May 042010
Authors: Johnathan Kastner

To the average college student, little is more imposing than the dreaded glimpse of final exams, casting a terrible pall o’er the land, draining the life and vitality from a weekend spent in innocent celebration. By which I mean we have to curb our drinking.

Nevertheless, it’s important to have a good notion of how to keep grades high. I can assure you that if your teacher grades on a curve and you follow these tips, you’ll notice immediately that grades are going up all around you. If they are not grading on a curve, then I can only hope that your example will inspire others.

The first tip, of course, is to notprocrastinate. We will discuss this later.
The sheer amount of information necessary to temporarily absorb for later regurgitation on the exam can be staggering. A valid comparison would be competitive eating. A competitive eater wants to make sure their stomach can stretch to fit the dozen-or-so hotdogs that are necessary to out eat the other mutants.

Likewise, you must practice for the exam by “stretching” your information stomach. Take something that is information-rich, absorb it and discuss it with others immediately afterward. I recommend a favorite TV program, video game or trashy romance novel. If this does not work, try to purge your mind with a night of heavy drinking or five minutes of Jersey Shore.

It is important to get started studying as soon as possible so you don’t feel rushed, and so procrastination is very important to avoid. First, though, we should discuss alternative studying techniques.

Students have always attempted to find quick, effortless ways to absorb information without the hassle of actually cracking a book open or staying awake. Sleep studying, the notion that playing recordings of knowledge to yourself while you sleep, is the ideal solution to this. Of course, it’s a largely discredited pseudoscience, but some studies have proven that it is effective.

(Author’s note — trying it once and it sort of working counts as a study, according to studies.)

Taking breaks while studying is also quite important. Sure, you could get up, walk around, get some fresh air and keep your muscles moving, or you could switch over to Facebook for some quick social stimulation. Facebook has this way of taking what you intended to be a five-minute break and making it feel like 20. And, of course, it was actually 60.

Such breaks can of course lead to procrastination from your true goal: studying. We’ll take a pause from that discussion for a moment to discuss some preparatory work you can do before studying at all.

Teachers like to give clues as to what they think is important on tests during class. Naturally, having not attended class since the last test, you may be a bit out of luck here. The best solution then is to get tests from previous years and see what kind of questions were asked on those. Knowing then that teachers never repeat themselves from year to year, immediately discard any knowledge related to those previous tests.

During the test itself, remember to focus, remain calm and make certain you read only the important bits. Teachers write long questions. If you read each and every question on the test, you’d be there for at least a full boring hour. The faster you skim, the faster you’ll be out that door and on that way to a summer of freedom.

Finally, a few words about the importance of focusing. Studying, ultimately, is a matter of hard work and solid attention, and finals won’t go away simply because you procrastinated on studying. With that in mind, it is time I discussed how to properly avoid procrastination while studying.

The only way to avoid procrastination is to make something a priority and get it done. Sadly, I am out of space to further explore this, but hopefully you will remember to make studying the priority it deserves to be, and drink a bunch, watch TV and we can talk about procrastination next semester.

Johnathan Kastner is a senior computer science major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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