5 Study tips to get you ready for finals

It is that time of year where the consumption of caffeine and the stress levels of college students increase exponentially.

With that ultimate goal of becoming a physician assistant you know that getting solid grades is a must.

Here are my 5 tips to help you crush your exams:

5. Do the math: Whenever possible, review your current grade/points in a class and figure out what score you are required to obtain to reach the grade you want. The goal is figuring out how to distribute your study time. If you find it is mathematically impossible to reach an A in your chemistry class, guess what. You don’t need to spend as much time and engery on that particular class. Knowing the numbers ahead of time helps take some of the burden and stress off studying for every class equally.


4. Study environment: I know everyone has their own style of studying, whether if be in a coffee shop, library or in the comfort of home. Minimizing distractions is key. If you are people watching at the local coffeeshop, your attention is diverted. Same holds true with studying at home, there are just too many distractions. When studying alone, complete isolation with a white board was my go to. I would study a topic and try to teach it to myself by drawing it out. This allows for visualization of the topic you are studying. Research in the use of music while studying have yielded positive results. Check out brain.fm or music for studying on youtube or amazon music. What I try to do is listen to the same song list that I listened to while studying just prior to taking the exam, the songs should help subconsciousness of the brain retrieve the studied material.


3. Independent or group study? The answer if both! When possible try to study in the group setting in addition to your independent studying. By studying in a group you can gain different perspectives and mnemonics on how to retain the information. The social environment with peers can help take some of the stress away, because you all know you are in it together. The most important part is to make sure you take turns teaching the material to each other. By being able to appropriately  teach the material, you know that you have a strong grasp on the concept. Try to keep with the medical mantra of: ” See one, do one, teach one.” By following this I have gained a better understanding of material I am tying to learn.


2. Taking breaks: There truly is a fine line that one must navigate when determining how long to study for. Studying is taxing on the brain and being focused on one task for an extended amount of time is difficult. This is where taking breaks are important and the type of breaks you take are just as important. For most people after studying for 1-2 hours one should take a break (now this is especially important if truly focused with laser precision studying).  What should you do on your break? It depends on the type of person you are. 15-30 minute break should be taken. This time should include bathroom break and eating snacks or meals. If you are an athletic person, walk around, climb some stairs or do a quick set of bodyweight exercises. For those who enjoy movies and TV, watch short clips of shows which do not require a lot of mental energy to follow story lines and plot. Also don’t watch episodes from a series that you are into, for this may lead to you watching more episodes. I recommend watching stand up comedy, they help take your mind off the stress and most are short and can easily get you back to studying. Do not play video games, check social media, or surf the internet on your break. This leads you down the rabbit hole of losing track of time, turning your 15 minute break into 2 hours.


1.  DO NOT PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER.  I don’t care how much of a night owl you are. It is not worth it. I speak from experience. I have pulled 2 all-nighters in my life and I felt miserable on both occasions and don’t really know if the grade I obtained would have been any different. Get a couple hours of sleep, ideally 6-8, but at a minimum a 2 hour power nap. Glucose fuels your brain and when you are sleeping the body is able to regulate and correct glucose consumption throughout the body. If you stay awake all night the stresses that you are placing on your body cause all the organs in the body to fight for the glucose.  This battle leads to excess strain on the brain not allowing it to truly focus on retaining the information you are studying.


Takes these tips into consideration next time you are studying for finals.

Best of luck and keep working towards your goal of becoming a PA.

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