Stay Informed: Surprising Things That Can Help You Do Better at Finals

We all stress during finals, but these tips can increase your confidence and grades!
We all stress during finals, but these tips can increase your confidence and grades!

You’ve been dreading it since mid-terms, or if you’re a worrier like me, you’ve been dreading it since the beginning of the school year. Here’s finals week (cue Jack from ‘The Shining’)! This is so not your first rodeo, and you’re pretty sure you can handle this. If you are still a tad rusty since last semester, or even since last year, you can read all about Gina’s tips in her article here.

Aside from the obvious, there are little tips that can seriously help you increase your chances of doing better on that testy exam (did I just make a pun? That was awful, sorry.). I’ve done these numerous times over, and I truly believe that they work. Please note, these tips may not work for everyone, but studies have shown an overall positive increase in exam grades. Give it your best shot!

1. Mint Gum  

Our taste and smell senses are the most powerful in invoking memories. The scent and flavor of mint has proven to be a very strong trigger to our memories, and can help us remember things better. Chewing gum while studying and then again while you are taking the exam will prevent your mind from blanking out and will help you recall information easier. Plus the chewing motion keeps your brain at ease, preventing anxiety that can also cause those annoying brain farts. (Milk chocolate has also shown positive results)

2. No Cramming

This may go against everything you’ve ever known about studying, but cramming is the worst thing you can do before an exam. Your brain can physically only take in so much information at a time, so it’s not going to make it to your long-term memory before your exam and may cause you to forget more than you’re trying to remember.

 3. Study Before Bed

This is probably as close to learning by osmosis we’ll ever get. Some theories about sleep suggest that sleep allows the brain to solve difficult problems or sort memories while the body is at rest. So studying before bed allows your brain to make sense of the information and can actually improve your memory and allow for maximum retention.

4. Instrumental Music

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Listening to instrumental music, such as classical, while studying can improve test scores as well as decrease pain and anxiety. Instrumental music allows the brain to relax, improves its focus, and provides a positive mood environment. My favorites to study to are classical renditions of popular music created and performed by The Piano Guys. You can listen to their music here.

Avoid lazy clothing while taking your exam!
Avoid lazy clothing while taking your exam!

5. Dress for Success

There is truth to this age-old motto. Dressing for success during finals may play a key role in raising that grade. Your brain associates sweatpants and pajamas with sleep and rest, and will become lax with the task at hand. Whereas if you are dressed as if you were meeting someone for say…a casual dinner, your mind will associate your outfit with work or some sort of activity that needs attention and you will become more focused.

6. Exercise

Exercising before the exam and between study periods gives your brain a memory boost. Like mint gum, it acts as a trigger and allows you to recall information quicker and easier. A simple walk is enough to engage your brain.

7. Eat

This may sound plain silly, but your brain is a muscle, and like all the other muscles in your body, it craves nutrients. Snack smart, don’t load up on junk, and don’t skip meals. Breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day when you’re studying or taking exams. (I once heard that eating yellow skittles before an exam helps you focus better. I have no idea if this is true or not though!)


Do you have any weird things you do in order to prepare for finals? If so, tweet @StayInformedBU with #finalsweek and see what others have to say!


Stay Tuned and Stay Informed!