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Last-Minute Study Tips for the Big Exam

Woman behind stack of books to study.

Many people don’t start studying until the weekend before the exam. I know, I know, we all procrastinate. And we know last-minute studying has limited value. That said, let me give you 8 last-minute study tips.

Accept that you’re doing a last-minute study

I can just hear you saying, “Oh dammit! I really wish I would have done this six months ago.” Yup. I wish you would have, too. But you didn’t. Acknowledge it. Learn from it. Accept it. 

But you can’t change it at this point, so stop beating yourself up. It will sap your energy.   

Think positive

After you accept that the past is over, start thinking positively about the future. Top psychotherapist (and friend) Sandra Reich talks about anxiety, and “the story in your head.”

Research shows that if you say, “Oh, I can’t do this …” or “Oh, I’m a bad test-taker,” or “Oh, I failed last time, I’ll probably fail again,” you are listening to a story that sets you up for failure.

Here’s a different story: “I am a totally smart woman and I didn’t get this far in life by failing. I’ve got this.”

Exercise before your last-minute study session!

Exercising your body somehow jump-starts your brain. Take just a few minutes during your last-minute study session to listen to this compelling video by neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki. She starts by explaining how exercise changes the structure of the hippocampus in your brain, and improves focus. Studying will be more effective if your brain works better.   

I was unable to sit during the last few minutes of her presentation. I sprang to my feet, and I started moving with her!

Know your terminology

Oh, I’ve harped and harped and harped on terminology! But honestly, if you don’t know what a word means, there is no way you can answer a question about it.

Get our list of more than 1,000 terms. Be glad that you already know many or most of those terms. But if you don’t know a term, look it up! (Or take a shortcut and get at least some of those terms on our flashcard app.)  I’ve given you the definition of what I’d say are the most difficult nutrient-related terms here.

Review topics you stumble on

Don’t you find that there are always some things you just can’t remember? Some things you always stumble on, and need to look up every single time? Yeah, me too.

During my last-minute study, I try to review information that is buried somewhere in my gray matter. For example, I took my developmental psych course more than 40 years ago! But concepts from that and other healthcare courses are fair game for the exam. I quick-quick review those concepts beforehand.

Remember, this is not an end-of-course exam

Don’t study for a career-critical exam the way you study for an end-of-course exam. It’s different. Memorizing information won’t help, because you’ll need to tackle application-level questions. By definition, an application-level question means that you need to know more than one concept in order to correctly answer the question.

This includes case studies.

Polish your test-taking strategies

Above all though, the one strategy that IBCLC test-takers need MOST is becoming aware of and dealing with qualifiers. Oops! You don’t know what a qualifier is? Qualifiers make the difference between a correct and an incorrect response.

Learn what qualifiers are, master general strategies dealing with FIRST as a qualifier, and see my illustration on how to deal with FIRST in a specific communication exchange.

Also consider ways you can avoid losing points.

Get enough sleep

Okay, so I promised last-minute study tips, but really, non-study is a major tip I can’t ignore.

In a study of students taking a pharmacy exam, those who had less than 7 hours of sleep the night before the exam scored lower than those who had more sleep. That study cited 5 earlier studies that showed that inadequate sleep negatively impacts academic grades.

The take-home message? Go to bed early the night before the exam. Do whatever will help you to settle down before you climb into bed. Maybe try a relaxing bath, soft music, meditation. You probably already know I use hypnosis and a little lavender oil on my pillowcase.

How will you be spending the weekend before the exam? Will you be resting up and taking some time to relax, or will you having a last-minute study session?

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