If you’re studying for the EPPP, chances are one of your resolutions for this coming year has to do with EPPP test prep. New Year’s resolutions, however, are notorious for being forgotten or failed. And since 2016 is the year you will sit the exam, being diligent in EPPP test prep is one resolution that cannot be broken.
In reflecting on the reasons behind New Year’s resolution failure, I have come up with ways to help you keep your resolution of EPPP test prep success.
Beginning Again After a Break
In our holiday post, The Five Most Common Pitfalls of Holiday Studying, we gave you tips on surviving and thriving EPPP study during the holidays. We noted the importance of rest in order to give your brain a chance to organize the material you put into it. Those rest periods, if long, may have you noticing post-holiday memory loss when you get back into your typical routine which can be frustrating. Forgetfulness, though, is more of a good thing than it is made out to be. Called the “spacing effect” our brains retain information better when we learn content throughout a period of time. When you re-learn something at the end of a rest interval just as your brain is about to forget, you are actually learning it more permanently.
Now that the holidays are on their way out, it’s time to get back into the normal routine. If you have a routine that was adjusted for the holidays, a good way to get back into it is to return to your typical study space. Because the brain associates content with places and actions, you will find that you are the most productive if you return to your typical place of study. You may notice the power of association if you are someone who studies in bed. You may have found that you easily become tired while doing practice problems in bed or that you have a hard time falling asleep at night. Pretty soon you develop a destructive habit of associating your EPPP with tiredness (hardly an effective path to successful study) or associating bed with the anxieties of EPPP test prep (hardly an effective path to successful sleep!). So find a place of study that your brain will recognize as an zone of productivity.
If you are just beginning EPPP test prep and do not yet have a study schedule or a typical study space, my first tip is to give yourself deadlines. Perhaps one reason New Year’s resolutions are notoriously forgotten and failed is because the deadline is one year away. A distant goal makes procrastinating easy. Once you have a set deadline within the foreseeable future, create a study schedule based on the amount of time you have. At TSM we have created readiness goals, which you can customize your TSM study schedule around, to help you prepare for the exam.
Perhaps another reason New Year’s resolutions are often left incomplete is a lack of accountability. When you are the only one affected by your promise, it is easy not to keep your resolution. When someone else is involved, though, more repercussions are created when it comes to not following through. Repercussions could include guilt of a failed promise to another or an actual agreed upon consequence.
An important thing to remember when choosing someone to hold you accountable is to choose someone who is actively involved in your life. This could be a person who is also preparing for the EPPP, a spouse, a family member, or a roommate. To allow someone to properly hold you accountable, let them in on the details of your study schedule. Tell them which settings you find yourself to be the most productive and at what times you are setting aside for study. (See mistake number 5 in The Five Most Common Pitfalls of Holiday Studying). Letting them in on your set aside study times will help them keep you accountable to taking breaks, too.
The most alluring part of creating a list of New Year’s resolutions is a fresh start. We can forget the fails of the previous year and try again. Maybe your last attempt at studying lacked structure or maybe you set the bar too high and fell short. This new year is a chance to re-examine your schedule and create something new.
Look into what has worked for you and what has not. Perhaps it is the time of day you have set aside to study. Are you in the habit of studying at the end of the day? The reason this might not be working for you could be that new plans come up by day’s end. Waking up earlier and studying in the morning gives you the rest of the day to participate in what comes up.
When it comes to examining areas of improvement in your EPPP study schedule, look also at your surroundings. Keep in mind which settings you thrive in. Perhaps you are currently studying at the library alone and often feel drained after a block of study, leaving you with a lack of motivation to go back and study there the next day. If you are energized by people, the isolation of the library might not be a good fit. There are two solutions to this problem. The first is to invite someone to study with you. This person could also be good for holding you accountable to your study habits. Another solution is to switch locations to a quiet coffee shop. The quiet bustle of people around you is often enough to make a more extroverted person feel less isolated.