Before students can enjoy the Christmas festivities, we must endure the dreaded study week and exam period, which serve as bleak reminders of the real reasons we are in university. Gone are the carefree days of procrastinating and simply not thinking about exams. We are now suddenly reminded of every lecture we skipped, all those notes we chose not to take and the staggering pile of recommended readings you never downloaded from Canvas. Don’t panic though, you still have time to make the most of study week and come out the other end still intact.
Get Some Sleep.
Whether you’re in first or final year, this can be a stressful time of year, so it is important to take care of yourself; both mind and body. Make sure you are getting enough sleep in, to recharge your brain and have it ready to go again. Staying up until all hours studying can actually be counterproductive, as tiredness and fatigue affect our brain cells’ ability to memorise information and communicate with each other. Getting a good night’s sleep leads to a fresh mind and improved memory for learned information.
It may seem easier to spend study week living on energy drinks, coffee and snacks from An Siopa, but you have to fuel your body and brain with the proper food. Keeping a balanced diet will help your performance, and you won’t end the week looking like a zombie. Make sure you have some fruit or vegetables, (bananas and blueberries are great brain food!), and limit your caffeine intake.
This one is spouted by parents and teachers around the country, but there is science behind it. Exercising, (particularly outdoors), releases endorphins in the brain, which in turn reduces stress levels and helps you feel more positive. Additionally, exercising for 15-20 minutes has been proven to give you increased levels of energy and jumpstarts your brain’s cognitive performance.
Even during an intense cramming session, you have to make sure you’re taking breaks. Our brains can only focus on one subject for so long before switching off. According to studies, we can only effectively absorb information in the first and last 15 minutes of studying, everything else won’t make it into our long-term memory. Consider spending 30-minute blocks studying, with short breaks in between. Get up and stretch your legs, head to the bathroom or grab a snack before settling in for the next block. Remember as well to take longer breaks throughout the day, nobody wants to spend a full 12 hours festering in the Fishbowl.
Everybody has a preferred method of studying, what works best for them. Some people can sit and read a textbook front to back, retaining every important point, while others spend days producing endless piles of colour-coded flashcards. Find a method that suits you best and work with that. Remember to break assignments and subjects down into sections and focus on tackling one section at a time. Make a study planner or to-do list to keep track of what you’ve covered and what needs to be looked at. It also helps to stay in touch with your classmates to see what they’re covering and stay on the right track. Lastly, switch up the order you study subjects in; spending all your time on one topic can lead to boredom and loss of motivation.
Don’t become a library hermit, cutting yourself off from the outside world and letting a highlighter become your new best friend. Stay in contact with your family and friends, arrange to meet them for coffee or lunch, or even a walk. Having social meetings to look forward to is a great way to find motivation, and you’ll find the study time goes faster. If you are really stuck on a specific subject, organise a study group with your friends to discuss it together.
Talk it Out.
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the stress and pressure of exams, don’t bottle it up. Looking after our mental health and wellbeing is far more important than exam results, so don’t let study week overpower you. Consider talking to someone about how you feel, whether it’s a friend, family member or a professional. UCC offers free counselling to students, in the Student Health Centre, and the Students Union Welfare team is on hand to help as well; (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Respect Library Etiquette.
Finally, if you are planning to spend the week sequestered in the library, have respect for the other students there. Don’t hog a precious socket all day, leave it for another poor soul once you’re fully charged. Avoid listening to music at a high volume; the person next to you can probably hear the songs blaring through your Airpods. If you are snacking while studying, choose foods that don’t make a loud crunch or have a strong smell. Keep any conversations whispered and short, or else bring them into the stairwell. Everyone is in the same boat, so take others into consideration.
It is important to remember that the exam period is only a short time and once it’s over you get two or more weeks off, having time away from the books to enjoy festive celebrations. At the end of the day, you’ll hold more value in the memories and experiences you enjoyed during university over that economics exam you barely scraped through. Best of luck to everyone in the coming weeks, look after yourselves and your friends