Talking amongst friends about how much you studied for your upcoming assessment can often spur a panic attack. If the number of hours which they studied for far exceeds yours, feelings of inadequacy can stir within, as you question how sufficient your preparation really was. If so and so studied for x number of hours more than me, that must obviously mean they studied better than me, right? Wrong. Study sessions that go beyond 7 hours more often than not point to a breach of the first cardinal rule of revising: take frequent breaks. Without breaks, the point where none of the content is actually sinking in will always arise. Sure, you may have been reading for 10 hours straight, but can you actually remember what you read 6 hours ago? In fact, psychologists now believe that the time that you spend between sessions is key to remembering that all-important information: the longer, the better!
Whether it be our iPhones, our tablets or PCs – we are all guilty of being glued to a digital device of some sort. In fact, there is a palpable emptiness that we feel with the absence of the ‘ting tings’ of our phones and the sounds of the TV making its way around the house. However, though this may prove to be the hardest thing to do, getting rid of all the technological distractions is definitely the most effective way of studying. Social media is a particular problem: a recent study has shown that belonging to a social network may increase stress by around 15%!
The days leading up to an assessment are often extremely stressful. You might think that constant revision right up until your exam is the task that needs your utmost attention; however, there’s something far more important. Multiple sources quote 8 – 8.5 hours of sleep per night as the ideal number of sleep hours for adults. These hours are even more crucial when high levels of concentration are required of you. This is because sleep deprivation can seriously impair your sense of judgement and decrease your reaction times. Therefore, even though you may think that revising your notes from the break of dawn until the night sky is brightly lit is what needs to be prioritised, you should remember that you cannot function at your best without a good, balanced night’s sleep. This is a real problem beyond the sphere of exams: according to a study at Harvard University, sleep deprivation costs the American economy $63.2bn a year.
The human brain is, by far, the most fascinating body part: the amount of information it can hold is truly amazing. However, this does not mean that it is an unlimited storage centre without any constraints. Though cramming information is very effective for some, feeding your brain too much information at the last minute can cause your brain – like a computer – to overheat, resulting in only parts of the content consolidating in your head. Some interesting stats for you: the human short-term memory can only hold between 7-9 facts, and even those typically tend to decay after 30 seconds. Even if you do manage to turn some of your last-minute cramming into more durable memories, your chances here don’t look great! Once you’ve got your exam/test date, you should be aiming to give yourself at least a month’s worth of revision in the run up. Remember to take breaks, give yourself plenty of sleep, and keep those phones tucked away!