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Healthy Study Tips

Keep Calm and Study

You slowly open your eyes. Ah, another beautiful morning. You think to yourself, "It's great not to have anything to worry about." Worry about. That thought starts to bother you. Is there something? OH NO! Today is exam day and you haven't studied enough.

  • How can you avoid a situation like this?
  • How can you deal with the mountains of stress study can create?
  • How can you make sure you get your assignments in on time?

Read on to find out some useful study tips.


There are many things in life that cause us stress. Simple things like finding a car park, or choosing what to wear when you go out, all cause us stress. There is a small amount of stress in most activities. Stress is a normal reaction to external stimuli, ie. to what's going on around us. We use stress to push us to make decisions.

Some things in life are more stress-inducing than others. One of the most stressful can be sitting exams or keeping up with study. Ever wondered why so many people seem to have that dream about going to school and realising they forgot to put any clothes on?

The pressure to be successful at school and Uni is very strong.

  • All through life we hear messages about how important it is to get good grades.
  • It can seem like your whole life will be decided by how you do in your studies.

This is when the stress can become a problem. You want to do well but you are feeling so much pressure, it seems you can barely think.

Where to study

Where you study can be as important as what you study. It is best to set up a study space. This will become your quiet place for study, and once it takes on that meaning you will find it easier to study there.

  • It is no good trying to study in front of the TV or on your bed. You may even find it hard to get to sleep if you get in the habit of studying in bed. Bed is your sleeping area; find a study area.
  • Clear off the desk. It is best to have the bare minimum in your study area. You do not need any distractions while studying.
  • Choose who you study with. It is usually best to study alone, but if you need to go over notes with someone, choose them carefully. If you think your friends will not take it seriously, don't invite them.

Get in a routine

If you get started early enough before your exams, you will find you don't need to put in any all-nighters.

  • One good hour of study is better than a whole night of trying to keep awake.
  • Find the time of day that you study best. Pick a couple of hours and stick to this study time.
  • Get to know how you learn the best. Your parents or caregiver may not agree with it, but work out if you study better on the floor or outside, with friends or alone, in short bursts or over long hours, then do it that way.
  • However, studies have shown that 'multi-tasking' is not a good idea when studying. Multi-tasking is where you do different things at once, like watching TV, texting, surfing the web, and listening to music. Different parts of the brain get used and information is not stored well - so you might have trouble remembering what you studied.

Plan ahead

Getting in a routine early and sticking to it is the best way to maximize your chances of good grades. It may be the case, however, that you have only limited time to study. In this case, you need to make a schedule.

  • Make a list of the most important topics to study for exams, or the assignments that will be due first. Work out how much time you can spend on each.
  • Don't get overwhelmed by the workload. If you stick to a schedule it will start to seem manageable.
  • Make sure you have the syllabus for each subject or course. If you follow the syllabus there will not be any nasty surprises.
  • Take it one step at a time. Remember: one calm hour of study is usually better than 6 panicking hours of study.

What to study

We all have subjects we like and ones we can't stand. It is very tempting to study the ones we like and leave the ugly ones for another time. This is a mistake. If you study the subjects you hate first, you will better your chances.

  • When you first sit down you generally do your best study. This time should be used for subjects you struggle with.
  • Putting more time into your weaknesses will improve your overall score.

Coffee and drugs

  • Coffee is a stimulant and can make you feel more alert, but it can reduce your concentration and make you irritable if you drink too much. If you normally feel brighter in the morning after a cup of coffee, then have what you would normally drink. Another around lunchtime would probably be OK as well. But do not suddenly increase the amount of coffee you drink. It is important to try and be in a similar frame of mind during study and when sitting exams. Drinking a lot of coffee at night to help you stay awake to study does not help you to remember what you are trying to learn. Lack of sleep will catch up with you.
  • Energy drinks with lots of caffeine in them also can make it very hard to think clearly.
  • Street drugs will not improve your ability to study or sit exams. As with coffee, experimenting with stimulants around exam time will reduce your ability to concentrate.
  • Depressants like alcohol will only reduce your normal ability.

Look after yourself

  • A balanced diet is an important part of being in control of your study habits.
    • Fresh fruit and vegetables will give you reserves of energy and increase your ability to concentrate.
    • Avoid junk food and foods high in sugar.

