Lack of sleep, stress and a poor diet can undermine all the hard work put in throughout the year when preparing for important exams.
Here, it’s best to play the long game, by sticking to a generally healthy lifestyle, as well as getting into some good habits to help boost memory and be fully operational when the big day comes.
Here are three ways to fine-tune your memory over the next few weeks to help you get through upcoming exams before the big summer break.
The importance of sleep
You have probably heard it all before but there’s no point in revising until dawn in the hope of getting good exam grades, quite the contrary.
The fatigue built up during this kind of last-minute revision session can be detrimental to your performance and have an impact on your concentration and memory two things that are essential during exam time.
Numerous scientific studies have found a link between sleep and improved ability to learn, memorise or use new knowledge, as revealed by research from the University of Pennsylvania in the USA.
This study reports that, in 2019, researchers even established a relationship between sleep and exam results, revealing that the less sleep students got, the worse their grades were.
Meanwhile, memory experts at France’s Observatoire B2V des Mémoires say that it’s important to maintain good sleep habits during periods of exam revision, reminding us that “at night, [the] brain relives learning episodes to consolidate them effectively in memory”.
What’s more, the organisation suggests that students should take naps to boost their abilities even further.
“The short 20-minute nap after lunch is no myth. Digestion requires energy and is tiring. So listen to your body and avoid doing revision just after meals,” reads the site specialising in memory function.
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Favour concentration and foster focus
We have all experienced it: noise from the neighborhood, annoying music or a racing mind can impair a student’s ability to retain a plethora of information for exams.
So it’s important to make sure that all the conditions are right to ensure that your attention is focused solely on the information you’re currently revising.
The best way to do that is to isolate yourself in a room, away from the hustle and bustle of group revision, and clear your mind before tackling your work.
It is, of course, advisable to turn off music or the television, and, if possible, switch off your phone, to ensure optimal concentration. That said, some people find it easier to learn with some form of background noise.
If your home is noisy, you could invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, for example, which will isolate you from the rest of the world for the duration of this final learning phase. Note, however, that this doesn’t mean you have to give up on social contact on the contrary.
In fact, the Observatoire B2V des Mémoires recommends splitting up revision time into several sessions lasting around 20 minutes each, and spread over several days.
The idea is not to spend entire days locked away revising, but to break up this learning time with activities that can promote well-being, like sports or workouts, cultural activities or, more simply, outings with friends.
Diet has a role to play
Eating fish has long been said to be good for memory, largely because of the phosphorus content of certain fish.
But scientific studies contradict each other on the subject, with the most skeptical arguing that fish is far from being the only food rich in phosphorus, it’s also found in dairy products, eggs, certain meats and pulses, seeds and seafood.
Over the past decade, various studies have nevertheless found that fish consumption can improve cognitive function and combat cognitive decline.
In 2014, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh suggested that eating baked or grilled fish once a week could be beneficial for the brain, and in preventing memory loss.
So what’s on your plate could be an additional factor to take into account when getting ready for exams, giving yourself the best chance of shining on the big day. Good luck.
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