Playing Catch (Up)!

By: Samantha Simpson, Second Year Psychology Student


You were so totally going to start studying for exams 2 weeks ago. Yep, you were going to ace every single one of them, turn your 2.0 GPA into a 4.3 GPA in the process, and make your mom proud. But then the second season of your favourite show (finally!) came out on Netflix, so naturally you had to catch up on your binge-watching first. By the time you finished, night had fallen, and sleep was calling to you. And then you just… didn’t. For the next 14 days. And now exams are, um, next week? Can we rewind this thing?

 

If this sounds anything like you, be assured that all hope is not lost! It’s time to get some serious studying done and I’m here (along with some handy tips) to help you out.

  1. Make a List

First things first: Make a list of everything exam-related you have to do. Do you have to do a reading from week 10? Get notes from someone for a class you missed in week 4? Go to office hours for help with a tricky concept? List it! Make sure to break down large projects into smaller tasks here – “Week 11 Practice Problems” is a lot less daunting to complete than “Week 1-12 Practice Problems.”

Next things next: Prioritize. Go through your list and categorize your items into 3 groups:

  • ‘A’ items: are the most important tasks you have to do. These include exams that are happening first, the most important concepts that you’ve covered in your courses, and topics that you know you struggle with.
  • ‘B’ items: are things that are also mandatory but can wait a little bit for completion. These might be exams that are later on in the exam period, and concepts that you’re more familiar with.
  • ‘C’ items: are the things that are the least important, like doing optional practise problems or supplementary readings.

Last things last: Schedule the tasks into your handy dandy exam schedule (see the link at the bottom of this post). Using your list, make a customized exam schedule for yourself! Put your ‘A’ tasks earlier on in your schedule to make sure you get them done, followed by your ‘B’ tasks and ‘C’ tasks. Also, try to schedule the harder tasks earlier in the day (when you’re wide awake), and finish off with the easier things that you can do later on after your brain has been working all day.

 

  1. Set up short-term goals

You’re hardwired to want an immediate payoff for your actions, meaning that short-term goals are golden while long-term goals are, well, not so golden. Sometimes it’s hard to think about an end goal, like getting exam marks back, if it’s happening more than a month away. It’s easy for Right-Now-You to feel like you’re slogging away without any reward, and before you know it you’re on the 67th minute of your 5-minute break (yikes).

But worry not! This problem can easily be fixed creating a short-term goal to work towards! Set a goal of studying without going off task for 50 minutes, and then reward yourself by taking a 10-minute break. Repeat this pattern 3 times, and before you know it 3 hours of productivity will have rolled by! Then, take a longer 1- or 2-hour break before doing another 3-hour chunk of studying.

 

  1. Work Efficiently!!!

All your planning and strategizing will be for naught if you don’t actually focus during your study blocks. Study at a time of the day and in a location that helps you focus, which might require some tough love. If you study best at 9 in the morning even though you don’t necessarily enjoy waking up at that ungodly hour, you’re going to have to drag your butt out of bed when your alarm goes off. Or, if you’re at your most productive in the library but hate walking through the why-does-this-hurt-my-face Kingston wind to get there, invest in a new scarf and force yourself out the door.

 

  1. Treat yourself

The fastest and easiest way that you can set yourself up for failure is to convince yourself that you don’t have time to take any breaks while studying. But the truth is, if you don’t reward yourself once in a while you aren’t going to study nearly as effectively. You’ll burn out quickly, and become a hollow shell of your former self… which is not a state you want to be in come the end of exams. Take a break to call your mom/hit the gym/bake cookies/stress-eat the cookies you baked!

 

So now you have a list, a schedule, and a few nifty study strategies. You have a plan, and your life isn’t in shambles anymore! So even if procrastination is your illegal substance of choice, with a few easy changes you can ace your exams and make your mom proud – you’re going to be great.

 

Find the April 2018 Exam Study Schedule here:

https://sass.queensu.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Winter-2018-Exam-Study-Schedule.pdf