Many students leave their studying too late until the night before an important exam. Even though most students realize that this is a bad habit, they continue to do it.

One reason that many students procrastinate with their studies is because they have not learned to pace themselves throughout the school year. Then, when an important exam is coming up, all they have time to do is to stay up all night and hope they can cram enough material into their brain to somehow pass the exam.

Does this method of preparing for exams work? Not very well.

When you put off studying until the last minute, you don’t get time to understand the material. Understanding what you are reading is an important part of being able to remember it later.

By putting off your studying until the last minute, you don’t have time to review the material more than once. Reviewing the material several times is an important part of improving your ability to recall it.

When you put off your studying, you increase your anxiety and you decrease your confidence. By cramming at the last minute, you don’t get time for your brain to send the information into long term storage.

If you have had a hard time pacing yourself with your studies, here are some tips that may help you.

To improve your motivation to study, break up your learning project into smaller sections, or “chunks”. Each time you accomplish one little section successfully, give yourself a meaningful reward.

If you have a deadline looming, decide how much of the project you need to tackle at one time.

Let’s say you have six weeks to master the content of a difficult biology text. Looking through the book you realize that if you study one chapter each night, you can get through the book in 28 days, leaving two weeks in which you can again review the material.

With this knowledge you can pace yourself. You know what your assignment is. You know how much you need to read every night. Concentrate on the immediate task at hand. You don’t need to feel overwhelmed by the entire book at one time. Next, work out a system of rewards for yourself. Give yourself a series of small rewards each time you master one chapter, and a larger reward for completing the entire book.

For rewards to work they must be immediate, and personally meaningful to you.
Rewards don’t need to be material objects if there is something else that would really motivate and inspire you. How about attending a special concert, or taking a special trip? You decide. Get creative and think of something that will spur you to take action.

It’s very important that the reward take place soon after the work has been accomplished. This creates a sense of positive reinforcement. Give yourself a small reward every time you finish a small part of the job, and a bigger reward when the project is completed. If there is too long a gap between the activity and the reward, it will not have the effect of reinforcing the desired activity.

Besides motivating yourself with a series of external rewards, learn to motivate yourself internally. Tell yourself you’re a good learner. Tell yourself you enjoy learning. Tell yourself you enjoy giving your brain a good work out. Congratulate yourself for your efforts. Tell yourself you love acquiring new knowledge, and let yourself feel a joy in learning.

For information to sink into your brain and be accessible to you, you need to review it several times, and your brain needs to sleep properly for the memories to be encoded in your neurons. You need to reduce your mental stress. Your brain needs good nutrition and it needs to be in a peaceful, confident state. Drugs and alcohol don’t help the process of learning.

Write out what you are learning in your own words, and find a learning buddy. Practice explaining to someone else what you have learned. This will increase the likelihood that your brain will remember it.

By starting your studies early, and reviewing what you’ve learned, you have a much better chance of remembering and understanding what you need to know when you face a big exam.

Author's Bio: 

Royane Real is a science educator and the author of several books on improving learning. This article is taken from the new short report "Your Quick Guide to Improving Your Learning Ability" You can get the paperback version or download it from