Our top 10 study tips to help you survive dreaded finals week.
You’re going out on a date tonight. It’s with someone you really like. You’ve been looking forward to this for several months. But there’s a catch! You have to meet your date’s parents first. You really would just rather avoid this ordeal and get straight to enjoying the night with your companion, but it’s something that just must be done. On top of this, you know that you should do it WELL if you want to feel good about it. So you grin and bear it, put on as charming a face as you can and meet those suckers. It’s never as bad as you played it out in your mind, and once you’re done, you feel like a million bucks.
This is exactly how finals are. That date that you’ve been looking forward to is SUMMER. And those intimidating parents that you have to meet are your finals! Finals are a daunting obstacle to finishing the school year and beginning your treasured summer days, just as meeting your date’s parents was an obstacle to enjoying your night. In both cases, students make way too much of a fuss than necessary. I think I’ve told myself every finals week in college that I wouldn’t be able to get everything done and that I would fail a class. I also remember doing everything I could in high school to prevent meeting my girlfriends’ parents. These scenarios are much more intimidating in our minds than they are in reality. The only way to get through these obstacles is to grin and bear it. Once we’ve done that and taken care of business, we feel like kings. Let’s take a look at some tips that can set you on the right track to nailing those finals and sitting upon that throne.
Ah, the secret life of the human brain. It’s hard to imagine that something that exists inside of each of us, that governs our every waking moment (and every sleeping moment for that matter), can be too complex for us to completely understand–more mysterious than the depths of the deepest ocean. In just one second, for instance, our brains can form one million new connections. One million. To keep up with everything your brain does, well, you’d need another brain.
One aspect of the brain that has always perplexed me is the concept of the left vs right brain. There is a persistent idea that the world is divided into left-brained and right-brained people–the former latching onto logic and analytical thinking, the latter made up of loosey-goosey, emotionally intuitive types. Throughout our lives, many of us purport to be either one or the other–an identity that is forged and enforced in school. Students proficient in Math and Science will adopt the idea that they are left-brainers, while those most skilled in Arts will identify themselves as right-brainers.
But if you’re not certain yet as to whether you are right or left brained, well, there’s an infographic for that:
It’s interesting how this infographic ties in to information that is already quite commonplace. The idea, for example, that left-handed people possess greater creativity (given the fact that the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body). I had thought this idea was simply an old-wives’ tale. It turns out, this is only slightly the case…
“Right-Brain, Left-Brain Theory” was actually formed as a result of neuropsychologist Roger W. Sperry’s work with epileptic patients. His treatment for epilepsy involved severing the corpus collosum (the membrane that separates the halves of the brain). This effectively reduced a patient’s number of seizures, but drastically affected other aspects of their lives:
Many split-brain patients found themselves unable to name objects that were processed by the right side of the brain, but were able to name objects that were processed by the left-side of the brain. Based on this information, Sperry suggested that language was controlled by the left-side of the brain. (Source)
So, it is true that each side of the brain is better able to handle certain tasks. It is simply the theory itself that is over-generalized when speaking of individuals. While the right brain may be better suited to expressing and reading emotions, recognizing faces, and creativity, and the left may focus more on language, logic, and numbers, it is really how the halves of your brain work in unison that makes up the type of learner and thinker that you are. All Mathies are not entirely left-brained, and all creative types are not completely right-brained–something that may make you feel better when you find, like I did, that your apparently dominant side doesn’t describe what you feel you are truly best at. (Numbers? Who, me??)
That being said, there is some use for dominance theory in curating good study habits.
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses in certain areas can help you develop better ways to learn and study. For example, students who have a difficult time following verbal instructions (often cited as a right-brain characteristic) can benefit from writing down directions and developing better organizational skills.
In particular, I can recall a mnemonic that worked well for me all the way back when I was preparing for my AP Psychology exam–a rhyme centering around numbers that helped me to memorize Erikson’s eight stages of development. Maybe I have always been numbers-oriented after all?
So, after identifying from the graphic above whether you are left or right brained, here are some tips to help you learn and study most efficiently:
Left Brain Dominant:
- To Do lists will work well for you, and you’re probably already an expert at them!
- You might find that you’re more partial to non-fiction reading
- You probably work better alone than in a group. If you must be in a group, volunteer as leader
- Take advantage of your organizational skills in taking notes and scheduling
- Push yourself to take risks! They can pay off
Right Brain Dominant:
- You’ll excel in essays, more so than on factual, T/F-type questions
- You probably don’t always read directions carefully–make that a priority
- Use images and charts in your studies
- Use your imagination and creativity to its fullest on all projects
- Organize your thoughts by getting them down on paper
Are you left brain or right brain dominant? Take the test to find out! And if you have any study tips to help others with your learning type, we’d love to hear them in a comment!
Can you say #finalsweek ?
