Final exams. Yuck! Nobody looks forward to them. But with a few simple brain-proven tips, you can learn and remember new information in half the time.
These brain research backed tips are included in learning expert, Pat Wyman’s Total Recall Learning™ – How to Learn Anything 100% Faster Course!
So, check out these 11 final exam preparation tips to improve your grades!
11 Final Exam Preparation Tips to Improve Your Grades
1. No Staying Up All Night
This happens because all-nighters are not brain-friendly ways of learning.
When you sleep, your brain goes over everything you learned during the day.
The hippocampus and neocortex of your brain both play important roles in learning and memory. While you sleep, they review, process and store information into your long-term memory.
In fact, research shows that students tend to score better after a full night’s sleep, or even a short nap.
Without this period of rest, your brain doesn’t get to process what you learned into your long-term memory.
Also, not getting enough sleep at night affects your dopamine levels.
This chemical messenger helps you stay focused, alert, and motivated to work.
So, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re likely to feel tired, unfocused, and in a bad mood the next day.
It’s scientifically proven that you need quality sleep to learn, recall, and get better grades!
2. Nix the Cramming
But this is another study method that is not brain-science backed.
In fact, you’re more likely to forget information than remember, if you’re cramming.
The Ebbinghaus curve of forgetting helps you understand why this is the case.
This mathematical formula shows how the longer the gap between the beginning and end of a study session, the more you’re likely to forget the middle.
The curve is steeper the longer this gap is, when no attempt is made to retain the information you’re learning.
This is because when you’re learning something new, your brain is using its working memory.
Working memory has limited capacity. Once you go over the capacity, you can’t absorb any more information. And you’ll lose some of what you learned earlier too.
But there’s good news! With a short break of just 5 minutes after every 20 to 25-minute study session, you can restore your working memory!
This reduces the gap between the beginning and end of your study session.
And as a result, what you learn in the middle doesn’t “decay”!
The 5-minute break doesn’t just help restore your working memory. It also helps you retain what you’re learning.
During this time, your brain is in its default mode, free to wander around.
Since it’s no longer focusing on new information, it looks over what you just learned. It reviews this and creates connections with what you already know.
These associations are how the brain learns best, as I cover more in-depth in Total Recall Learning™!
So, get more done by taking more brain-friendly breaks!
3. Use Mind-Maps to Take Notes Not Yellow Highlighters
Yellow highlighters are not a brain-friendly approach to learning.
A much better, brain-science proven way of overviewing important points are mindmaps, or Picture Perfect Summaries.
Brain research studies show your brain works much faster and more efficiently to process images than it processes text.
In fact – it works tens of thousands of times faster when processing images!
A mindmap creates a visual image of what you’re learning. This is much easier for you to recall during an exam, than paragraphs of text.
First, you place the topic or chapter name in the center, inside a circle.
Moving around the circle, clockwise, you draw spokes to smaller circles, where you place your subtopics.
You can draw more spokes from these subtopics to break down all the points you need to remember.
Make this mindmap as colorful as you can. Use different colored pens and draw in images where you can for the points.
It doesn’t have to be an artistic masterpiece. A visual overview of what you’re learning helps you recall things much faster than simply reading your textbook!
4. Take Chapter Notes by Hand
It’s definitely much faster to type than to write by hand. But studies show that typing is a far less brain-effective way of taking notes than handwriting.
In fact, because writing by hand is slower, your brain has to constantly process what you’re learning. It has to summarize things so you can write it down more quickly.
Because you’re likely much faster at typing, your brain won’t engage with the information as much as you type notes.
You’ll end up simply copying what you’re hearing or reading, without retaining much.
Research shows that people who take handwritten notes score better on tests than those who type.
You’re better able to recall what you’re learning because your brain is actively engaging with information to summarize it meaningfully.
So, do take your chapter notes by hand!
5. Use Music to Improve Your Memory
You might vividly remember where you were, who you were with and even how you were feeling because of certain music.
This is because music activates the parts of your brain involved in memory, among other things like your mood, sense of reward and reasoning.
A specific type of music – melodic, without lyrics, at 60 beats per minute (BPM) – can switch your brain to an alpha brain wave state.
There are 4 brain wave states – alpha, beta, theta, and gamma.
The alpha brain wave state is the most ideal for learning.
In this state you’re both alert yet calm and relaxed – you’re able to focus, learn and recall better!
Use music within the 60 beats per minute hertz range to optimize your memory and learning!
Check out Youtube or spotify for free 60 beats per mintue playlists you can use while studying to place your brain into the alpha brain wave state which helps relax you and you’ll remember more!
6. Use the Loci Memory Technique to Superglue Recall in Your Brain
Like the stages of the water cycle, or the parts of the digestive system?
Why not use the trick that the ancient Greeks and Romans used to remember entire speeches and stories using this 2000-year old memory technique?
Yes, you heard me right – this memory technique is 2000 years old.
And it’s the technique that memory champions all over the world use to complete incredible memory feats today.
This is the technique that helps them remember hundreds of random names and numbers in any order!
The key to this technique is visualization – creating mental movies in your brain and using associations.
Remember how I mentioned pictures are thousands of times faster to recall than words? And associations are how your brain learns best?
To remember a series of information in order, picture a place you’re familiar with.
This could be your home, your school, or the route you take going from home to school.
Now take the first item you have to remember.
Say, for example, you need to remember the names of American presidents.
The first president is George Washington.
So why not imagine George Washington “washing” your front door?
The second president is John Adams. As you go through your front door into the hall, how about imagining John Adams there, holding an apple – (Adam’s apple, get it?)
Make these images as funny and ridiculous as you like. Your brain loves humor and the sillier the images are, the better and faster you’ll be able to remember them.
