmates/professors. Therefore, I recommend studying at home only if you highly value comfort and convenience, have high noise-tolerance (unless you live alone), have high self-discipline when it comes to staying on task, and don’t require academic resources.
The library is a great place for someone who needs quiet alone-time to study, or someone who needs to use resources such as books, librarians, and computers. There are generally plenty of electrical outlets to charge laptops. Another great advantage of a library is its academic environment – seeing people around you also preparing for exams is a great motivator! However, going to the library to study is slightly more inconvenient than studying at home. You will have to pack your own study essentials and allocate time to commute to the library. It is crucial that you don’t forget anything important (such as your notebook or laptop charger) at home or else you may have to head back. Also, library chairs aren’t the most comfortable things in the world, so you may get physically uncomfortable if you stay there for a long period of time. In summary, if you are someone who gets easily distracted at home, prefer independent studying in a quiet atmosphere, and/or require library resources – a library would be a great place to study for exams!
The coffee shop is a nice place to study for someone who likes background noise and caffeine. I would not recommend studying here if, like me, you have a low noise tolerance, prefer independent study, need academic resources, and/or get easily distracted. Like going to the library, going to a coffee shop requires packing your supplies and commuting. Keep in mind, coffee shops, unlike libraries, are not an academic environment so it won’t have academic resources. Also, people around you may be having more fun than you. For example, the last time I went to a coffee shop to prepare for a midterm, there was a couple beside me who were on their second date – needless to say, I wasn’t focused on my studying because I was eavesdropping. In summary, if you are someone who doesn’t get easily distracted by their surroundings, loves coffee, doesn’t need any academic resources, and likes ambient noise – then a coffee shop may be for you.
Computer labs are a great casual place to study because it is moderately quiet with some background ambient noise, it allows for some conversation and group-work, it provides access to school computers and internet, and the chairs are generally comfortable. However, other people in the lab can be distracting at times. Most labs are a bit chilly, so be sure to pack a sweater. Arguably the worst part about computer labs is the “No Food” rule. I recommend studying in a computer lab if you are someone who likes moderate background noise, prefers comfortable office-style chairs, and/or needs to use school computers or printers.
Let me know in the comments what some of your favourite study spaces are!