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While the semester might seem like it’s going alright at the moment, you know that feeling never sticks. Class has been in session for a few weeks now and most people have gotten into a routine. Then, something happens: you’re aware of an upcoming exam and don’t have the slightest clue how to study because you took the summer off. This is where I come in. Now that I’m in my sophomore year, I’ve gained my fair share of good and bad grades, which is why I want to encourage habits that will improve your grades.

DON’T put it off

You might think two weeks until an exam is a lot of time – it isn’t, I promise. When you consider other classes, homework, and life in general, studying for a future exam always seems to end up on the back burner. As soon as you know you have an exam, start studying a little bit each day. It’s easier to study in small increments, then by exam time you don’t have to cram everything in the night before.

Take breaks

Studying efficiently takes a lot of effort. Be careful about how much time you’re spending during each study session. You will learn way more if you take breaks than if you try to keep pushing yourself.

Find the best environment

Knowing where you study best is a huge aspect of how much you actually learn. Whether it’s in a silent corner in the library or listening to music in your dorm, knowing where you work best will help make for the most effective study session. Some people find it easier to have music playing, people talking, or just plain silence. It all comes down to figuring out what works for you. I recommend you try different locations until you find one that makes you feel the most productive.

Find a study buddy

Sometimes it takes working with other people to study best. With a big exam it could be more fun and helpful to work with a friend in the class to go over what you’ve learned. This is a great time to ask questions, quiz each other, and get some last-minute help if you don’t want to talk to the professor.

Prep for test day

Test day is just as important as all the studying leading up to it. Make sure you’re prepared with either a fully-charged computer or a favorite pencil. Always bring extra pencils in case yours breaks or a friend needs one. On test days, make sure you wear a comfortable outfit, so you can focus on the test instead of uncomfortable clothes. Getting to class early also makes some of the nerves go away. Another important part of test day is to eat before the class starts! You might have to wake up early to get breakfast or bring a snack to eat between classes, but nothing is worse than a grumbling stomach while taking a test.

These tips and tricks will help set you up for success. While grades are important, don’t let them interfere with your mental health. Using these tips will make tests far less stressful than if you try to cram the night before the exam. Some bad grades might happen along the way, but as long as you’re committed to the right study habits, everything will work out.

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