The third president is Thomas Jefferson. Picture him in your living room, sitting with his son, since it’ll help you remember his surname, Jeffer-son!
Continue moving mentally through your house, placing images in order by creating fun, memorable associations that will remind you of the item.
You get the picture – literally. Creating colorful, ridiculous moving images helps you remember things far quicker and easier than remembering lines and lines of text.
The ancient Greeks and Romans used this technique to recall everything when written records didn’t exist.
So, poets and scholars would be able to recite things like The Odyssey – which takes an average reader over 8 hours to finish – purely from memory!
I have even more amazing and effective memory techniques in Total Recall Learning™ – for remembering everything from grocery lists to series of numbers!
7. Make Sure You Review What You’re Learning
You might have a lot of ground to cover, but reviewing is an essential part of learning.
When you learn something new, your braincells or neurons create connections between them to store this information.
If you never go over that information again, your brain will decide that it’s not important, and get rid of that neural connection.
On the other hand, if you review this information again, the neurons connected to it fire up.
The more you review, the more frequently the neural connections activate, and the stronger and longer lasting the connection becomes.
So, every time you come back from your 5-minute break, spend a few moments reviewing what you learned in your study session before it.
Over time, you can space out the frequency of your review sessions. From every session, to every day, to every week, to every couple weeks, and so on.
8. Improve Productivity by Breaking Tasks Down
Not a fun thought, right?
You might feel down just thinking about all the things you have to learn.
But by breaking your tasks down into a series of smaller tasks, you can keep yourself motivated!
This works because of the neurotransmitter dopamine that I mentioned earlier.
Dopamine is known as the motivation molecule.
When you accomplish something, the reward center of your brain lights up and your dopamine levels rise.
You know that great feeling when you get awesome grades on a test you worked hard for?
Or when score a point for your team, or finish a boss battle in a video game?
It makes you want to continue getting great grades, or scoring more points for your team, and playing more of the game, no matter how difficult it is, right?
That’s because of dopamine, and the sense of satisfaction and reward you experience completing a task!
And you can experience this same sense of motivation with your learning, by breaking your tasks down into smaller tasks!
For every task that you complete, your brain’s reward center lights up. Your dopamine levels keep you motivated to tick off more items on your list.
So, rather than setting yourself huge tasks like “finish the whole syllabus” which would be pretty hard to complete and leave you feeling demotivated, set yourself more realistic to-do lists.
For example, cover the first chapter, or the first topic, or the first few subtopics. This helps you pace yourself better and keep yourself more motivated!
9. Figure Out How You Learn Best
There might be similarities, but your unique combination of preferences and personality traits make you one of a kind.
The same applies to your learning preferences too.
As I go into in more detail in Total Recall Learning™, everyone has their own unique learning style. This style is a combination of three primary modalities – visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
Visual learners are usually at an advantage in school, because they’re naturally gifted at processing and recalling visual information.
Remember, pictures are several thousand times faster to remember than text.
And visual learners automatically tend to convert what they’re learning into mental pictures which they can remember faster.
These learners can recall mindmaps, charts, graphs, maps, books and so on more easily (though of course there are plenty of how to learn strategies to help them do this faster and more efficiently!)
If you’re an auditory learner, on the other hand, you prefer listening over reading.
You might be great at remembering what your teachers said in class than you are at reading your textbook.
If that’s you, you might benefit from using online readers like NaturalReaders.com or apps like Audible to read out text for you.
Kinesthetic learners like to physically interact with what they’re learning.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, you likely love experiments, taking things apart to figure out how they work, and interactive class activities.
You might benefit from movement in your study time. Like pacing while you learn, bouncing a ball off the ground or wall, acting out what you’re learning, and so on.
By finding out what combination of learning styles makes up your learning preferences, you can mix and match the strategies that best suit you.
Combining these strategies with visual learning strategies that help boost your learning and memory even more, helps you learn anything faster!
For more information about your specific learning style and how to match your learning strategies to it, do check out Total Recall Learning™.
10. Do Practice Exams
When you practice exam questions, you’re retrieving information.
Basically, you’re consciously recalling information you’ve stored in your brain to answer the questions.
Like reviewing, this also activates the neural connections storing what you’ve learned.
The more you retrieve and apply what you learned, the stronger your memory of this becomes. And the faster your neurons get at recalling this information!
Practicing exam questions also helps you figure out what kinds of questions you’re comfortable answering and where you need to focus more.
If you struggle with a specific topic or type of question, it helps you narrow down what needs more work.
This gives you the opportunity to figure out how to score on your actual exam, and helps you prepare in advance!
11. Put Your Phone Away
Did you know that if your concentration is disrupted it can take as long as 30 minutes to refocus?
And 30 minutes is an entire study session you could be using to run through your to-do lists.
Your phone can pose all kinds of distractions, from message notifications from your friends to the temptation of a new video by your favorite YouTuber.
You might also be tempted to spend more time on your phone because of dopamine.
That sense of reward might activate when you get a new message or social media notification, or when you find something cool to watch online.
There’s no shortage of activities online that might give you this dopamine high.
Unfortunately, this also means that because your brain craves that sensation, you might end up spending a lot of time online even when nothing is happening.
And this can disrupt all your studying.
Turn your notifications off. And if you’re still unable to resist, turn off your phone and put it away completely to help you focus on learning.
With these 11 final exam preparation tips to improve your grades, I hope you’re ready to take on exams with confidence!
I have plenty more science-backed tips in Total Recall Learning™ to help you develop your personal success formula, for any learning situation. Do check it out for more strategies on how to learn and remember anything faster!
Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. Use coupon code LEARNMUCHFASTER to make the course $27 today! Save $70!
Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!