Failure Is Not an Option

by Morgan Flottmeier, PAW Writer

Say goodbye to cramming for finals and hello to effective study habits. Here are some of the best guidelines and tips from the experts to help students study better and ace their exams.

The first step towards academic success is taking care of oneself. Students can easily accomplish this task by eating right and getting enough sleep. In fact, sacrificing an hour or more of sleep for studying is actually counterproductive. A study by UCLA researchers concluded that a lack of sleep caused by studying resulted in more academic problems the next day. Although it may be tempting to stay up late in order to get a few more hours of studying in, the best thing to do is to simply give your brain a rest. Associate Dean of College Counseling Mr. Brian Estrada agrees and recommends that, “An hour of morning study might be better for you than staying up two more hours at night.”

So how can students ensure that they have enough study time without sacrificing sleep? The answer is remarkably simple: do not procrastinate! If a student waits until the night before to study for an exam they may feel pressured to stay up late in order to get more studying done. Of course the question then becomes, how does one avoid procrastination? Mr. Estrada suggests breaking studying up into manageable pieces, saying, “I think it is easiest to give into procrastination when you feel the task is too big to even begin.  Thinking you will ‘sit down to study for the History final’ is vague and might seem endless.  Break the task down into studying specific chapters or units – concrete tasks that are achievable.  This allows you to make tangible progress, and then take a break, before pressing on.”

Essentially, the key to effective studying is organization and time management. Simply making up a schedule of what to study when can be extremely helpful. In a scholarly article entitled Contributions of Study Skills to Academic Competence, authors Maribeth Gettinger of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Jill Seitbert of the University of South Carolina particularly emphasize these practices and how one can use a study schedule effectually. They write, “The professional literature offers several best-practice guidelines for converting study schedules into actual studying, including: (a) complete difficult work at times when you are most alert and least distracted; (b) divide long assignments into shorter, manageable units; (c) vary the type of study tasks (e.g., intersperse reading with writing activities); and (d) be flexible in scheduling breaks and rescheduling study time if conflicts arise.”

Although everyone can benefit from general guidelines, every student is different and has a unique way of studying that works for them. For example, Mr. Estrada found study groups to be particularly helpful, while others may do better individually by making their own study guides or flashcards. Once students have mastered the basic study techniques, they should work on developing their own approaches toward studying that benefit them best.

So, when final exams roll around this year bearing the inevitable anxiety that follows, remembering to stay healthy, keep organized, manage the time, and determine a way of studying that works best will make failing practically inconceivable.