Getting the most out of studying

By Shelby Tankersley

It’s not new information that studying for final exams can take up a lot of one’s time. Yet many college students struggle to stay focused during the task at hand.

Some students end up turning to drugs like Adderall to help them stay focused. But that can be problematic, especially when Adderall isn’t a drug the student has a doctor’s permission to be taking.

“When you take medication without the supervision of a doctor there can be complications,” said David Schwartz, a psychologist and director of the counseling center at OU.

If Adderall can be problematic for the average students, then what can they do to keep themselves motivated?

There are a lot of natural ways that students can stay focused, and they’re a lot less risky than taking a pill without permission from a doctor.


A proper diet can be instrumental in stress and energy levels, so a good way to get focused is to eat a balanced diet.

“The best bet is to stick with foods that are high in fiber and protein to help keep you feeling fuller for longer and to provide you with sustained energy,” Jennifer Lucarelli, health sciences professor, said. “Some good examples are fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds.”

It’s also important not to eat too much, as that can make one feel rather groggy.

“Pay attention to why you’re eating in the first place — many of us tend to eat when we are bored or procrastinating,” Lucarelli said. “If that’s the case, then try perhaps having a glass of water or chewing a stick of gum instead of eating when you aren’t actually hungry.”

Schwartz agreed that eating a reasonable amount of food leading up an exam can be very helpful.

“Eat a healthy balance of food,” Schwartz said. “I recommend having a light meal about an hour or an hour and a half before an exam.”

Other methods

Along with eating right, there are several other ways to boost mental focus when heading into long hours of studying. Remember taking peppermint before a test in grade school? That’s still a good way to maintain good focus.

“Studies have proven that having peppermint helps people to concentrate,” Schwartz said.

One thing that college students often miss out on is getting their full eight hours of sleep. In order to be awake and alert, getting enough sleep becomes really important.

“Every hour below what you should sleep is equal to having one drink,” Schwartz said.

In other words, missing out on two or three hours of sleep is the same as waking up drunk.

Along with getting enough sleep, it’s important to plan for some study breaks as well.

“Make sure you take appropriate study breaks. Every hour or hour and half take a 15-20 minute break,” Schwartz said. “Planning and scheduling relaxation time is just as important as planning study time.”

Studying doesn’t have to be a feat of great proportions; with the right eating and sleeping habits, it can almost become rather easy.