Exam Anxiety? Try these Psychologist-Proven Study Techniques
Imagine you’re taking a test in your hardest class. You ate a big breakfast that morning, got plenty of sleep the night before, and studied for several hours straight in preparation for the exam. As the teacher begins handing out the tests, you feel extremely confident. There is no doubt in your mind that you won’t get an A. However, all this confidence fades when you pick up your pencil and begin. Your mind draws a blank on material you thought you knew, there are questions that you don’t remember studying, and, worst of all, you don’t even know where to begin with your answers to the essay questions. Chances are we’ve all been in a situation similar to this one. Thankfully, there’s a solution. While different study techniques work for different people, some have been proven by psychologists to help each and every individual earn a better score on his or her exam.
Many high schoolers tend to use massed practice. This is when a student crams all studying for an exam into one study session, usually the night before the exam. This is often due to procrastination in studying. As you might have experienced yourself, massed practice produces negative results. If you use this technique, you will most likely be very tired the next day. Also, psychologists have proven that cramming all studying into one big session is not effective in remembering material. Therefore, distributed practice would be a much better technique to incorporate into your studying. Distributed practice is spacing studying out over time rather than all in one day. This technique has proven to result in better scores on exams, and another positive is that it doesn't take any more time than crammed practice. Distributed practice is most effective when a student begins studying at the beginning of the semester and incorporates it throughout. While you may argue that cramming seems to work for you, it does not help with long-term retention of information. Distributed practice, on the other hand, will help you remember the material for much longer. This is very useful for finals, which often incorporates information from the beginning of the term.
Another technique students often use when studying is rereading text, which includes notes and the texbook. This may come as a surprise to you, but many psychological studies have shown that rereading text does not increase learning. A better alternative to this technique would be to test yourself when reading through notes and the book; ask yourself questions that make you think deeply about the material. This forces your mind to process the information at a more intense level and will result in better remembering of the material. Some textbooks provide questions at the end of each chapter; if yours does not, attempt to form your own questions.
While they hate to admit it, high school students can be lazy. This is especially true in classes that require listening to lectures and writing large amounts of notes. To fix this problem, some students resort to typing the notes. While this is a quicker, easier way to record larger amounts of information, it has proven to be less effective than copying the notes by hand. Writing notes out allows the brain to process information more deeply and focus more on what it is you are recording. Also, students tend to keep track of too much information when typing notes. We sometimes have a habit of recording every word we hear, thinking that that will help us study for the test. In reality, keeping track of the most important information will benefit you on a test. Writing notes will help you do just that. Since most of write slower than we type, this forces us to process the information more deeply and decide what is important enough to write down and what isn’t.
Think ahead to your next test. You may feel anxious, but don’t worry! That’s only because you want to do well. Hopefully this article has inspired you to try these three studying tips and tricks, because psychologists have proven their effectiveness. Begin studying in advance and do so a bit each night, quiz yourself on the notes rather than rereading them, and write your notes instead of typing them, and I guarantee you will not only do better on your exam, but remember the information for a longer period of time.