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Finals week is so close students can smell it

With finals just around the corner, some essential studying materials could be the following: pencils, notebooks, textbooks, Big Red or Wrigley’s gum and maybe even some mints. If these last few items seem funny, think again because they could have a positive influence on final grades.

Over the past eight years, Bryan Raudenbush, associate professor of psychology and director of undergraduate research at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, W. Va., has researched the effects of peppermint scents on people, and in the last six months, the effects of cinnamon scents on people.

“We’ve done experiments using Big Red gum,” Raudenbush said. “We found that people held their attention longer and measures of memory were greater when either a cinnamon scent or cinnamon gum was used.”

Raudenbush explained that when a cinnamon scent is present, it creates a better blood flow through the body. This blood flow runs through the muscles and to the brain and this generates more energy. Thus, more energy equals more alertness.

“If you’re more alert, then you’re more attentive to a task and do a better job on it,” Raudenbush said.

Peppermint scents can also motivate alertness because it triggers a part of the brain called the reticular activating system. This is the area of the brain that “puts us to sleep at night and wakes us up in the morning. It’s responsible for alertness,” Raudenbush added.

It’s best to use a pure scent, such as peppermint oil, because it has a greater effect on the mind and body, but mints or gums do the same thing.

“The effect is just not as dramatic, but it’s a lot easier to get gum or mints into a test,” Raudenbush said.

The use of peppermint or cinnamon scents is just one tactic students can use to help them concentrate while studying. Another method that some students may or may not have heard about is studying while listening to classical music. Unfortunately for some, this is an inconsistent technique, explained Mary Natvig, a musicologist and associate professor at BGSU.

This theory of listening to classical music is known as “The Mozart Effect” but “the experiments have not been replicated,” Natvig said.

“Basically, it’s not a reliable conclusion that listening to classical music helps you study or increases your IQ,” Natvig added. “‘The Mozart Effect’ is not reliable science.”

Even though Natvig doesn’t recommend students listen to classical music, she said she “hopes everyone does well on their exams whether they listen to music or not.”

So, the peppermint and cinnamon scents helping to improve alertness could be a great method to use while studying and also taking an exam, and by all means, if listening to classical music does help you concentrate, keep at it. These are only a few ways to help students study.

Richard Anderson, associate professor in the psychology department at the University, suggested some other tips for students.

“It helps to study information in the same type of environment that [a student] will be in when they take the exam because retrieval cues that are in the study environment can prompt the memory,” he said.

Anderson explained that studying in a classroom is better than studying in a bedroom, and studying “in the same classroom that you’ll be taking the exam in is better than just any classroom.”

Anderson also advises students organize materials and study in sessions rather than trying to study everything in one sitting. Making outlines of materials and writing notes in ways that make sense to the student are other ways that can help when studying.

Other than just studying, Salene Cowher, a graduate professor at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania, said positive thinking can help a student achieve better grades. If a student has negative thoughts running through their head, this will affect the way they study.

“If the student says, ‘I am going to succeed on this,’ but they still have those tapes [of negative thoughts] playing in their mind, that will get in the way of their success,” Cowher added.

Cowher also suggested students to get adequate rest and avoid caffeine or sugary foods while studying because they have an “initial jolt of energy, but then have a downer effect later on.”

“I also encourage students to take a breather and close their eyes for a few minutes and think of something positive before studying,” Cowher said.

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