Don't Want to Study for That Big Test? Here's Help for Procrastinators

By: Judi Robinovitz | Last Updated: July 29, 2013

We've all pulled an all-nighter to cram for an exam or waited until the last few hours to put together a term paper. If you're preparing for a big test coming up, whether it's an online exam to enter the Penn Foster vet technician program or the SAT to be accepted into FAU, studying is mandatory. There's no room for procrastination.

The Root of Procrastination

You can't overcome procrastination without understanding the core of the issue. Psychology David Glenn found that students who are prone to academic procrastination also experience other self-defeating behaviors, such as unhealthy sleep patterns or a poor diet.

If you can't seem to prepare ahead of time for a college admissions test, you may practice "avoidant coping" or "anxiety avoidance." These styles of coping avoid anxiety-causing stimuli, rather than confront it. You can learn new time management skills and keep a weekly planner to help you, but if this becomes especially troublesome, consider counseling.

Bruce W. Tuckman, a professor of educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University, further explains that students who delay studying and schoolwork are vulnerable to wishful thinking and tend to create rationalizations. If "tonight's just not a good night" or "I know I can focus better tomorrow" sounds familiar—and if loved ones' efforts to reason with you don't help—then again, maybe it's time to talk with a counselor.

Coping Tips

Another strategy to help you reduce or even eliminate test-induced anxiety is to ask loved ones to give you positive coaching. Ask them to reinforce that you can do this successfully. The goal is to get help managing the stress that's associated with failed attempts at studying and feelings of self-defeat that disrupt focus and motivation.

Other methods to help you stay on track include:

  • Focus your energy on learning a particular theoretical concept or understanding a particular type of math problem. Don't let your mind wander to thoughts about taking the test, passing or failing, being accepted into college, etc.—by doing so, you're creating stress that inhibits you from focusing on the task at hand. Don't think about scoring highly; this creates pressure that may shut you down.
  • Free your mind from anything that's not the material at hand. Thoughts about plans for the weekend and basketball practice are insignificant.
  • Have a positive, worry-free conversation with your parents or other loved ones about your academic goals and career dreams. Nurture a love of knowledge—that's what's exciting.
  • Adopt an "I want to learn" attitude. Repeat this to yourself often.
  • Replace rationalizations and wishful thinking with reasons for studying now and efficiently. For example, replace "I'm so tired tonight; studying is worthless" with "Studying ahead of time prepares me. Cramming will only stress me out."
  • The mind and body need breaks. Change your scenery or location, get a drink of water or a healthy snack or play classical music—then reclaim your focus.

Topics: Study Tips

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