With exams fast approaching, here’s how to boost your mental and physical performance.
Many students are now in their final term of the academic year: all the hours spent attending classes, studying and revising culminate in the assignments and exams scheduled for the next couple of months.
With the pressure and stress of having so much to do, avoiding procrastination and getting work done efficiently can be more difficult than it seems. So with exams fast approaching, here are some tips to make your life easier and increase your productivity.
Having a consistent sleeping pattern is one of the most essential things for getting through the term. Under- and over-sleeping are as bad as each other, so aim for between eight and 10 hours. Working through the night and sacrificing sleep can be counterproductive.
Students are using new methods to keep themselves well rested, such as binaural beats, a type of sound that can affect the brain. Prajesh Patel, 20, an economics student at Queen Mary, University of London, takes power naps consistently and is a fan of this technique.
“Binaural beats are particular frequencies that can be played through earphones to stimulate a particular brain state, such as studying or sleeping,” he says. “I take a 20-minute nap with the aid of a binaural beat soundtrack every day after lunch. I wake up refreshed and more focused to tackle the second half of my day.”
Food is also incredibly important, and maintaining a balanced diet will make you feel better and give you the right nutrients to work that little bit harder (pdf).
Coldwater fish, such as tuna and salmon, may not sound like a library-friendly snack, but they are a rich source of amino acids, which improve brain chemical levels and your ability to revise efficiently. Walnuts and flaxseed are also recommended, as they’re known for keeping attention spans under control.
Sabrina Yahiya, 19, who studies biochemistry at the University of Warwick, has found that eating healthily is effective. “I eat a lot of wholegrain food because it releases glucose into the bloodstream slowly, allowing me to work for longer periods,” she says. Yahiya also recommends snacking on blueberries while studying, a tip supported by Tufts University in the US, which has found that they can improve short-term memory loss.
Keeping your study area tidy, making lists and storing your documents in an orderly fashion will all help when revising for exams. There are countless articles about specific ways of doing this online (for example,here and here), so experiment until you find what works for you.
Edward Sibley, 20, a final-year real estate student at the University of Reading, creates a timetable every day. “It’s important for me to get into a routine and make sure I don’t spend too much time focusing on one thing and not enough on everything else,” he says. “I know exactly how long I’m spending on each topic, and try to organise my time efficiently. I also make a list of things I want to achieve in the day so I can keep a track of what I’ve done.”
Exercising before an exam or before you start working has been shown to boost memory and brain power. Even 20 minutes of activity, such as walking, can be beneficial.
Amanda Bacon, 20, who studies medicine at the University of Oxford, regularly exercises and goes on runs during exam term. “I’ve found that exercising for about 20 minutes before I start revising helps me to absorb information slightly better and actually helps me to remain focused,” she says.
Take comfort in the fact that the term will probably fly by, and following these tips should make it slightly easier. Remember too: as important as it is to study and do as well as possible, it’s also essential you take frequent breaks and enjoy yourself. Having a good mindset and being relaxed will work wonders.