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3 Study tips for final exams

Now that the holidays are around the corner, tests and exams are coming up for many graduate students. However, your studying habits from an undergraduate program are often useless in graduate school. While undergraduate students might feel pressured to memorize various bits of information, it isn’t the same.
Students getting their master’s of science in nursing are often tested on their understanding of concepts and subject matter, as well as how they might apply this learning in the real world. That’s why it’s important to nail down a solid study regimen early on to help boost your grades throughout your time in graduate school. Consider these three study tips to help get you there.

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1. Read to understand
For most graduate programs, students are asked to do a lot of reading. However, this reading isn’t similar to what you experienced in your time as an undergraduate. Reading comprehension is critical in graduate school, as clearly understanding and grasping concepts is so much more important. It’s important that students follow the SQ3R method, which is a tried and true process for understanding long pieces of text and remembering them.
The “S” is to survey the text, meaning to simply look over headings and other titles within the content. The “Q” stands for question, so students ask themselves any questions they might have about the text. The “3R” stands for three “R” words to go over – read, recite and review. Students should attempt to answer the questions they cultivated during the initial reading process. Then they should try to recite and recall those answers. Lastly, they should review the text as a whole to look over parts that were unclear or need a reread.

Though this process seems tedious, it’s a great way for students to understand text and fully process it. Students should try this method any time reading is assigned, not just before final exams. That way, when projects, presentations and tests come up, students can review their readings and remember content better than if they had just read it. Graduate students are usually assigned a lot of text to read throughout each week or semester. As you use this process to understand concepts, take notes along the way to help you remember specific concepts when test prep comes around.

2. Stay organized
Organization is essential to an effective study pattern. Without it, you’ll be scattered and scrambling when tests come up at the end of the semester. Organization needs to be involved in every facet of your learning, from attending lectures and taking in-depth notes to linking up with people in class to create study groups. The most critical time you need to be organized is when you’re taking notes. Whether you type on your laptop or prefer to use a notebook, it’s important you keep your notes separate for each course. While you might have gotten away with keeping your notes for all courses in one place in your undergraduate program, it most likely won’t work now. If you want to go one step further, keep your notebook in a binder that contains any additional notes, handouts and other pieces of text you’ll need when test review comes around. Highlight and tab different sections based on your syllabus, so it’s easy to skip around when going through chapter notes and different lessons.

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3. Practice time management
Time management is critical to every graduate student’s schedule, especially when studying. Of course, students may be tempted to study all the time for those last few days and weeks before exams start. However, it can be difficult to prioritize what exams, projects and papers need to come first during crunch time. That’s where time management comes in, which is so much more critical to graduate students. Instead of cramming at the end of the semester like so many undergraduate students do, graduate students need to space out their preparation and studying so that when the test comes, it’s merely a refresher.
As a graduate student, it’s important to understand when to take breaks and get an adequate night’s sleep as well. Scheduling small amounts of time to study over several weeks will help you prepare for your final exams better than if you simply attempt to cram mass amounts of information and reading at the last minute. Regularly practicing small acts of time management will help you stay less stressed and possibly prevent you from getting sick right before the holiday season. Setting personal deadlines and using a planner are good ways to get into this regimen early in the semester, so it will only get easier as you move through your program.

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