Study Central: Thinking Outside the Box for Finals Studying


Melissa Schmitz, OPINION EDITOR

Finals week is just around the corner, four days from the publication of this article, to be exact. If you’ve been reading my column all semester then you’ve likely picked up a few study habits which will still be useful during this time [if you haven’t, feel free to check out our website]. However, I would like to suggest something completely different; things you haven’t heard before, some of which may seem unconventional. So without further ado, here are some unique finals studying strategies to help you get through this last week or so of the semester.


Procrastination is okay, sometimes.

This may seem extremely counterintuitive, especially so close to exams, but hear me out. According to John Perry, professor emeritus at Stanford University, for some, procrastination is actually an effective method of getting work done. When interviewed by Maggie Zhang for the Business Insider Strategy blog, Perry explained that adding a small, yet reasonable number of planned “worthless tasks” [such as waking up, making coffee and drinking the coffee] can actually help to jumpstart your productivity, while also taking the stress out of tackling your big tasks.

“If you put something like learning Chinese at the top of your list, every morning you will get up and try to figure out what else you can do instead of that, and you’ll probably end up doing many [possibly productive] things instead of learning Chinese,” he explained to Zhang.

Thus, if you choose to start your day with small tasks to get you going, you can get some not as important [but still productive] things accomplished that will provide a boost of motivation to get you through the harder work. As an added bonus, starting your day with easy to accomplish tasks will reduce your overall stress levels before finals, which can be a great thing if you find yourself overwhelmed. After all, no one has to see what you put on your to-do list besides you. Just remember to stay on task and plan wisely; you still need to get the important things done.


Set the mood.

You may have already heard of the “gum chewing” strategy, but if you haven’t I will explain. Numerous studies, including one such study from St. Lawrence University, have shown that chewing the same flavor of gum during both study time and testing time can help you remember the content you’re studying by linking those content memories to the memory of the gum flavor. Researchers aren’t yet clear on how long the memory linkage between the content and gum flavor last, but there is potential that it will help you remember a few things you otherwise would’ve have if you try this strategy now. It can’t hurt, right?

A similar strategy, though not applicable to actual exam time, is to drink the same alcohol or tea [whichever applies] while studying throughout the semester. The thought behind this strategy is twofold. First, there’s potential that there could be a flavor-content memory linkage between all the content you study while drinking your relaxing beverage of choice. Thus, each time you study while drinking that chosen beverage you are subtly reminded of the content you’ve studied before, even if not consciously. Additionally, the relaxing qualities of these beverages [this only applies to a maximum of a couple of glasses if your beverage is alcoholic] can help quell your anxiety about having to do an activity many people find stressful and boring: studying.

This strategy doesn’t have to be limited to the food category, though. If you have a relaxing place to study where you can manage to get a fair amount of work done, go there!


Lastly, consider the entirety of your situation.

Ask yourself, is it truly worth the stress for you to strive for a 4.0? If you’re looking to apply to medical school or any other graduate program that requires an extremely competitive GPA, this tip will not apply directly to you, though the concept can be applied to certain aspects of your [academic] life. The Law of Diminishing Returns [this one’s for you, economics people!], believe it or not, can also apply to your GPA. According to Marli Creese on the Business Insider blog, so long as you maintain a respectable GPA, going above a 3.5 matters less and less; the difference between an A and an A- are trivial for most purposes when it comes to life after graduation. So, if you’re discovering that your life is full to the brim with unproductive stress due to your perfectionistic habits toward your academics, try to better triage your assignments. Try to place the majority of your focus on the tasks that are important to you and require the most work out of you while setting aside the less important tasks that don’t actually need to be done perfectly. As a perfectionist I know this can be hard to do, but learning to manage your stress in one way or another, while also providing yourself the opportunity to enjoy your college life, is a really important lesson to learn [see the #DolphinsLiveWell column this week for more on that]. If you have taken calculus you may already have learned this life lesson.


Happy studying and good luck on your finals!