Study fatigue is a real concern, and it can have a truly detrimental effect on your exam performance and resulting grade. If you are worried that you’re going to fall victim to this ever-present danger, or if you’ve experienced it in the past and are seeking to avoid it this time around, here are some helpful tips that can help you prevent GRE study fatigue.
If you’ve committed to taking the GRE, you’re probably already aware that you’ve also committed yourself to countless hours of study. Investing this time is of course, crucial to your success, but staring at words on a page or images on a screen for days and weeks at a time can quickly lead to feelings of exhaustion, anxiety, and burnout.
The longer you keep yourself in this overly focused and often stressful state, the more you will find your motivation decreasing, and your ability to retain information falling short of what you need it to be.
Here are some creative ways to help you combat study fatigue and get that dream score on the GRE!
Keep Yourself Organized
When it comes to your forthcoming grad school career, staying organized is a pretty great idea in general. However, when you’re talking about the GRE, organization becomes even more crucial, because when it comes to the GRE, study fatigue is even more prevalent.
First thing you should tackle is your study space. Wherever you do your studying, whether it’s your desk, couch, bed, or another location, try your best to keep it clear of clutter. A messy space can lead to a messy mind, so you should make sure to keep your space neat and clean.
Next, you should take a look at your notes. Whether you’ve been working with a personal tutor, taking online practice exams, or using customized practice sessions, note taking is a valuable tool for any exam prep.
However, taking notes quickly during a lecture or study session can often lead to half-completed sentences and fragmented thoughts. If this is the case, do yourself a favor and take the time to rewrite your notes so that they make sense. Not only does this help you organize yourself, but it also gives you another opportunity to review your notes in an interactive way.
Finally, make a list of the topics and subjects on which you need to focus the most attention. This will ensure there are no areas your of study that you’re missing. As you progress, this list will serve as a guide of what you’ve already reviewed, and what you still need to accomplish.
A spin-off from the topic of organization is the critical ability to appropriately manage your time. You’ll want to be as productive as possible while also knowing when to take breaks. Don’t try to cover everything in the first study session, but also don’t wait until the last minute to go over the important stuff. Schedule blocks of study time for yourself in advance, and stick to them. Know what your focus will be for each session, so you’re not overwhelming yourself with possible topics.
In addition to knowing when you’ll be studying, it can be equally important to know when you won’t be. Taking time away is necessary for relaxing your mind and processing what you’ve learned, so make sure you’re giving yourself plenty of breaks. Pacing yourself like this is the best way to avoid getting burned out.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
In news that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one; studying can be tiresome. Reading has been said to be a perfect way to induce sleep at the end of a long day, so when it comes to fighting off sleep in favor of studying, you’re fighting an uphill battle. The best way to combat this is simple; avoid late night study sessions altogether and always make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep.
When your brain is tired, its ability to retain new information is greatly diminished. It also has a harder time remembering and recalling the information you already know. Lack of sleep also negatively affects your mood, as well as your level of motivation; both of which are integral to putting in some quality study time.
Ending your study session an hour or so before bed will allow your mind to wind down and help you get the best sleep possible. You can further increase the quality of your sleep by maintaining your bed. Your dorm room mattress may not be the best but using clean sheets, soft comfy pillows, and wearing our most comfortable pajamas, can make up for it.
Switch Up Your Location
As organized and comfortable as your favorite study space can be, you don’t want it to become too comfortable. Because when you are too comfortable, you get bored quite quickly, and that then leads to.. you guessed it right – study fatigue! To keep yourself fresh and your brain sharp, try changing your location every few days. Trade your regular space for a spot in the library, a campus study room, or a coffee shop to keep your mind engaged and active.
Research has shown that using multiple study spaces can actually lead to a better recall of information, as opposed to spending all your time in one room. Studying in new places provides your brain with an abundance of subconscious memory cues, which it will later use to remember pieces of information. Even if you are in a situation where you can’t find a different location in which to study, try sitting in different spots, facing different directions. Even the smallest change in perspective can wake up your brain and prevent distractions.
Collaborate With Others
You may think you have the perfect study routine, but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from collaborating with your peers. Odds are pretty good that you will know a few people in your undergrad class who are interested in taking the GRE. Partnering with these people can be an enormous help to reduce some of the study fatigue that is hampering you both mentally and emotionally.
Looking at things from another person’s perspective can often provide you new insight into your subject, and help you see things from a new angle. Plus, when you’re studying for something like the GRE it can be easy to become so focused that you end up feeling isolated and removed from the rest of the world. Studying in a group can serve as a boost to your motivation levels and provide a sense of comradery; a much-needed reminder that you’re not in this alone.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Studying for the GRE can often leave you feeling like you have no time for anything else. One of the first things most students will sacrifice in exchange for more study time is a diet consisting of healthy options. It can be all too tempting to settle for the easy slice of pizza, the convenient box of mac & cheese, or the ever-present Ramen noodles. These food items may leave you feeling satisfied in the moment, but in the long run, they are doing much more harm than good; to both the health of your body and the power of your brain.
Your diet has an enormous impact on your mental and physical state. If you’re eating nothing but junk, it will start to be reflected in your mood, and will certainly cause study fatigue to kick in. Simple sugars and foods high in carbohydrates may give you an immediate energy boost, but it will be short lived, and the crash you experience will be considerable. However, there are plenty of foods that will naturally boost your ability to stay focused and alert while you’re studying for, or taking a test. Stick with mostly high protein options like chicken, eggs, fish, and the occasional protein shake. A high protein diet will give you long term energy without resulting in a debilitating crash.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
Coupled with the need for a healthy diet is the importance of staying hydrated. When you haven’t been drinking enough water it becomes more difficult for your brain to stay engaged and focused. Dehydration also causes a variety of other issues including a decrease in memorization skills, your ability to recall information, and even your ability to perform simple mental arithmetic. When all of these pitfalls can be avoided with a few simple glasses of water, it seems crazy not to keep hydration at the top of your to-do list.
Too often, students overwhelmed with study fatigue find themselves choosing a caffeinated beverage over plain water. While caffeine will certainly help you stay awake, too much of it can start negatively impacting your sleep schedule (previously determined to be incredibly important). If you’re looking for a more natural pick me up, opt for an ice cold glass of water. Drinking cold water will invigorate your system into staying awake and won’t leave you sleepless and jittery.
Avoid Cram Sessions
If you’re thinking that you can pass the GRE with just some minimal, last minute studying, you are sorely mistaken. Studies have shown that last minute studying or cramming unequivocally does not work. While it’s certainly possible for you to memorize something in one night, giving your brain time to process the information and connect it to other concepts and ideas is another. This is why revisiting different study topics over a period of time is always more effective than a late night cram session.
Last minute cramming for a test also fills you with unnecessary worry and stress which can then ultimately only increase study fatigue and affect your performance. This added anxiety can cause you to forego several of the other important things on this list including, organization, time management, quality sleep, a good diet, and proper hydration.
Get Creative in Combating Study Fatigue
There’s only so much reading, staring, memorizing, and practice quizzing you can handle. At some point, you need to start thinking outside the box in order to maintain your brain’s attention span. Even something as simple as reading out loud can make a difference in your comprehension levels, but if you read it in a different accent, or as a Shakespearean monologue, you can inject a little bit more fun into what otherwise can become a monotonous study routine.
Getting creative with your studying can be the perfect solution for those days with study fatigue – when you just can’t bear the thought of studying for one more second. Turning the material into songs and poems, or trying to teach it to someone else can help you see the information from a new viewpoint and help re-engage your brain in the studious task at hand.