how to study.

sometimes, i have midterms. always, they suck.
but here's how i try to manage exams a little better.

  • make specific checklists that include everything you need to do. i can't just put "study for genetics" on a to-do list. i write down all the textbook stuff i need to read, homework to go over, and practice problems/exams to do. i write all of these checklists on index cards and keep them paper-clipped to my planner, like so:

    seeing everything laid out like this makes it much easier to gauge how much time i need to spend studying and how i can divide it up over multiple days.
  • start early!! take advantage of less busy days to start studying. many professors will ease back on assignments leading up to exams - for example, my problem set for orgo last week was optional - so you should use that time to start tackling your study material.
  • even when it's not a hell week, i try to spend at least half an hour on every subject every day. if i don't have a specific assignment to work on, i read or do extra practice problems. (in theory.) that way, when i do have an exam coming up, i've already been kind of studying the whole time. i keep these little calendars taped to my desk to keep track of how i'm doing with this system.
  • for me, it is most helpful to block out certain times of the day for different subjects. for example, i might study neuroscience during a long lunch break, orgo after class, and genetics after dinner. this helps me stay focused, rather than switching really quickly from one subject to another.
  • on a similar note, figure out which environments are conducive to studying certain subjects. personally, i like studying in my room for genetics, because i like to read the textbook out loud and talk myself through problems. for orgo, for whatever reason, i prefer to be in public spaces, like cafes or even the kitchen in my suite. (for physics last year, it was this room on the top floor of my dorm that i like to call my study cave.) moving from one place to another will also help with focusing on the task at hand. 
  • make time for study breaks! when i have to read a million pages in a textbook, i generally read until i get really bored/tired, and then i check the clock. if it's been at least 30 minutes since i started, i let myself have a little break - i'll watch an episode of a short tv show (new girl and the office and whose line are solid choices) or learn a song on the ukulele or walk to the student center for some fresh air and a snack. it's important to have structured study breaks, not just ~i'm bored so i'm going to go on the internet and op where the did the last 3 hours go?~ bigger study breaks are nice too, like going out to grab thai food with your suite or watching a disney movie for old time's sake. just make sure you have balance!
  • find friends who are in similar situations! usually people in your major will all be having hell weeks at the same time, so talk to them and commiserate and maybe even work out times to study together.
  • make your study place a happy place. if it's your room, clean it. (those 15 minutes it takes to make your bed and put away your laundry will make a WORLD of difference.) if i have an exam coming up there's about a 97% chance that you will find me listening to disney pandora. you're already doing a stressful activity, so try not to add any other stressful things.
  • be disciplined with your time. for me, this means cutting back a lot on internet shenanigans - i use selfcontrol like my life depends on it. (if you have a mac, download selfcontrol NOW. it's the best!) i set it for 24 hours, check tumblr and facebook when it runs out, and then set it for another 24 hours. when you have a lot of schoolwork to do, there's just not time for that stuff, and there are other ways to chill and relieve stress. 
basically, when you're studying, study hard. but make sure you make time to take breaks and enjoy yourself :)

♥ maria


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