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Dec 10, 2013 03:40 PM EST

Finals Week Study Tips: Top 5 Ways to Make Sure You Ace Your Exams

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Finals week is here for the winter semester and, though it may only be a few days, the tests and essays can be severely daunting for any student.

Sleep studies have proven over and over that all-night study sessions are counterproductive and actually do more damage than good. Here are five tips that will help you get through the one week between you and the blissful time off for Christmas break.

1.     Study In Bursts

If you study for too many consecutive hours, you are actually causing more problems for your short-term memory than you are doing favors. Instead of cramming information into your memory bank in a short amount of time, break reading into chapters and take notes as you go.

When you finish a chapter, review your notes and let the information sink in. Exercising is a good way to relieve stress and unleash pent up energy from sitting around and studying. Just do not get carried away and spend too much time in between study sessions.

2.     Manage Your Time Wisely

Rasmussen College recommends 30-50 minutes of studying followed by a ten-minute break. While this does not need to be followed precisely, it is good to set a time limit on your bursts of studying and your break periods. Use your breaks for physical activity or eating. It is generally not a good idea to play video games, watch TV or a movie, as this requires brainpower and may not allow you to absorb the information you just read.

Information retention improves 60 percent when the material is reviewed within 24 hours of receiving it.

3.     Limit Distractions

Go somewhere you know you will be able to focus on the material in front of you and surround yourself with what you know will help you. For example, a place with too many familiar items might tempt you to play a little PlayStation and your roommate who is not exactly serious about studying will only make matters worse.

Also, a 2010 study from Applied Cognitive Psychology found that people who listen to music while studying were more likely to score worse on recollection tests. Lyrics are most likely what causes this problem, as they can cause your mind to wander off of what you are studying.

4.     Do Not Cram

Steven Holbrook wrote for U.S. News that cramming is a far less effective method of studying than any other. He previously wrote that people most often remember the first and last thing from an extended study session, with much of the middle being lost.

So, when you read for six hours straight and go take a test, chances are you will not remember most of what you just read.

5.     Get Enough Sleep

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says young adults need nine to ten hours of sleep. If you get at least eight and do not stay up too late, studies have shown your memory will be better for it.

Holbrook wrote the brain is damaged by sleep deprivation because sleep is when it typically repairs itself. Your brain needs to refresh after that kind of intake of information and depriving yourself of sleep only counteracts this process.

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