While the two days UNC sets aside leading up to final exam period are titled “reading days,” UNC Learning Center academic coach Jackie Stone said students should do much more than just read. Here are three methods she gave on how to improve studying habits and make the most of those days.
Be deliberate about planning.
If studying a semester-long amount of material feels overwhelming, start by making a plan. After examining all of the topics you need to know, determine which you will need to devote the most attention to. Stone said that asking yourself where, when and with whom you will study is important.
“Getting into those really specific details makes you more likely to follow through with your plan,” she said.
Another way to hold yourself accountable is by talking about your plan.
“It can be helpful to let someone else know what your plan is,” Stone said. “That’s one of the points of academic coaching.”
Use active study strategies.
Simply reading a textbook is an example of a passive action. It is important in the initial phases of learning material but cannot suffice alone while studying for exams.
“Our brains can get the illusion of competence when we are just reading,” said Stone.
Stone mostly works specifically with math students, who she encourages to work through problems. However, she stressed that active studying strategies can be applied to any course.
This can include creating your own questions, teaching the material to others or making concept maps and graphic organizers.
“All of those things really test whether or not you remember what you learned and can do things with it,” said Stone.
Metacognition is essentially a fancy way of saying “thinking about one’s thinking.” In doing this, you are reflecting on how you learn best and what strategies worked best in the past.
As you are studying, check in and ask yourself questions to ensure that what you’re doing is actually working.
Stone said these questions might include your ability to give the big picture of a topic, meet learning objectives or make connections to other material in order to discover overarching themes.
“Thinking about how you’ve been learning the material and what you know about it now, or even what you don’t know, is really important in figuring out what you need to focus on,” Stone said.
For extra advice, Stone encourages students to visit The Learning Center’s website for helpful tips, tools and videos. The Learning Center will also be hosting a Finals Boot Camp throughout the entire finals period to provide students a place to study while having academic professionals and, of course, snacks on hand.
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