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Ultimate Study Routine: Five (More) Do’s and Don’ts

You may or may not recall our story on John Citizen, a student who applied several studying strategies to his study routine and found it incredibly beneficial and has achieved significantly higher grades than before. As a matter of fact, he has a friend named Smith Freeman (who is also a fictional character). Smith’s grades are relatively good, but he often worries that he can’t maintain his grades, and with the exam period nearing, he’s becoming anxious each day. Because of this, he finds it difficult to be motivated to study, and thus he started playing more video games and internet surfing to relieve his stress. 

You or your child may be experiencing the same kind of stress during this time of the year due to the upcoming exam period and SATs. Read on to learn more do’s and don’ts on how to maintain your progress, and in turn, this will make studying less stressful. 

DON’T: Ignore your feelings

Smith’s first mistake is playing video games and going on the internet to relieve stress. However, this comes as counterintuitive because your body is becoming stressed for a reason: it’s telling you to study! The first step in the right direction is to confess that you are stressed and come to terms with the fact that you need to study rather than do something else to “relieve stress.” 

DO: Use Alternative Stress Relief Methods

Since stress can interfere with thought and work, there has been numerous research done in order to find suitable ways to relieve stress, especially for those with anxiety disorders and attention deficits. Some methods include taking breaks periodically, sleeping adequately, and having a healthy and nutritious diet. In addition, meditation and mindfulness are simple ways to clear your mind from any negative thoughts and allow you to be more concentrated (Exam Preparation: Ten Study Tips | Top Universities, 2021). Recent studies have shown that some types of fidget toys could act as a distraction and relieve stress for some. It’s important to note that it may not work for everyone, and results have only been positive for the short term (Winsor, 2021).  

DON’T: Set Up Impossible Goals

Setting up study goals is a good thing, but it’s impossible to achieve good results when the goal is to study the whole syllabus two days before your exam. It’s a certain formula for failure. 

DO: Set Up Realistic Study Goals

 With the help of a study schedule, you can divide your study goals into several days and prevent cramming or unachievable goals. This will also help reduce your stress considering that you become more prepared as the exam day comes closer. 

DON’T: Memorize the Textbook

Often, this method of studying will only work in the short term but can be overwhelming due to the textbook’s amount of information. While it can be a pleasant way to learn more about a subject outside of your curriculum, note that you are studying for a test, and time is limited. 

DO: Use Smart Strategies to Study

There are plenty of ways that are much more effective and yield better results when taking the exam. One method is referred to as active recall, where you test yourself by recalling information out loud over and over again (Brainscape, n.d.). This is different from reviewing your book, notes, and old exams over and over because you’re training your brain to remember, retain and recall information. If you are more of a visual learner, you can also create figures, flowcharts, and mind maps that summarize or highlight important parts. If you think you can use more help, you can find videos on Youtube or research articles that may simplify concepts. Having a study group with your friends to review and explain to each other is also a fun and beneficial method because you’re able to study with your friends as well as learn and understand other things you weren’t sure about. 

 DON’T: Sit for Too Long

Numerous studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time causes joint pain, high blood sugar levels, and an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases (Laskowski, M.D., n.d.). This is more evident in college students’ cases, where studies have reported that college students lack regular physical activity and would sit up to 10 hours a day, including during lectures, breaks, and on their commutes to class (Janes, 2020). The risks of sitting for too long were also compared to the risks of dying from obesity and smoking. 

DO: Exercise and Move Around

Taking a break from sitting every 30-45 minutes is a good start to moving around while studying, especially if you’re in a time crunch. Simply walk around for 5 minutes and stretch out your arms. However, it’s best to regularly exercise as it improves your mood, maintains your weight, boosts your energy, and enhances sleep quality (and that’s only the surface level benefits). Regular exercise also reduces the risk of several terminal diseases such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, depression, and anxiety (Mayo Clinic, n.d.).

DON’T: Binge on the Caffeine 

Caffeine is a natural drug found in many types of leaves and plants, and it’s most known to be found in coffee. It’s a type of stimulant substance, meaning it stimulates the brain by promoting the release of adrenaline and other stimulating hormones, making you feel awakened and focused. According to research (Doheny, 2006), drinking 2-4 cups of coffee a day prevents or reduces many kinds of diseases, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease. 

Despite the health benefits, drinking too much coffee, soda, or energy drinks every day counters the health benefits and does the opposite of making you awake and focused. Instead, you’ll find yourself with a pacing heart and a lower bone density when intaking an abundant amount of soda regularly. 

DO: Find Other Healthy Boosters

Eating foods that are low in calories but contain a lot of energy maintains your energy while studying. Foods like nuts and whole grains and fruits like mangoes and vegetables like sweet potatoes are great examples of snacks to have during study breaks. It’s generally important to have a well-balanced diet to have consistent energy and focus throughout your day, in addition to drinking plenty of water. 

Smith decided that there was no way to avoid taking exams and that it was time to start studying. He found it particularly helpful when he studied with his friend, John, to ask him about things that he had missed out on. He also reduced his soda consumption and started drinking more water and jogging each morning. While he was still slightly stressed on his exam day, he was able to maintain his composure and tried to recall the mind map he made during the test. 

Exam periods are understandably a stressful time to go through, whether you’re advanced in your studies or not. We always desire to achieve high and perfect scores on them in order to be successful in the future. Even if you’re not able to have the desired scores the first time, you can always try again. Nonetheless, it’s essential not to let the stress take over you and instead take action in trying to reduce it, but remember that tests don’t define your intelligence. 

You can start becoming more organized with studying by downloading the monthly study template attached below. Mark important due dates events and plan your studying throughout the year so that you can never miss another task. 

Written by Jumana Raggam 


Brainscape. (n.d.). What is Active Recall? How to use it to ace your exams. Brainscape. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Bridgestock, L. (2021, 4). How NOT to Cope with Exam Stress. QS Top Universities. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Doheny, K. (2006, October 17). Pros and Cons of the Caffeine Craze. WebMD. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from 

Exam Preparation: Ten Study Tips | Top Universities. (2021, April). QS Top Universities. Retrieved March 7, 2022, from 

Feynman, R. (2021, September 25). The 7 Best Study Methods for All Types of Students. E-Student. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Janes, C. (2020, February 21). Study shows students sit too long, would benefit from movement  during class. Daily Bruin. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Laskowski, M.D., E. R. (n.d.). Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting? Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from 

Winsor, C. (2021, June 29). Fidget toys for anxiety: Do they work? Medical News Today. Retrieved March 4, 2022, from

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