A few tips from our intern on how to tackle finals and hunger simultaneously. Beware: it may put you in the mood for the Sixth Sense and drippy, crumbly things…
Good food can make any situation better. Even if you were experiencing the worst possible thing (i.e. traffic on the 405), think about how much happier you would feel with a bag of your favorite chips or a donut by your side. Road rage: managed.
In my many years of falling asleep in lectures and movies and on tables in libraries… I’ve come to realize that food has another awesome benefit: as long as you’re eating it, you stay awake. You might fall asleep the second you stop eating (me), but while the munching is happening, it’s physically nearly impossible to be sleeping. As I’m sure you can imagine, by this stage of my life, I am a professional snacker and I pride myself in it. I know what kind of snacking is appropriate for various situations and what individuals’ snacking choices and preferences say about them. It’s like I’ve got a sixth sense. (I see snacks, people.)
Now, there’s a good chance you’re an avid reader. Books are your hobby. They’re the soap opera to the 70 year old woman living inside of you. They’re your thing.
I, on the other hand, would love to be an avid reader, but I fall asleep the second I open a book. Unless I’m snacking. So, after much trial and error, I have finally figured out what kinds of foods you should and shouldn’t eat when reading a book. Even if you don’t need food to stay awake, like I do, some of these snacks might just make your reading experience that much better. DRUMROLL, please.
1. Foods blended together in liquid form and consumed via straw. Also known as, your average smoothie. These work for many reasons. For one thing, if positioned properly in front of you, you don’t even need hands to consume it. You could just put it on the table and sip away with your book in front of your cup. It’s just you and the straw. Pretty simple. You also get the added benefit of eating like…5 things at once. Which is great if you just really get a kick out of multitasking or if you’re trying to get some veggies or fruits all up in your diet regimen.
2. Pretty much any cold liquid consumed via straw. I’d recommend chocolate milk. The most important part here is the straw, though. They just makes your life easy. Which is one of the reasons you shouldn’t drink hot drinks, because anyone who has ever drunk hot liquid out of a straw knows the roof-of-your-mouth burn is probably one of the worst, and that it’s inevitable. No matter how many times you try to cool the drink down, no matter how many times you engage your different ‘testing’ tactics pre-consumption, you will almost always burn yourself when drinking hot liquid through a straw. And that’ll just ruin your reading experience, and probably your whole life. Just please don’t do it.
3. Family-sized bags or boxes of snack foods in original flavors. These are things like cheez-its, goldfish crackers, pop chips, cereal, you know the drill. They are in the snack aisle for a reason, and it’s because they have been perfected for your snacking pleasure. They literally exist because of your munchies. You should be able to stick your hand blindly into these bags/boxes without becoming nervous or surprised by what comes out of it. If you can’t, you’re not eating the right snack. The goal is to be able to grab a bunch and shove it directly into your mouth without ever having to avert your glance from your novel. Original flavors mean you’ll have the stamina to keep snacking without wearing out your pallet. And family-sized is crucial because there’s nothing more annoying than wanting to read but running out of snacks to read with. Could you imagine?
4. Peanut butter via spoon. Yes, it can and should go on a spoon. This applies to Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter, almond butter, and Nutella, as well. You get the drill.
5. Cereal with milk. This might be a little messy, and yes, it might not be ideal for reading because you have to sort of turn your head to face your cereal bowl every now and then…but cereal is worth it. Cereal is always worth it.
1. Warm drinks like coffee or tea. I already discussed the dangers of attempting to drink hot drinks. But there’s more. Unless paired with other foods, or if you’re part of the 5% of the population that is actually still affected by the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee, these will just make you sleepy. Warm milk, warm water, whatever it is. Parents give little kids these drinks in order to make them fall asleep. And even if they don’t make you sleepy, these are still no-no’s because these things don’t really qualify as foods and therefore they’re inherently just not as enjoyable. Simple as that. You also could potentially and will likely spill on yourself, since you won’t be drinking out of a straw, which will lead to sheer anguish. If you attempt to prevent the spilling of said hot liquid, you’ll just end up having to look away from your novel all the time. That’s not what we want, is it? Goodness, why is it all so complicated?
2. Flavored anything. How many times have you grabbed a page of a novel and gotten that red hot-cheeto residue all up in there? Or maybe you’re the type who feels the need to lick your fingers after eating something flavored…then you’re just going to get your drool all over your novel the next time you page turn. Is that what you want? Is that really what you want? I know these things are delicious, but they’re dangerous. Many of them also require things like water or milk for the washing down of strong flavors. That’s just time wasted, right there. Please, do yourself a favor and avoid the flavor.
3. Small bags of snacks moms put in lunchboxes. Are you a baby? Tell me, are you a baby? Do you really want to read this novel? Because if you DO then you better be in it for the long haul, and the long haul has no room for teeny tiny snack bags. You’re a big kid now. You pack your own lunchbox.
