Tips for Staying on Task to Study for the EMT Exam

By Arthur Hsieh

Studying for a major exam such as the NREMT exam can be daunting. Because it can feel overwhelming, you may be tempted to put it off for as long as possible. Anxiety builds, and before long, panic sets in and you end up cramming the last couple of days before the exam.

Don’t procrastinate! Studies repeatedly show that cramming does little to prepare you for an exam. It’s far better to take a few minutes to plan your studies — when you’ll study and where it’ll happen. Following a study plan takes more discipline, but it’s definitely worth it.

Set the stage

Create a space that promotes learning — not just the physical space but the mental space as well. Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t multitask very well. Your brain needs to focus intently as it figures out how all that information you’re feeding it fits together. Your goal is to clear all the clutter that can get in the way of a great study session.

Ideally, you want to find a space that affords you privacy and a little solitude. This space is not your bedroom or a super comfy couch. Studying is an active process; you don’t want to be so comfortable that you drift off or fall asleep!

A sturdy chair supports your body, and a table or desk allows you to keep things like your books and notes handy. Have a good task lamp for when lighting is dim; reading in poor light doesn’t necessarily make you go blind, but your eyes have to work harder, which can be distracting.

On the other hand, you may not be lucky enough to have a designated space to study at home. Places like a library may have quiet areas that promote a better study environment. A coffee shop may be too noisy and distracting, depending on the time of day. Keep track of when these spaces are open and when they may be less busy.

Have your study materials available to you. You don’t want to sit down to study, only to find out you’re missing your books or your notes. Keep everything you need in one place, whether on a table or in a backpack. This way, everything is available to you when you’re ready to go to work.

Distractions can be disastrous. You may feel you need to have the television running in the background. Posting a Facebook status like “Studying for my exam while my friends are partying” may be fun. Listening to music through your earphones may be entertaining. But in the meantime, you’re not focused on the real task at hand — studying.

So, as difficult as it may be, turn everything off — except your brain. Being off the grid and studying for an hour is likely to be far more effective than being distracted every couple of minutes for a few hours. Don’t worry; the world will still be there when you plug back in.

Stay on schedule

Studying is a task, and it takes priority over other tasks as you get ready for the NREMT exam. Give it its due! Start by taking a minute to consider just how much time you have to spend studying. The answer is different for everyone. Work and family commitments, along with sleeping, eating, and going to the bathroom, limit the amount of serious study time that’s available.

Don’t assume that you’ll be able to study at work — it’s too distracting. And don’t try studying if it’s your turn to take care of the kids. Keep in mind that you want to have the time and space to study effectively. Trying to fit it in somewhere is frustrating and unpredictable.

Be realistic in scheduling your time. You may think that you have superhuman abilities and can study for hours on end. That’s not likely. Just as you did during your EMT course, make the schedule work for you. Map out a new timetable that accommodates your work and life schedule. Keeping your study intervals to an hour or two at a time is more realistic.

This strategy makes scheduling study time easier and reduces your frustrations when life gets in the way. If you need more time than that, consider studying twice a day, maybe once in the morning and again at night. The bottom line: Make it work for you!

How much time overall should you spend preparing for the NREMT exam? It depends. The sooner you attempt the exam after graduation, the greater the likelihood of passing. Try to take the exam within two or three weeks. That will give you enough time to review any weak areas that you may have in your EMT knowledge.

After you set a schedule, stick to it closely. Maintaining a schedule makes studying a habit. Your brain will anticipate when it’s time to focus on your EMT studies. However, don’t be too strict with yourself. If something happens and you can’t stick to your schedule, simply find another time slot and study then.