We’ve all got that one friend who somehow manages to get top marks by smashing energy drinks and cramming for a few days before exams. Not only is this approach dangerously unhealthy, but it’s also not even doable for most people. If you want to breeze through your exams feeling fully prepared without the stress, read on to discover the five most valuable, tried-and-tested study hacks:

1. Get professional guidance outside of school

High school tutors are usually recent graduates who did exceedingly well and have been trained in how to transmit that success to others. Though the schooling system may be rigid, a tutor will adjust their approach to suit your personality and learning style. So, even if you struggle to pay attention in class, a tutor will be able to figure out the best way to help you learn. If you take tutoring throughout the term, you’ll be so prepared when exam time rolls around that you won’t need to lose any sleep cramming.   

2. Time your study sessions

Research has shown that taking regular breaks allows your brain to absorb information better. It can be useful to slip into a flow state and write for hours when constructing an essay, but when you’re preparing for exams, it’s far more beneficial to study for no more than 45 minutes at a time, followed by a ten or fifteen-minute break and then your next study session. 

The other timing aspect to consider is spacing your study sessions throughout the entire term, not just the week before exams. This will allow the information to slip into your long-term memory, making your ability to access it under pressure far more reliable. 

3. Treat yourself between study sessions

Now that you have breaks worked into your schedule, it’s time to fill them with activities you can look forward to. If you only allow yourself to enjoy these treats in study breaks, you’ll feel more motivated to start and more refreshed when you return for your next session. 

Some helpful activities include taking a shower, eating your favourite meal, chatting to a friend, taking your dog for a walk, dancing, skateboarding, or playing an instrument. These activities are fun, physical, and stimulate you in different ways than study does. This means you’ll give your brain a rest without losing your momentum. 

4. Tailor your study sessions to your learning style

Every human has a unique learning style. The problem is, many schools still stick to a one-size-fits-all structure that doesn’t suit all learners. You can still excel if you identify your learning style and structure your methods to suit it. For example, if you’re an auditory learner, it may help to record your notes and listen to them while you go for a walk. Kinaesthetic learners, by contrast, need to take the information and change it. So, you might need to take a list and turn it into a graph, table, or diagram.  

5. Perfect your diet

Though it’s tempting to fill your face with candy and energy drinks, you’ll be rewarded with much better cognitive function if you focus instead on staying hydrated with plenty of water and getting your sugar hit from fruit. Our brains run almost exclusively on glucose (hence the hardcore sugar cravings that strike when you study), so you shouldn’t deny yourself the sweet stuff. Just make sure it’s coming from healthy sources so you don’t crash.  

Follow the tips above, and your friends will be wondering how on Earth you manage to be so perfectly zen for every exam.