4. Soup. I mean…what are you thinking? That’s just begging for disaster.
5. In general, things that drip.
6. Things that require two hands to eat. How do you expect to read with no hands? Are you a magician? If you aren’t which I suspect you aren’t then you should probably you know…stop doing that. Reading while devouring a subway sandwich isn’t possible. It just isn’t. At this point you’re just pretending to read while you eat your sandwich, so you might as well just eat your sandwich.
7. Bags of things with too much variety. Unless you like all of the items within that variety. For instance, chex mix. Do you like those awkward circular pretzels? Bleh. Next.
8. Foods that are so good you can’t help but think about them as you eat. My god…it’s just…it’s just so good.
9. Things that crumb. There are few things as frustrating as getting crumbs stuck in the seam of your novel. Trying to get them out just means you make more and more, progressively smaller crumbs out of the one large one you dropped in the first place. They crumble exponentially until there’s nothing to grab and you’re left feeling sad and defeated. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s masochism. I don’t care how much you love those fancy croissants or slices of toast with jam. It’s just not going to work.
10. Anything with melted chocolate. This is the most painful “don’t.” But we all know…chocolate gets everywhere. You eat a cookie that’s fresh out of the oven and somehow five minutes later you have chocolate on your shirt, your fingers, your face- and in this case, your book. No good. Just no good. Brown smudges on novels just invite inquisitive questions later on. Just try to fight it and stay away.
Let the snacking begin!
How is it possible to be too comfortable? Honestly, I don’t think you can put a ceiling on something like comfort. Being the mathematical, rational genius that I am (got an A in pre-algebra, guys), I have spent countless hours deducing a mathematical equation for this.
Where: x = number of snuggies in your possession
y = degree to which your house smells like chocolate chip cookies
(quantified by number of cookies in oven)
z = number of Full House reruns being played on Nickelodeon
:) = amount of sheer happiness
:) = x*y*z (example: :)=5*24*6 :)=720 which means you’re winning at everything–>
everyone is jealous of you)
Even though this seems completely logical, I gotta tell you… I’m wrong. Because sometimes you can be too comfortable. And it has nothing to do with cookies or Stephanie Tanner’s witticisms (“…How rude”).
It’s a strange thing.
On the one hand, you have no energy or motivation to do the things you normally do. The very thought of it just makes you want to nap.
On the other hand, you feel like you have millions of little energy particles literally trying to burst out of your skin but they have nowhere to go so they just kind of, you know, hang out and make you feel antsy (See Figure 1).
You, my friend, are in a “rut.”
Your daily routine bores you. You don’t really feel challenged or motivated. Your friends are great, but maybe that one little annoying thing your friend does has now transformed into the worst, most inexcusable thing in the world and the very sight of him/her makes you want to punch something. You go to the same places when you’re out at night. You’ve probably been eating the same thing for the past week or so because you don’t have the desire to brainstorm and peanut butter is just so versatile (put it on anything and everything). This overly comfortable feeling makes your own skin feel like the least comfortable thing possible. You definitely would like to jump out of it; honestly, no amount of snuggies can remedy this.
In sum, your brain is asleep, but your soul wants to party.
Friends, it’s time to rally.
First things first, get up and dance it out. Put on some Michael Jackson and moonwalk out of that rut-hut. If you don’t like dancing, you can just wiggle a bit and flail your extremities around.
Now we can start thinking about how to remedy this little problem.
People often say that in these times, it’s helpful to step out of your comfort zone and do something new. And they say it because it’s true. There’s no reason to feel stuck- the only person making you feel stuck is yourself. There are SO many things you can do. Endless. Why limit yourself? Bet you didn’t even realize you were limiting yourself. But you were. So stop it. Seriously, stop it.
There are so many things to be inspired and motivated by in this world, and they’re all around us. We lose sight of it incredibly easily, and I think that’s one of the main challenges we all face in life. Trying new things is a great way to get yourself excited about your life again, but it’s equally as important to try and see the world around you in new ways. Gaining new perspective will help you see all the reasons you have to feel lucky, blessed, appreciative, and pumped up about living the life you’re living, in the place you’re living it.
I feel like I’m coming upon a rut in my own life. And I’ve decided I’m going to unleash a counter attack. A sneak attack. I’m a ninja.
My goal for the next couple of months? I’m going to explore the city I live in. I’m going to live like a tourist. For me, my overly comfortable place has kept me from feeling the need to travel more than 10 minutes for anything. Sorry, friends who live more than 10 minutes away, it wasn’t you… it was the rut.
