Ask Catherine: Focusing on Finals

by Catherine Arjet

opinions editor

Hi Everyone! Welcome back to “Ask Catherine,” where I answer any questions you might have for me. This week, I’m talking about studying and finals. Remember, if you want my advice, opinion, or thoughts on anything, you can always ask here.

Q: I really, really suck at studying. I always end up distracted, instead of actually studying or writing! I’m really worried with finals coming up that I’ll mess up and tank my grades. Do you have any tips?

A: I have several! I’m a very distracted person so I completely understand. First of all, before you even start studying, you need to make sure you’re in a good studying environment, you have everything you need and you’re comfortable. A good studying environment is a place you can stay and study for a while without any distractions. You may tell yourself that you study best with people or with Netflix in the background, but if nine times out of 10 you find yourself focusing more on the things around you then your work, then you need to find a distraction-free environment. I personally like the stacks in the library because it’s so silent and you can’t see anyone, but you should find a place that works for you.

Another huge distraction is phones. I know you can’t always leave your phone behind, but you can avoid looking at it. I like to set a timer on mine (generally for 20 to 40 minutes) and then put it face-down out of reach, and not touch it again until the timer goes off. There are also a lot of apps that will reward you for not touching your phone, so you could try one of those too. If someone texts you while you’re not looking at your phone, it can be pretty tempting, but remind yourself that whoever is reaching out can probably wait to hear back from you.

Next, look at the work you have to do and break it up into smaller sections. Often it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but if you know what you have to do, in what order, and have broken it up into in smaller, more manageable pieces, it can be easier. For example, saying, “Tonight I’m going to study for my test” is a lot more vague and scary then saying, “Right now I’m going to make an outline of the chapters the test is on. After that I’m going to make and study a quizlet.” Once you have your work broken up, it’s time to get down to business!

One final tip is to make sure you take breaks. You should physically get up and walk around at least every few hours. Just make sure you’re doing something different so your brain has a chance to rest. Take a walk, talk to a friend, get some water or a snack—just be careful it doesn’t turn into a giant study break. One thing I’d really caution against is watching TV on your breaks. It’s really easy for one episode to turn into several, especially with Netflix and Hulu’s autoplay

Good luck!!