I recently read that dark chocolate increases alertness and clarity. I was looking for suggestions and tips for better study habits when the idea of eating dark chocolate appeared. Well, I’m not sure that I can say that falls into the category of better study habits, but it might be worth a try. It’s certainly a study I would sign up for.
This morning I ran into one of my colleagues in the tutoring center. I asked her if her office was busy with students gearing up for finals. She laughed and said, “Oh yes, all the students with D+’s, showing up for the first time for tutoring.” I responded, “Are they all coming in for the miracle tutoring session?” “Yes, they want the magic wand,” she added.
A few weeks before finals, students seem to realize that there isn’t much time left to turn things around. Tutoring centers become busier; study lounges and libraries see increased usage before exams. Sometimes there isn’t much you can do to save a grade at this late date. However, you shouldn’t give up. No matter what academic situation you are in, there are some proven recommendations for doing the best you can during your final exams. Here are my recommendations:
- Study in a quiet area/distraction-free area. If your library is nothing more than a dry bar, you may want to look for study carols/carrels? or rooms or seek an entirely different building. Empty classrooms can be good spots.
- Get rid of distractions. If your phone is a constant drain on your time and steals much of your attention, turn it off, silence it, or put it away. Ask a trusted friend to hold on to it for a while.
- Study for 50 minutes to an hour at a time, with a 10-minute break in between. Your brain needs a break, but make sure 10 minutes doesn’t turn into 10 hours. Treat yourself for good study behavior.
- Eat healthy foods that fuel the brain and body. Junk food and sugary, caffeinated power drinks should NOT be the “go-to food”. Think nuts, whole grains, fruits, and protein.
- Contrary to popular college student opinion, all-nighters are not beneficial. You need a good night sleep to study well and to perform your best on a test. Would you stay up all night before a race or any physical competition? Your brain is a muscle too.
- Exercise. If you are physically active, don’t skip the gym now. If you aren’t, just going for a walk can help. Physical activity helps engage the brain.
- Study in groups – if this isn’t a distraction. Sign up for extra tutoring sessions if they are available, or take advantage of professors’ office hours. The purpose of these appointments is for clarity on certain problems or concepts. It is not the time to say you didn’t understand the entire semester.
- Review old tests and exams. Re-do incorrect problems.
- Re-read and re-write your notes. You took notes in class for a reason, not just to look busy. Use them. The act of re-writing them reinforces what you have learned. Writing it out long-hand has been proven to help with memory more than using a keyboard.
- As a last resort – chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but dark chocolate. It increases alertness and clarity. (Apparently peppermint does too).
Sorry, magic wands are not for sale.