Preparation is the recipe for success

Feeling stressed about your impending exams? Seeing more of the inside of Robarts than the inside of your own bedroom? If so, perhaps you should consider taking your pre-exam apprehensions and throwing them out the window!

Much of exam preparation —or even school success — is an exercise in conscientiousness. Everyone knows how important it is to stick to a regular schedule, to eat healthy, and to stay active by balancing extracurricular activities with academics. However, a look at the percentage of students who graduate with high distinction as well as the percentage of students who are actively engaged in campus life tells a different tale: people don’t follow their own advice. I’ve compiled a list of recommendations that will help set the stage for you to eventually ace your final exams.


First, stick to a study plan. Go through a list of your fall term final exams and paper and break up big assignments into manageable chunks. Then, for each chunk, assign yourself a reasonable deadline. Spreading out your studying instead of spending the night before the exam in Gerstein is a more productive use of your time and will likely lead to better marks. If it helps, hold yourself accountable by rewarding yourself at the completion of each goal.

Second, take regular breaks. Research has shown that studying in 50 minute chunks followed by a ten-minute break is significantly more productive than studying in a six hour stretch. Bringing your mobile and a snack into the library is fine, so long as you only munch, text, or check Facebook during your 10 minutes off. If you tend to experience an afternoon or mid-morning slump, when you find yourself increasingly drowsy, unfocused, and unproductive, consider implementing an exercise routine. Working out not only allows you to unwind but also increases the amount of oxygen in your brain, which in turn better enables you to retain what you’re reading.

Third, stay healthy. Tailoring your diet around a significant amount of protein — smoked salmon, fresh meats, beans, lentils — will give you the ability to concentrate for a longer period of time on your work. Try to eliminate simple carbohydrates and instead saturate your diet with as many Vitamin B-rich items to foster brain growth. If getting up and staying up remains a problem, consider buying a sunlamp and stick to a regular schedule.

It may not be easy to stick to all this, but these recommendations will ensure that when it’s crunch time at the end of the semester you’ll be prepared for the worst, and be able to perform at your best. It certainly beats losing your sanity in Robarts.

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