So you have exams coming up. This can seem underwhelming a few weeks out. However, exam week comes and goes fast, so getting started in the study process is your best bet. We suggest that you start organizing your thoughts and developing a study plan two weeks out from each test. This may seem ambitious, but we hope that this guide will help you with your day-to-day plan to stick to in terms of preparing for your exams so you can get the most out of each study day without having to cram on exam week.
What is the Best Time to Study?
What time should you study? The best time of the day to study is different for everyone. However, mornings are often a great time to be productive. Finding time in the mornings to study can be difficult for some, especially students who have AM classes. However, waking up and getting work done contributes to a more confident mindset with less stress throughout the day.
In college especially, there are many activities in the afternoon and night. For example, sporting events, parties, practices, and club meetings are typically in the afternoon or at night. Therefore, for an involved student, it can be hard to find study time in the midst of this, making mornings a prime opportunity to maximize studying ahead of time.
There are other advantages to studying in the mornings like ensuring that you are up at a reasonable time to be productive for the rest of the day. Getting a chunk of your studies done in the morning also produces a sense of confidence and achievement to carry with you throughout the day.
Although not ideal, afternoons and nights can be good times to study as well. For high schoolers who have class in the mornings or college athletes with morning practice, this may be the only option for you. Afternoons are usually a time most college students pick to study so libraries are typically more crowded and loud which can contribute to a distracting environment.
However, concerning the popularity of these study hours, afternoons can prove to be a productive time if your friends are also all there in the same boat to encourage you to stay focused and not preoccupied thinking about what they are doing. If you choose to go this route, be cautious about how productive you are when you are around your friends and if they are serving as a distraction or a helpful asset to your study hours.
How Many Days Should You Study for a Test?
You should study for each exam about two weeks before. It’s unrealistic that you study each night for each test for two weeks. However, developing a plan that will make studying for an exam a manageable and intentional experience will prove to be very helpful.
Making your study plan
Ask yourself: how much do I already know? How well are you currently doing in the class? What are your goals for the test? These questions will help you gauge how important this examination will be and give you some insight into how many hours should be poured into the exam.
Another helpful step is to compare your exam to others that you may be taking that week as well. Will studying for one class you are confident in be taking away from another class’s exam that your grade is more contingent on? Considering this and coming up with a plan that optimizes your time concerning other exams when making your plan will also be advantageous.
How Many Hours Can a Person Study?
People can study for hours on end. However, that’s not what you should do. Studying all day for an exam is not wise because your mind can wander and decrease productivity. This is why making a plan weeks out reduces the chances of procrastination that inevitably results in cramming for hours in the library. Consistent review throughout days lets your brain remember the content clearly for exam day since it has been repeated in your brain for so long.
Furthermore, in addition to creating a stressful environment, studying for hours and hours isn’t as effective since your brain can only take in so much information in a given amount of time. Especially if your exam falls on finals week, you will have multiple classes to prepare for and that can be overwhelming for your mental state and your brain’s capacity to retain information as well.
It is best to study for double the amount of time spent in class each week in general. If preparing for a final, then it is natural and appropriate for some to increase this time. If you simply can’t add extra time to review, then stick to this standard rule and use your time more intentionally to focus on what will be covered on the exam.
Best Ways to Take Study Breaks
Below are five ways to structure your study breaks when preparing for finals:
1. Get some exercise
Being active is a great way to take a study break! Working out can relieve stress which is a feeling common among students during exam week. Going for a walk, run, or bike ride also allows you to re-approach your work in a focused manner. It’s easy for your mind to wander when studying so getting your energy out amid a study session can be a productive way to clear your head and find intention in the task at hand. Being active in of itself is a healthy alternative to other study breaks since it has a multitude of advantages beyond just helping you focus.
2. Hang out with friends
Seeing friends can get your mind off of studying. This may sound alarming to students who are stressed about their tests. If you have five tests this week all you should do is focus and study, right? Wrong. You should seek to find balance in how you approach the exam. A good majority of your week should be focused on the exam, but there is nothing wrong with giving your mind a break to just have fun with your friends. It can be refreshing to do so and then, re-approach your studying after an hour of social time. You can get distractions out of the way by thinking and talking about something other than school. Additionally, if you have time with friends set aside for your study break, you will feel especially motivated to be productive up until that time when you get a break.
Take a deep breath. Exams, as said above, are a stressful time. Keep in mind your mind by downloading an app like Headspace or Calm that focuses on mindfulness. This can be a very helpful study break for students who are struggling to keep their composure during a stressful week. These applications can be motivational as well so in addition to feeling relaxed, you also may find a new sense of determination to study efficiently. There are other ways to meditate besides these apps, but this is an easy way to get introduced to mindfulness if you are unfamiliar or just want a guided exercise that you can even complete in the library.
4. Grab a snack
Fueling your body is a desirable way to spend your study breaks. Treat yourself with a piece of candy for every task or eat something healthy to nourish your brain. Getting up to get a drink of water is also effective since it can be easy to get dehydrated if you are running off little sleep and lots of coffee (typical finals week). Eating, like seeing friends, is something that most students look forward to, so making yourself do a couple more problems before you dive into that Cheez-It bag can lead to further productivity. We’ve written an article about what to eat before a test, check it out.
5. Take a nap
Let’s face it, you are probably going to be sleep deprived to some degree the week of finals whether you planned ahead or not. Therefore, setting your alarm and taking a half-hour nap will restore your body and mind to take on hours of studying. It’s giving both your body and mind a much-needed break during exams that will do much more good than harm, although at first, the suggestion may seem unnecessary or distracting to some.
5 Effective Ways to Study for Exams
Notecards are a great way to study because they can organize your information and help you see what you need to work on and what sections of the material you are comfortable with. Color-coding notecards can also be helpful to comprehend a range of information that, at first, can seem overwhelming for finals.
2. Get a tutor
Need some extra help understanding the material? Getting a tutor is never a bad idea. They are well-versed in whatever subject you are learning and can have meaningful conversations with you to enhance your exam performance. You may have tried to study groups in the past, and although they can be helpful at times, they often prove to be a distraction. Tutors offer the same advantages as a study group, except you are much more likely to stay on task when working.
3. Go to office hours
Most college professors and high school teachers alike have office hours for students to take advantage of. Your instructor has a superior understanding of the content and often is more than willing to reteach much of it to you if you take the time to meet with them. Additionally, teachers and professors are usually the ones writing your exam so they may give you some advice or insight about what to focus on.
4. Take a practice test
Finding a practice test to take is a great way to test your knowledge. Most teachers and professors have practice exams online for you to access to test yourself before the actual exam. Additionally, taking a practice test can get you familiar with the format that your teacher may use on the final in terms of question types and pacing.
5. Review class materials
Going over class materials such as notes, homework, and past tests and quizzes help with the studying process for exams since it identifies all of the topics that were covered in the class and that will likely appear on the exam. This is a great first step in the study process since it outlines what you do and don’t know concerning the material to help you make an organized study plan based off of what you need to focus on.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many Hours Should I Study a Day for Exams?
You should study for about two weeks leading up to exam week. At the very least, if you don’t start studying at this two-week point, you should create a plan to organize how you will be best prepared for your test dates. Furthermore, the standard suggestion to start studying two weeks before your test can be occupied differently by different people depending on a variety of factors. We hope that this guide outlined some methods for you to make the most out of exams and your time spent preparing for them.
You may also like these other study tips:
> How to Study for Exams: 25 Study Tips
> How to Study Smart: 33 Tips and Techniques