Seven Steps to Acing Your Finals: Ryerson Expert

Released: 12/3/2012 3:25 PM EST
Source Newsroom: Ryerson University
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Newswise — With exams just around the corner, time is ticking for students as they prepare for their finals.

Ioanna Agelothanasis, a learning strategist at Ryerson University’s Learning Success Centre, offers these helpful strategies to help students manage exam anxiety and study effectively so they can pass their finals with flying colours:

Tips to ease exam jitters

1. Motivate yourself to start. Sometimes it is difficult for students to become motivated to study, especially if there is an overwhelming amount of challenging information to be learned. As a starting point, it is often useful to start with a “pre-studying” planning task in order to push yourself in the right direction, whether it is organizing your lecture notes, making cue cards or outlining a checklist of what needs to be reviewed. This way, you gradually prepare yourself for your study sessions, but also have a better idea of what material you know well, and what material requires more attention.

2. Create a study plan. After you have a better sense about the amount of material that needs to be studied, determine how much time you need to spend on each area and break your time down into manageable shifts. For example, if you have one week to study five chapters, you can commit to studying one chapter a day, and use the remaining two days for review. It is important to note, however, that these study plans will vary from student to student, depending on their current study habits, course loads and personal commitments. It is best to reflect on these aspects to create a plan that is both realistic and manageable while ensuring enough time for breaks and a healthy amount of sleep.

3. Avoid cramming. Pulling all-nighters is not an effective way of studying. Instead, follow these tips: Space your study sessions. Refrain from leaving your studying to the last minute. In many cases, cramming for an exam increases your anxiety level, which, in turn, impedes your ability to understand, memorize and learn the material well. If you spread your study sessions across several weeks, you can process the information more efficiently. Pace yourself. You will also be able to concentrate on the material you are reading if you break down your study time into shorter, moderately paced intervals. It is better to take the time to immerse yourself into what you are learning, rather than acquiring a superficial understanding of it the night before you take the exam.

4. Apply your knowledge. Use what you have learned before you forget it. Trust what you know, and practice interacting with the information. Come up with mock exam questions, link what you have studied to real-life situations, or lead a study group to fully take ownership over the material.

5. Take control of distractions. Ensure that the things that usually distract you are out of your reach. Turn off your phone, log out of social media sites and study in a quiet areas. As well, instead of letting distractions take you by surprise, take control of them by planning a short distraction between your study sessions. Fifteen minutes of taking a walk, playing chess, or tossing around a baseball will help you work other parts of your brain, and you will feel more refreshed and alert when you return to studying. If you find yourself getting sidetracked by a distraction, remind yourself that you have a short break coming up, so try to concentrate on your studies until then.

6. Stay positive. Give yourself a little pep talk when you are lacking confidence. Instead of saying you are “going to fail,” tell yourself that your efforts have already brought you this far and that they will continue to move you forward. If you feel that you will be tested on things you do not know very well, remind yourself that you at least know some of the material, and that any test is not an accurate reflection of your knowledge or potential.

7. Relax. We often hear people advising us to “just breathe,” when we are facing moments of difficulty. If you are finding that your mind is going blank during the exam, take deep breaths and actually focus on the sound of it. Visualize your breath entering your body from the ground to the top of your head as you inhale, and vice versa as you exhale. When you resume with the exam, begin answering the easiest questions first to help you build momentum and confidence. Take it one step at a time by focusing on the process, and not the outcome.

Ryerson University is Canada's leader in innovative, career-oriented education and a university clearly on the move. With a mission to serve societal need, and a long-standing commitment to engaging its community, Ryerson offers more than 100 undergraduate and graduate programs. Distinctly urban, culturally diverse and inclusive, the university is home to more than 30,000 students, including 2,300 master's and PhD students, nearly 2,700 faculty and staff, and more than 140,000 alumni worldwide. Research at Ryerson is on a trajectory of success and growth: externally funded research has doubled in the past four years. The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is Canada's leading provider of university-based adult education. For more information, visit www.ryerson.ca

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