Best Study Habits

Many students are taking their first regents exams this week, or perhaps their first end-of-year final exams. I’ve been generous enough to share my wisdom through this article enumerating my top tips and tricks to get hundreds (or above!) on all your finals. Art request: a pile or scatter of completed exams with really high grades at the top (97-105)

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By Vicky He

Finals and regents season is upon us, so what better time to share some of the best study tips and tricks of all time? Hopefully, some of my wisdom will help inexperienced underclassmen (and even upperclassmen) ace their end-of-year exams. It certainly helped me get some of my highest scores!

1. Study with your friends who aren’t even taking the same exam

Studying with friends is often encouraged as an effective way to review content, as different people will have strengths and weaknesses in the same curriculum. However, I find it more effective to study with people who have no clue about anything I’m learning, and vice versa. This way, your conversations can’t possibly be distracted by someone’s studying, because there’s no relevant main point to come back to. Your side conversations should be your top priority during these study sessions—they’ll help you develop proficiency in your topic for sure!

2. Constantly tell yourself how important the exam is so you can stay focused

Whenever I’m studying, I just constantly find myself wondering if the exam is really worth preparing for. A good way to combat wandering thoughts and boost motivation is to obsess over the importance of an exam rather than the content. In fact, why study the content at all? Stressing is a more productive way to fix your issue. For example, what if your 9th-grade Geometry Regents score is suddenly the most important number on your transcript? How do you know that Harvard won’t be critiquing regents scores in coming years and combing through yours to ultimately determine your aptitude for their college? You actually don’t. Let yourself grow increasingly anxious over every exam, especially this one, and over-exaggerate its importance to a toxic degree. This will be extremely effective and will not have any long-term effects on your well-being or sanity, or lead to any testing anxiety and stupid mistakes because of your extreme fear of failure. Promise.

3. Study in loud, busy places

Think of the ambiance as a Subway Surfers video in the background of a Reddit text-to-speech TikTok. It’s just enough chaos that your brain is perfectly overstimulated while not getting distracted. I do my best studying when I’m on the subway, with a child wailing, lights flickering, surrounded by heated arguments. It would be stupid to study in a quiet, clean room. Other than the content, there’s just too little to focus on.

4. Don’t ask for help when you need it

There’s no real reason to ask for help when preparing for finals. As the old adage goes, “You don’t really know something until you’ve taught it.” What better way to absorb content than to teach it to yourself? Letting someone else do the explaining will just reinforce the concepts in their own mind. If you stare at the problem long enough, I’m sure the answer will come to you. You’ll figure out how to solve it even without the required prior knowledge; make sure to then reteach it to yourself to cement your potentially accurate line of reasoning in your mind!

5. Only ever start studying the night before

My most important tip is to always, always begin your preparation the night before a big exam. The feeling of panic that sets in will serve as an excellent motivator to help you completely master a semester’s, or even a year’s, worth of content. Actually, if you happen to have a free period right before the exam, it’d be even better to just start studying then. Or, if you have a subway commute, maybe just study on your way to Stuyvesant, the morning of the exam. Working under an extreme time crunch allows you to maximize your time (and stress levels).