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How do I find motivation to study for big exams?

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100% of 7 Pros

7 answers

Carolina’s Answer

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1. Focus on having the right "mindset" - When you study for the pleasure of learning something new and to satiate your curiosity, you are likely to do better with exams because that "curious" mindset will cause you to want to understand the material better and the outcome is usually better grades, long-term memory, and a feeling of fulfillment as opposed to anxiety and exhaustion. On the contrary, when your focus is on, for example, being the best student at whatever cost, or making your parents proud, etc, you turn off that intrinsic motivation almost immediately and any minute you spend on studying will feel dreadful and lacking in value: your retention of the material will be lower (in amount and length of time), your motivation will plummet, your anxiety will go up from the fear of failure, and you will be more likely to procrastinate. So before you do anything else, try thinking about learning as something fun, because it really is, the satisfaction one feels after understanding a topic, even if it is not your favorite topic, is immense!!

2. Go with the rhythm of your brain: Studies suggest that shorter study sessions with breaks built in help people learn better and retain material longer. When I studied for law school exams, I would normally do 35 min study sessions followed by 5-10 min breaks. Use the breaks wisely: eat good brain food (nuts, bananas, fatty fish, fresh salads.. and remove junk food/sodas from your diet, they are the devil) and try not to use the same part of the brain you where using while studying - so if you read something while studying, for instance, take the break to look outside the window, contemplate a piece of art (or your pets, I get lost looking at the colors in their eyes :-)) or a book of art, draw your sleeping pet or do some stretching on the floor to get your body to also move. Also, make sure you SLEEP! sleep is essential for memory and understanding, so much goes on in your brain while you sleep, including helping you sort through the material you studied and building memory networks. To that end, try to practice good sleep hygiene: limit your screen time before bed, maybe take a relaxing shower/bath if you feel tired (water is so revitalizing), make a sleepy-tea or a warm milk, sleep at least 8 hours every night - you get little value if you cram a lot for 15 hours and don't sleep, that will be wasted time and counter productive.

3. Break the material into chunks/topics: Before you dive into the details, take a step back and think of the bigger picture - for example if the subject of your study is history, then break it into periods, for example from 1914-19 (WWI) from 1925-35 (WWII), then subgroups within each group, etc. (If you draw it up, it would look like a spiderweb!). Understand the general topics first before you dive into specifics, this will help you build better connections between topics and the brain loves connections!

4. Work on making associations: Once you understand the larger topics, start making associations between them, this can be a visual exercise/ draw it out if you are a visual learner (I am! and my little amateur drawings have stayed with me for years!) Are you studying WWII? draw up a simple map of Europe and draw an arrow from Germany to Poland to remind you that that's how it all started. From there, keep drawing things, it doesn't have to be perfect by any means, but the act of doing it will already be creating memories that will be easy to recall when you are taking the exam! This trick worked wonderful for me during law school and as a professional, I still draw things up from time to time when I have a hard time understanding a tough concept.

5. Take practice questions: practice, practice, practice - Athletes do it, doctors do it, lawyers do it, actors do it, artists do it, musicians always do it! It's hard work, but it's the path to acquiring new skills. Talk about the subject matter with your friends/professors, ask each other questions, that will help you learn better and will also help you identify gaps in your knowledge.

6. Big exams are a marathon, not a sprint: Do not procrastinate - Start early, once you start, you will create momentum and each study session will get better. Don't try to cram the material at the last minute, you need to be confident and calm for your big test and cramming achieves the opposite! so start early and work steadily, slow and steady wins the race!

7. Trust your brain: If you put in the hard work, trust that your brain will help you produce the desired outcome. Have faith (in whatever it is that you believe), trust that you have done your very best and put in a solid effort and leave the rest to the universe!

Happy learning!
These study tips encapsulate the keys to success! It took me about 2 years to actually internalize this, and it has definitely increased my overall satisfaction, fulfillment, and grades. Thank you again! All the best! Aun M. Translate
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Marina’s Answer

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Finding motivation to study for an exam is really hard. Especially if you're not excited about the class or the content, or just don't like tests! I'll confess: I prepared to study a day or two before the exam and crammed most of the studying in the night before. I think I ended up okay. :)

Studying with a friend or classmate helped hold me accountable and made the study time more enjoyable. During the current COVID-19 times, you could video call your accountability partner for an hour to keep you company while you studied. Or, if the friend is preparing to take the same exam, you can ask each other questions that you anticipate being on the exam and share your knowledge.

When it comes to exam time, remember that you are competent, you studied the best you could and will do the best you can on the test.
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Shuktara’s Answer

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1. Visualize how you would enjoy after the exam AND how you would feel when you got good grades
2. Chunk the syllabus into small parts.
3. As you read note down questions that could be asked in the exam based on each part of the chapter
4. every 30 minutes of studying go back to those questions and try to answer them. next day pick one or two of these questions at random and try to answer. if you are able to answer, it will boost your confidence which in turn will increase your motivation
5. some people choose to study the difficult concepts first, some people prefer to get done with the easier ones. You can choose what you feel comfortable with.
6. make a list of topics you will study every day of the calendar until a few days before the exam. Strike out each topic as you finish. Visual reinforcement of topic completion and being able to answer questions as in # 4 will boost your confidence
7. when you find a concept that you don't understand or don't remember, reach out to a teacher or friend as soon as you can, don't wait.
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Grant’s Answer

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It always helps to have a plan, and it's infinitely easier to do one hour a day for a week than seven hours in one day. When I was in school, I always tried to start studying for any test I had at least a week in advance. This way your brain isn't over stressed with all the new information and you end up understanding it better because your subconscious gets to let it sit for a little while.
Other than spreading out your study time, it's important to realize that if you want to succeed, you must put the work in. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and start grinding for your own success, especially if the subject is hard for you.

The bottom line is you're at school to learn, and learning is much more important than making good grades. Being at school is a privilege, so don't waste the opportunities you have and be prepared to work hard to achieve your goals! Good luck and I'm sure that you will do great.
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Roopvir’s Answer

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I believe in making a studying schedule for a week with the topics you want to learn every day. Then i used to stick to my wall where I could see it everyday. I used to tick the topic off when I used to finish it. That used to give immense satisfaction and also a weekly report. That worked for me as a motivation and still does!!
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Mayra’s Answer

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In order to have motivation to study for a test, you need to give yourself time. Do not procrastinate, because trying to study the night before will cause frustration, anxiety, and stress. Give yourself time to study and understand the style of studying that best fits you.
Also, try to communicate with peers or the professor about any questions you have to understand the material. Lastly, try to avoid any stress, go out for a walk before studying. Listen to music it will help you relax and it's helpful to improve your memory. Good luck!
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Lili’s Answer

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What helped me is trying not to look at it as one big exam to study for. I would time block a part of the day to study for the exam when I know I have the most energy. Mostly, I found that it is in the morning. So I would set a goal of studying X hours a week, and divide that up during the week, and then it does not feel like such a big deal. This is how I got through the LSATS, and the bar exam. One day at a time, one hour at a time, and then the more time that passes by, the more confident you will feel and the more motivation you will have.
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