So, I’m about to challenge myself to see as much of this place as I can. I’m going to talk to strangers and eat foods I’ve never eaten at restaurants I’ve never been to. I’m going to pretend to analyze great works of art at beautiful museums and I’m going to hike up and fall down hills that remind me of the Sound of Music. Basically, I’m going to try tons of new things so I can maybe gain a new, fresh perspective about this place I’ve been sitting in for so long.
Life should always be something that excites you.
Don’t you forget that, either. Make it your mantra. Repeat it over and over again until it sticks. If it helps, you can imagine me saying it to you. I read somewhere that imagining something scary helps you remember things better, I think.
So… what will you do to wake yourself up? How will you challenge yourself?
And if you’re still having trouble with this, just take a little creative advice from our old friend Harold and his best friend…the legendary purple crayon.
He definitely knew what was up.
A little unorthodox advice from a fellow student–our eNotes intern.
There’s winter, spring, summer, and fall…
And then there’s midterm season.
For us quarter-system kids, the time is now. (For you semester kids, don’t pity us—they’re coming for you.)
If you’re in college, you know this is one of the worst times of the year.
It feels like you’re being pummeled by hail until you’re curled up in the fetal position and simultaneously being burned by blaring sunlight shining through holes in the ozone. And then maybe being stung by a jellyfish.
Somehow, we prevail, though, and keep on chugging through until the next exam season rolls around. We’re really awesome when it comes to making it out alive. What we aren’t good at is studying “efficiently.”
If you are not a procrastinator, congratulations. You’re awesome. I respect you. I literally don’t know how you do it, and I don’t think I ever will. But I want to give you some props. So, here. ::gives props::
Most of us though… we’re world class procrastinators.
Spoiler alert: I’m not going to write about ways to change procrastination behaviors. For us tried and true procrastinators, changing the habit is not a process that can occur over night (like cramming)- it’s going to take a lot of work. MTV Intervention style work. And since you’re likely already amidst the test season, there’s no turning back now to try and fix your situation, because you’ve already dug yourself a nice, fat hole.
So for the 95% of the population that falls prey to this habit, I thought I’d talk about some ways to really get the most out of your procrastinating. If you’re going to procrastinate, you might as well do it well and with style.
These tips will make you the talk of the library.
- Television. You could catch up on all those sitcoms you watch. But if you want to up your game, you should really start watching a new show entirely. For maximum exploitation of this procrastination period, I would recommend shows that have at least 3 seasons, can be watched on Netflix or HBOgo and even Hulu (if you don’t mind the obnoxious advertisements about car insurance). If you don’t have subscriptions to these sites, the person next to you probably does. Make new friends…and then exploit them for their subscriptions.
- Go through your list of New Years Resolutions and try to bring them all to fruition in an expedited fashion. Need to be healthier? Why not spend 7 hours at the gym taking every class they offer that day, or maybe hang out in the produce section of the grocery store, carefully selecting the fruits and vegetables you need to create the healthy feast you’re about to cook (which will take another 3 hours). Want to travel more? Get on a bus and just, you know, get off at a random stop. Then find your way home (This can also help with a “get to know the city you live in” resolution).
- StumbleUpon. Get an account. Waste an entire afternoon. Excellent.
- YouTube. Don’t stop. We all get caught up in the recommended videos in that darned sidebar. Why fight it? Watch all of them. Especially the tutorial and challenge ones, which you must obviously watch and also perform yourself. Oh! And read the troll comments. You have to read the troll comments.
- N64. You don’t even need to get off your couch for this one.
- Those hobbies you dropped back in the day because, I don’t know, band became “un-cool” and your art teacher scared you—pick them up again, and do them until you are just as good as you were back in the day. Clarinets are going to be making such a huge comeback.
- Read for pleasure. Les Miserables is over 1000 pages, and then there’s always encyclopedias and the dictionary.
- Buy the entire contents of your nearest grocery or convenience store, and eat each item in succession. No one can eat and study at the same time. It’s scientific fact. You can even do this one with friends.
- Remember all those things you had to do that you kept putting off that don’t have to do with school? They’re lookin’ pretty good right now. Who doesn’t love laundry?
And then you just cram. Cram like the wind. Do anything you can to stay awake and absorb every bit of that information you didn’t even take in when it was first presented to you in lecture (because you were sleeping). Caffeine is your friend, water (thrown at face) is your friend, uncomfortable chairs are your friends, eNotes is your friend (shameless plug). Your bed is your enemy, pillows are your enemy, thoughts about things that aren’t your exam are your enemy. You know the drill. You’ve got it down pat.
Really, though… you should try not to procrastinate. You won’t learn as much.
… But if you do procrastinate, I mean… just do it right.
In life, you really should always give your all. You don’t want to be the kind of person who only gives 50%. It’s time to step it up and reach your true potential. You came to college for a reason, right? Procrastinate like it’s what you were born to do.
I have to go watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, now (it’s the extended edition), so I’ll leave you with this one line to rule them all:
I have faith in you.