  • A regular sleeping pattern and some relaxation is important.
    • You may find you nearly fall asleep every time you sit down to study.
    • Don't stay awake all night trying to study. Get a good night's sleep and try to study in the morning when you are fresh.
    • If you are finding it hard to sleep, wait until you have calmed down before going to bed. Wind down after study and try some relaxation exercises.
  • Having regular exercise will keep your mind active, help you to sleep at night and is a great way to have a break when you find your concentration is dropping.
    • Just jump on the bike, run around the block or take the dog for a walk.
    • It is worth investing the time in exercise for the mental boost you will receive.

Reward yourself

It can't be all about study, study, study. If you have achieved a goal, lets say two hours of study, reward yourself with something you like doing. It may be an hour in front of the box, a trip to the beach, or simply a healthy snack.

Learning from others

  • Your lecturers and teachers are some of the best resources you have.
  • They are there to help you and will usually be more than happy to meet with you outside of class times. Make appointments to meet with them as much a possible during the year.
  • Don't waste their time, however. Plan what you want to discuss and have some questions written down.
  • Discussing topics can be the best way to learn about them.
  • You should also make use of all the other available resources. See if there are any past exam papers for you to practise on, but don't rely solely on them. There is no such thing as a short cut when it comes to study.

Helping your parents cope

Parents find it hard to accept that they cannot help you with your study, and often will try to pressure you to do more, turn off the radio, stop watching TV, stop playing games, etc.

Things that might help them get off your back include:

  • showing them that you have a plan, and that you will manage your plan
  • letting them know that you will be taking breaks such as watching TV, but this is in your plan
  • eating regularly
  • getting out of the house for a bit of exercise
  • cutting down on late night phone calls or gaming
  • taking some time out to be with friends, and then getting back to work.

Often the only thing parents can think of doing to help you is to nag. If you can feel sorry for them rather than angry, this can lighten the whole thing up.

Know what to expect on exam day

Find out if the test or exam is going to be multiple choice, short answer or essay length.

  • If the questions are mainly multiple choice:
    • Answer all the questions.
    • Try to notice the slight variations in the answers. Often they will seem very similar. The lecturer will often want a very specific answer.
    • Your first instincts might be right, but always read the question fully.
  • If the questions are mainly short answer or essay style:
    • Plan each question before writing your answer. A few minutes to make an essay plan can save a lot of time overall. Make use of the reading time at the start. If you are in the middle of planning an essay, don't stop just because the reading time is over. Keep your train of thought and finish the plan.
    • Clear and simple writing is best. If you try and fill empty space with unnecessary 'padding', it will take away from the main points you want to get across.
    • Know what sort of questions will be asked. Ask your lecturers before hand, if it is allowed.
    • Find out if past exam papers are available. They should not be used instead of actual study, but can give you an idea of the way the questions will be presented.

Exam day

  • Don't try to cram in the half hour before the exam. This time should be used to get your head ready. Try some relaxation techniques.
  • Be positive. If you have stuck to a good routine, then chances are you do know the facts. There is nothing more you can do. All the hard work is actually behind you. Now you get the chance to show off all the knowledge you have built up.
  • Read all of the instructions. It is amazing the number of people who answer too many or the wrong questions in exams. Check both sides of the exam paper!
  • Stay calm. Read the questions slowly so that you don't misinterpret any of them. Some people find they have to write the questions out onto their exam paper so that they do answer the right question.
  • Answer the questions you feel most confident with first. This will give you more time for the harder ones later. But be very strict with yourself about time. Don't spend more time on the easy questions, and then run out of time to finish the exam.
  • Take some water and a snack in with you if it is allowed. They can provide a way to regain your concentration with a quick break.
  • Stay for the whole exam. Some people may think it's cool to walk out early. How cool will that person look when the exam results are in? Go over your answers a couple of times. There may be something you missed.
  • Stay calm after the exam. You may worry about how you did, or if everyone else answered the questions the same as you. Worrying after an exam is natural, but you have to remember: you did your best.

Remember, planning is the key. The work you do long before work is due, and before exam day, is the most important. Stick to a routine and you will be able to go celebrate with a light heart after the study year is finished.


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