photo by Kevin Phillips (2015) via Pixaby, CCO Public Domain
I sat at my computer praying for inspiration for this month’s post. As my son walked by with his heavy backpack slung over his shoulder, I asked, “What should I write about for my blog? It posts the day after Mother’s Day. Should I write about Our Lady? Should I write about the world’s first novena, since it is in between the Ascension and Pentecost?” He barely stopped his trudge up the stairs towards his room as his answered came: “Write about how to survive finals week.”
If you are the parent of a college-age child or a high school student, you know it. It’s that time of year. Classes are coming to a close. The heat is on. Our children have begun in earnest to study for exams.
Or maybe you are the one taking classes. Now you need to balance, perhaps, home with work and study. Oh my!
Here are some tips that may help:
- Study your notes. This, of course, assumes you have taken good notes. It is not necessary to write every word spoken in class; however, you do want to jot down every idea/concept conveyed. It is also beneficial to review your notes every day. Retention is increased by 60% if material is reviewed within 24 hours of initially receiving the information. Retention can be further increased by reading your notes out loud (just don’t use this retention technique while studying in the library!)
- Rewrite your notes. Many students are now taking notes on laptops since this allows them to “write” more quickly. Putting ink to paper, however, stimulates your brain and gives more importance to that which you are actively focusing on in that moment. Rewriting your notes doesn’t have to be boring. Find creative ways to transcribe the same information: organize your notes into outline form, make charts and lists, come up with silly acronyms to help you remember the list, draw diagrams with labels, cartoons with captions that communicate the concept to be mastered. Do you like poetry? Write an ode, limerick or ballad. Be creative and make it fun! Or just rewrite them.
- Make vocabulary a priority. This is where good, old-fashion flashcards come in handy.
- Reread highlighted parts of your text. This doesn’t help if your child is a public high school student who is not allowed to mark in the books. If, however, you are a student who has purchased your books, then hopefully you have not only read the text but highlighted important facts and ideas. Moreover, all students can take note of boldface headings, subheadings, and vocabulary. Read the questions at the end of the chapter and make sure you can answer them, especially any that may have been discussed in class.
- Review old quizzes and tests. A lot of the same information may appear on the final.
- Review the class syllabus. Use it as a checklist. If the syllabus says you are going to learn something, make sure you learned it!
- Change it up. By that I mean, don’t study always in the same place – study some in your room, in the library, outside, even go to the local coffee shop to study. While there, get a coffee; caffeine does help stimulate your brain. Some believe that Omega-3 fatty acids improve memory, though there are contradictory studies. But if you want to be on the safe side, snack on some walnuts while studying, go out for some sushi with an edamame appetizer or order a pizza with sardines to go with that caffeinated drink!
- “Nix the net!” You want to avoid all distractions possible while studying, and the internet is a big one. You go on the find out or clarify one little piece of information, and the next thing you know, you have spent the last 40 minutes checking email and Facebook. If you are a social being who cannot go for hours without human contact or you always seem to need clarification, join a study group.
- Get a good night’s sleep. That means you cannot do #1-6 all in one night! Space out your studying time. Actually schedule times to study. When you are afforded longer times of study, block it out in chunks. In between chunks, do some aerobic exercise to get your heart pumping, blood flowing and oxygen going to your brain. Yoga is also good, they say, to help you focus. Take care of your body as well as your mind. No all-nighters!
- Above all – pray! There are many great saints to pray to when preparing for exams. St. Scholastica, Blessed John Newman, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. John Bosco and St. Augustine were all great minds who took great interest in education.
On the other hand, St. Joseph of Cupertino was not very bright at all and passed his diaconate test only because the bishop asked him to expound on the one verse he knew, Luke 11:27! It wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask him to beg the favor that only those things which you know be on the test! Modern-day saint Gemma Galgani was praised for being a conscientious student. No doubt her prayers could help you. Then there is the great St. Thomas Aquinas who prayed before every talk he gave, sermon he preached, and test he took. I’ll share his prayer with you. It sure did seem to work for him!
Ineffable Creator Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom, have established three hierarchies of angels, have arrayed them in marvelous order above the fiery heavens, and have marshaled the regions of the universe with such artful skill, You are proclaimed the true font of light and wisdom, and the primal origin raised high beyond all things. Pour forth a ray of Your brightness into the darkened places of my mind; disperse from my soul the twofold darkness into which I was born: sin and ignorance. You make eloquent the tongues of infants. Refine my speech and pour forth upon my lips the goodness of Your blessing. Grant to me keenness of mind, capacity to remember, skill in learning, subtlety to interpret, and eloquence in writing. May You guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to completion. You Who are true God and true Man, Who live and reign, world without end. Amen.
Copyright 2016 Kelly Guest