How to maintain your sanity during exam season

File photo. (albertogp123 / Flickr)

Exam time is, hands down, the most stressful season of the year for students across the country. While information absorption occurs naturally for some, others need to work hard to achieve success. Study habits vary for the course material in question, but here are a few general pointers to hopefully help you get that A while maintaining your sanity.

Begin studying early. Allow time for your brain to both grow accustomed to being bombarded by information, and to retaining important material. Nothing compares to being prepared ahead of time, and the information recalled is incomparably better to that which you retain after cramming.

Don’t deprive your body. Remember that you are only human, and like the rest of the human race, you need sleep and food (that isn’t caffeinated). Sleep can improve your memory upwards of 30-40%, especially if the information is studied prior to slumber. Caffeine provides some people with the high necessary to get through their fifteen-pound textbook with something like mechanical speed, but even machines need fuel and when the inevitable crash hits, turning your beloved cup of joe into your worst nightmare, nothing is better for your body and mind than a balanced meal.

Allow short periods for review. Your brain retains information if it is introduced during shorter periods of time and recalled frequently. Never study the same or similar subjects or exam material for longer than hour or two at the most. Vary the type of information you’re studying by alternating between Anatomy and Physiology and Introduction to Economics, for example, and take time throughout the day to recall and review information, like in the shower, or while walking.

Relax and be positive. Nothing can impede your chances of memory retention like anxiety, and it’s more contagious than you’d think. Avoid highly anxious people or situations if you can, and release nervous energy through exercise, which is known to also increase alertness. Yes, it is exam time and you have near-impossible amounts of information to cram into your brain, and yes, you may need an A to scrape by, but keep in mind that it will come to an end, sometimes later rather than sooner, and you will likely make it out alive, according to statistics anyway.

Remember to reward yourself. Almost as important to your success as studying is rewarding yourself for all your hard work. Schedule breaks and make time for activities that you enjoy, like catching a movie or visiting a friend. Allowing rest time for your brain and socializing prevents you from burning out or forgetting the useful material you just learned. It will not only lower your stress levels, but additionally keep you refreshed and make the following hours of studying much easier.

And afterwards, have fun! Catch up on all you lost out on during exam weeks—go clubbing, drink yourself into bed if you feel so inclined, have a movie marathon or purchase a farm of dwarf rabbits—whatever makes you happy and/or forget and/or celebrate the exam season you just survived.