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  • Sasha Moonilal

6 Ways to ACE Your Exams This Semester

The end of January marks the beginning of exam season for high school students and we are here to help! Exam season is notorious to perpetuate stress, anxiety, and terrible sleeping patterns. Many students cling to coffee and all-nighters as a result. Not to mention, less time spent with friends and family and less time doing the things you enjoy.

Acing your exams doesn't have to mean neglecting your physical and mental health or isolating yourself from the things and people you love. Today, we want to give you our 6 top tips to ace your exams this season and take care of yourself while doing so.

Make A Study Plan

Starting out exam season with an organized plan is what will help you succeed. Having a plan will also reduce your stress levels, provide a sense of organization, and help you beat procrastination. When creating your study plan, write down all the information you know so far about your exams - the exact times, locations, formats, and main topics. For each one, figure out what concepts you need to review and how much time you will need to spend on each one.

Next, figure out your study game plan. Ideally, your study plan should be made a few weeks before your exams start. Then, figure out the main topics you will need to study for each exam and plan out what days you will cover what topics. This will allow you to visualize your next few weeks and make sure you have enough time to study for each exam. Now, follow through! Stick to your study plan as much as possible by taking active measures to motivate yourself such as setting reminders, creating time blocks for your day, and making to-do lists.

Cut Out Distractions

Distractions such as your phone, games, or even people can make focusing much harder. Cutting out distractions is necessary to be able to study to the best of your ability and waste as least time as possible. Also, the more focused you are when studying, the more likely you are to retain what you are learning. Cutting out distractions can simply be leaving your phone in another room or removing unnecessary items from your study space that are not needed. Another great tip is to use noise-cancelling headphones or listen to white noise if you are easily distracted by sounds.

Sometimes, certain study environments can be too distracting to get to that necessary level of focus needed to retain information. Going to a public space, such as the library or a tutoring session is a great way to ensure you will get the most out of your study session. Independent study programs, like Ottawa Tutoring's "Homework Club," are a great way to study in a quiet space without distractions. Not to mention, the Homework Club has a professional tutor in each session who can answer all of your questions.

Learn more about The Homework Club here!

Don’t Neglect The “Easy Stuff”

Neglecting the "easy" concepts or topics in a class is a common mistake that many students make when studying for an exam. Even if you feel confident in a certain subject, your failure to spend time and energy studying for the exam could lead to poor performance on the exam and false confidence. Instead, spend a good amount of time on all concepts and courses so you don't run into any surprises on your next exam.

Utilize Active Recall Studying Techniques

Did you know that re-reading your notes is actually a pretty ineffective way to study? Research shows that active recall study techniques are some of the most effective ways to see real results on your exams. Active recall is essentially actively stimulating your memory for a piece of information (Brainscape). For example, if you are using flashcards as a study method, a way to incorporate active recall is by reading the question and searching for the answer in your brain before flipping the flashcard over. This simple act makes your brain actively search for the answer, reinforcing those neural pathways, and ultimately helping you remember the content better.

Active recall is different from recognition. Recognizing a term doesn't mean that you know it or understand it. Recalling information completely from your memory is the only way to completely understand and know a piece of information. So, for your next exam, choose active recall techniques over passively re-writing or re-reading your notes.

Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself after productive studying sessions is a great way to keep your motivation high throughout exam season. Your reward could be as simple as watching an episode of your favourite TV show or calling a friend. Small incentives help keep you on track and give you something to look forward to after completing a goal! Rewards also help to ensure you aren't over-studying and burning yourself out.

Prioritize Your Physical and Mental Health

Exams aside, your physical and mental health should be your number one priority during high-stress periods of life, like exam season. Making sure your body and mind are healthy is what will ultimately help you ace your exams! Staying properly fueled by eating balanced meals and drinking enough water is crucial. You may be tempted to skip meals and replace water with coffee, but that will just hurt you in the end. Eating balanced meals of whole foods is the best way to get enough energy to complete all of your tasks.

Getting enough sleep, alongside eating enough food, is probably the most important thing to remember this exam season! A full night’s rest allows your body to fully rest and be recharged for your next day of studying. Sleep can also help you learn, memorize, retain, recall, and apply your knowledge more effectively (Med UPenn). So think twice before pulling that all-nighter before your next exam!

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