The most trafficked articles on this blog are those written by SCCO students who successfully took the OAT and now hope to help others do the same. This article is no exception…
Written by SCCO’s Class of 2021 Student, Andrew Sprenkel
The popularity of Buzzfeed proves that our generation likes things in lists and bullet points.
As technology constantly rains down knowledge through Trivia Crack and Planet Earth 2, keeping it all in is an serious challenge.
Therefore, despite my immense distaste for knowing every ounce of Gigi Hadid’s dating life, it only makes sense to boil things down to their most essential components, Buzzfeed style and all…
That being said, what follows are the three key ideas I attribute to the successful study habits I developed, yielding both high OAT scores and strong GPAs—competitive enough to get me into the optometry school of my choice.
Mental Switch #1: Studying is Easier Than You Think
Studying has to be the single most whined about process, and “no” my friends, this doesn’t end in undergrad. However, if you can detach yourself from your emotions and instead simply observe your thought-processes while studying, it becomes clear is not so much about acquiring the knowledge, but rather it is the anticipated stress of failing the exam that causes all the horrible study anxiety.
We must admit, however begrudgingly, that at many times in life, we actually enjoyed studying (Greek philosophers preferred it to Tinder). We could just sit there and move our eyes back and forth a little bit, chat about it with our friends, or type it on digital flashcards to take with us and study from anytime via laptop or phone.
So don’t overthink the exam itself, and definitely don’t let the stress of a little slip up on an exam dominate the subtle joy that studying brings. Revel in the subjective, powerful experience of the juicy, spongy supercomputer we have the pleasure of calling our brains.
Mental Switch #2: Use Distraction Free Spaces
Distractors come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including but not limited to music, cell phones, friends, animals, and even some indiscriminate white spot on the floor you’ve been looking at for 15 minutes because you’re zoned out and forgot to focus (too real). I often study with headphones, every 5 minutes take micro-breaks to check the Snaps, and chat with friends to pass the time in the library or the coffee shop.
While these practices certainly make studying more fun, I’ve found my information retention to be much lower when compared to solo library time. I believe distractions, even if only seconds long, derail proper knowledge digestion. Just milliseconds after its initial encounter with the visual cortex, micro-distractions pull the brain’s focus away from the “learned” content. The brain needs more exposure time to condense the material just studied, and also to connect new information to that which already exists in your mind via the hippocampus.
So now, take your biology, chemistry, and physics classes seriously, keep the studying distractions free, and you will find studying for the OAT a breeze.
Mental Switch #3: Study Aids Don’t Exist
I recommend trying to separate not only the above mentioned distractors from your study spots, but also any physically addictive substances you may be using to help you “push through” your study grind. This includes common study aids such as caffeine, sugar, tobacco, cannabis, and Adderall. Long term, they are bad for your health and you know this. Additionally, removing these addictions from your study habits avoids the problem of state-dependent learning. If I don’t get my perfect cup of joe in the morning before Boards, I know I’ll be in trouble (I clearly don’t follow my own advice well enough). And if you’re struggling to remove any of the above from your daily habits, seek help. Addictions, on whatever level, are impossible to conquer alone.
Studying is drudgery, a combination of pouring over borish Powerpoints and ruminating on demanding examinations. It is not what I would normally choose to do with my Saturday nights…or Friday nights…or literally any night of my life. However, simply by a shift of internal perception—via conscious observation of acute distractors and stressors—simply by changing our minds about it, we can turn a downright painful task into one that brings both pride and joy.
And nothing makes for better sleep than a day of satisfying work in the form of effective studying.