Six tips from honors students on how to ace your finals

Prowl interviewed some University Honors Program students with the highest GPAs at Chapman to get some helpful tips on establishing better study habits, such as using the Pomodoro Technique, working with other people to get multiple perspectives on a topic and how to find the best study spot.

 

1. Try the Pomodoro Technique

Would you rather take three hours to get one thing done, or  an hour and 20 minutes to get four things done? The Pomodoro Technique, created by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, provides a framework to help you get more done in less time. The main premise behind the Pomodoro Technique is to work in blocks of time, typically 25 minutes long, followed by a five minute break. These intervals are named pomodoros, the English plural of the Italian word “pomodoro,” which translates to  tomato, after the tomato-shaped kitchen timer that Citrillo used as a college student. Each Pomodoro session demands your full attention on one task, and every break requires you to step away from your work to rest.

Here’s how to implement the Pomodoro Technique:

Make a to-do list of the assignments you absolutely need to do that day and set time frames for each task. For example:

  • 25 minutes – HON 498
  • 25 minutes – Portfolio
  • Five minute break
  • 25 minutes – IES 492
  • 25 minutes – Presentation
  • Five minute break

The result is improved productivity and satisfaction with your work, as well as decreased boredom.

Download the “Focus Keeper Free: work & Study Timer” app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/focus-keeper-free-work-study-timer/id867374917

2. Get a planner

Even if you think that all of your assignments and reminders can be stored in your head, top students find  reminder apps, calendars, and planners to be extremely helpful in getting tasks done and remembering everything that you need to accomplish and when. The apps below allow you to set aside time for studying and set reminders to get your assignments in on time.

Recommended apps: Blackboard, Google Tasks

Photo by Marissa Dunn

 

3. Treat yo self!

As it turns out, giving yourself a small reward after a long study session is a good practice. Treating yourself can be as simple as watching a show or enjoying a nice meal. Try to make it less about expecting a reward and more about doing something to take care of your mind and body after a long day of work. Work-life balance is important, even in college! Of course, it’s also necessary to recognize that even if you didn’t finish reading the entire textbook before bed,you are still allowed to rest. Being kind to yourself and treating yourself  is a good rule of thumb.

4. Know when to work alone versus when to work with people

Working with people or in groups is only a great idea if you are struggling with the content on a conceptual level. Having a fellow student explain their take on a subject rather than a professor  can sometimes be effective and better for memory, as your peers may be able to explain concepts in simplified terms, which is easier to comprehend and remember than the more complex academic versions discussed in class. In the group setting, you get to hear multiple perspectives and work through your confusion with individuals in your group who understand the subject matter more fully. However, when it comes to memorizing and writing, it’s best to go solo. For example, study by yourself for test preparation, and then do a partner or group review the day before a big exam.

Photo by Marissa Dunn

5. Find your work space

Having a set place and time to study can make all the difference. Every honors student suggested establishing a work space far from distractions. Libraries are a good place to study because they are usually filled with people who are also working, reinforcing the notion that you are there to work – not to chit chat or surf the net.

Photo by Hannah Harp

6. Review as you go

Even if a test isn’t on the horizon, the act of reviewing material briefly helps store that information in your long-term memory, so you’ll already have it memorized when the test day arrives. One  activity that helps some students retain information is studying with a friend and verbally reviewing the material. By talking it out, especially the concepts that are the most difficult, some students find that they remember the conversation better on the test day and even find that explaining the information to a friend solidifies their understanding of the information. Plus, you get to hear your friend’s thoughts on the concept as well. It’s a win-win!

These students contributed to tips for this story:

  • Sofya Bochkareva
  • Brittney Bringuez
  • Taylor Killefer
  • Kylie Miller

 

 

 

Marissa Dunn

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