Archived: Study harder, not smarter: how NOT to prep for your exams

Categories: Academic, Help, Stress Less


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Ahh, exam time, that time of year when campus is eerily quiet and fist fights break out over the last cup of coffee. They say if you spent too long in EB you start to hear the sounds of muffled sobbing – the lingering, ghostly effect of students spending too long reading the same paragraph over and over and over.

Allegedly, science says that reviewing your course material before your exam will help retention. But this author has never successfully sat down and committed to studying anything longer than 4 to 6 minutes. So study harder, not smarter, with these three tips for how NOT to prep for your exams.

Tidy desk, tidy mind

If you can convince yourself that you need to clean up your workspace before you sit down to study, you can spend hours shuffling around your room half-heartedly wiping things with a dirty cloth. Avoid actually cleaning anything, because that’s real work and you need to conserve your energy.

Expert mode: realize that you haven’t cleaned out your closet, like, ever. Pull out everything you’ve ever owned from the depths of your drawers then sit in the middle of the floor surrounded by stuff you should’ve thrown out years ago. Realize you’ve made a bigger mess than you started with, resist the urge to cry, then take a nap on your clean laundry pile. You earned it.

Reward yourself

This one is failproof, but requires you to actually look at your notes. You’ll have to commit to up to five minutes of studying before you can feel like you deserve a break. But don’t get disheartened: it totally counts if you spend those five minutes flipping through your textbook and skimming chapter titles, so long as you nod your head and say “hmmm” out loud a few times. Once you’ve done that, sit back, relax, and treat yourself with your favourite reward. May we suggest binge-watching YouTube for three hours while eating an entire box of Kraft Dinner?

Expert mode: Google “study reward tips”. Only click on links that suggest that food or booze are acceptable forms of reward. Devise a complex system involving a bag of gummy bears and mini bottles of Bailey’s strategically placed throughout your textbook. Realize you’re not sure if highlighter ink is food safe, Google “are highlighters toxic”. Decide you’re not willing to risk it, throw out the gummy bears, then drink all the Bailey’s. You earned it.

Use a buddy system

Classmates make great study buddies! Unfortunately, that means you had to have spoken to someone – anyone – in your class this semester. Have you? We thought not. So ask your friend or roommate to quiz you on your study material, then change the subject as quickly as you can to something more interesting (a.k.a. literally anything else). If you find your friend tries to “helpfully” remind you that you’re supposed to be cramming, consider finding a different study buddy – that one clearly doesn’t have your best interests at heart.

Expert mode: Write down a list of everyone you know who may be interested in joining a study group. Open WhatsApp or Facebook and draft a group message. Revise your message (too long). Revise it again (too short). Revise it a third time (not funny enough). Spend another 10-15 minutes deleting half the people you initially wanted to invite. Delete everyone else for good measure. Delete the message. Scroll through your feed to the first cute animal video you can find, then pretend like you never wanted to start a study group in the first place. Phew – that was close.

Not sure how you’re going to survive through to the sweet freedom of the end of the exam period? Check out our guide to stressing less during exams.