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UCQ

Exams and Study Skills

Test taking strategies

Focus

General Tips to Improve Your Ability to Focus 

  1. Eat Breakfast. It will help you to stay focused and feel good all day long. It will also help to improve your memory.
  2. Move around. Moving around a bit will help to wake up your body. If you find yourself falling asleep in class or not being able to stay focused, excuse yourself to use the restroom or fill up your water bottle.
  3. Take notes. Use a notebook and a pen, or if the professor uploads a PowerPoint prior to class, print it out and follow along that way to avoid writing down exactly what’s on the slides. If you change up the colors you are writing with, it will help you to stay engaged longer. Do not take notes on your computer.
  4. Get sleep. Avoid staying up too late before a day full of classes. Pulling all-nighters is not healthy for you and you will feel useless in class the next day. Have a routine sleep schedule throughout the week and stick with it.
  5. Sit close to the front. Sit in the same spot every day and sit near the front. If you sit where the professor can see you, you are less likely to get distracted. 
  6. Eliminate as many distractions as you can.  If you find that students running around outside makes you lose focus, try sitting away from windows. If a classmate is doing something distracting, change your seat.  The more distractions you can eliminate on the front end, the more you will be able to focus on what you need to learn.
  7. Stay aware of the time when studying.  Set a timer on your watch or phone to let you know when 10 minutes have passed.  If you find yourself spacing out while reading, a timer can help you review the past 10 minutes and what you have just read.
  8. Take mini-breaks often.  Make it a routine that after 30 minutes of, take a 5-minute break.  Get up, stretch, get some water, or use the restroom.  This can help with making the most of your time. Turn it into a game.  Try to get 5 exercises done before your 5 minute break.  The goal of these breaks is to step back, relax your mind for a second, and then step back in with renewed focus.
  9. No cramming allowed.  Break your studying into short sessions for a couple of days leading up to a test.  You will be able to stay fresh and focused much more easily than one long study session the night before the test.
  10. 10.    Create a “reward” system.  Essentially, you reward yourself for study accomplishments.  The “reward” can be as small as “letting” check social media, or as large as “gifting” yourself an afternoon to do your favorite activity.  This can help motivate you to reach your goals.  It is important, though, to be a fair judge.  If you did not make your goal, set a new one, and do not reward yourself until it is completed.
  11. Find a study tool that you enjoy.  Some students prefer flashcards to copying down notes.  Others like to talk over information with others; some even like to move around while studying.  If you are more of an active type, try writing your notes on flashcards and taking a walk while reviewing the information.  If you are more of a visual learner, try drawing a fun picture that incorporates your information.
  12. Get a planner and put everything in it.  The more you can put in the planner, the less you will have to occupy your mind with tiny pieces of information.  
  13. Participate in class. Instead of sitting passively while other people are talking, making sure you participate in class discussion is a good way to keep concentrating, as you’ll need to think about the topic at hand, what other people are saying, and how you might respond to it. You could even make use of some of the questions that you thought of above. 

These tips have been prepared by UCQ Student Counsellor, Hala Awada.
If you would like to speak with a counsellor, contact Hala by telephone or by email:
4406 5253 or hala.awada@ucalgary.edu.qa