Let’s see if the following sounds familiar. Exams are coming up. Students are stressed, tired and, above all, unmotivated. They find no use in what they have to study. Many of them ask to write my essays online so they have more time for other activities. Not repeating a subject or course becomes the main incentive to study. After a few days, they remember almost nothing of what they supposedly learned.
In this article, we will show you the role of motivation to study. A concept that is much talked about but not often exploited enough. Other times we confuse motivation with students’ tastes or that which provokes hedonic pleasures. In addition, we overestimate the willpower that many students have. Living on effort has a very high cost and, let’s not fool ourselves, our brain seeks success at the lowest possible cost. We cannot continually go against this basic evolutionary principle that has allowed us so many adaptations.
From this perspective, we will show a series of strategies so that, in a motivating way, students can retain the information they need and convert it into knowledge that lasts as long as possible. The goal is to learn more at the lowest possible cost and with the desired results. Whether it is a high school, university, or competitive exam, you are sure to find ideas that will help you or your students.
Strategies to study with motivation
We are going to show you the strategies and habits that help you to be motivated while studying for an exam. I start from the idea that studying is learning and learning is retaining useful information in our memory to turn it into knowledge. If we are able to properly retain information and make it useful, it is very likely that we will achieve our goals and, therefore, stay motivated.
- Plan study time. Creating habits reduces effort and automates many tasks. Find a quiet place that is used only for studying, preferably always the same one. You will help your mind to get into study mode sooner. Eliminate distractions and self-interruptions. The set closed schedules in which you only study. According to our internal clocks, we have a greater cognitive capacity in the mornings.
- Set partial goals and measure the level of achievement. As part of your planning, you should set goals for each study session. For example: read topic 1 and make a concept map in two hours. When in one session you meet your objectives, do not continue, rest as planned.
- Reading and underlining are not enough. Generally, our brain does not like effort. However, real learning involves a high energetic cost. This means that we usually like to spend more time reading the notes and underlining them. We think that with this we are already learning. No, we are only decoding. We also need to store the information and, above all, evoke it. An exam is a whole evocation exercise, therefore, it is necessary to practice it.
- Evoke. Evocation consists of trying to retrieve from memory information stored in previous study sessions. It is an uncomfortable and exhausting practice. We do not usually like it but it is highly effective. A good way to do it is at the beginning of each study session trying to recall what you have seen in the previous days. Then check what you have been able to remember and what you have not. The more space there is between the study session and the recall practice, the harder it will be to remember the information, the less we will like the strategy, and the more positive impact it will have on effective learning. We have to make an effort to differentiate between what we like and what suits us. This is where the bullets of effort must be spent.
- Relate knowledge. While reading a text, for example, try to activate your previous knowledge and relate it to the new information you have in your hands. Establish relationships between different topics and subjects continuously. Mind maps can be useful but do them without looking at the notes, then check if they are complete by looking at your materials and evaluating hits and misses (recall practice).
- Self-assessment. Evaluating yourself (without looking at materials) is in itself an excellent recall strategy. Remember that evaluating our progress helps us to enrich the motivational process.
Don’t Forget About Your Health
In this post, we have focused on how to be motivated to study during exam time. However, this is not enough. You also have to take care of your condition and health. Motivation and learning strategies will not be able to handle everything. Some basic guidelines:
- Get your hours of sleep at night. A short nap is also very beneficial to consolidate learning and give us a plus for the afternoon part. Take short but frequent breaks. For example, every 50 minutes, 5 minutes of rest even if you are not tired. Do not study more than 4-5 hours a day. If you study more, it is very likely that you are not doing well. Attention is limited and it is unsustainable to be concentrated all day. Do not give way to over-fatigue, it will cost you more to recover.
- Movement and exercise. In addition to your training routine (if it is in nature, all the better), do not stop moving. For example, every 50 minutes take a light walk in the sun.
- Keep distractions away. Your attention is one of the most valuable soldiers you have while studying. Don’t push it to the limit. As you can sense, social media will not be of much use during this period.
In summary, exam time is the most appropriate time to take care of our motivation and use the most effective learning strategies that allow us to assimilate useful information as long as possible. The objective is to achieve better results, with a well-invested effort and without negatively affecting our health. Learning is one of the keys to healthy longevity. It is ironic that the exam season has turned it into something quite different.