Final exams are the time of year that pretty much every student dreads. It seems like no matter how much studying you did over the semester, there’s simply always more to learn than feels humanly possible.
So, it’s only natural to wonder if there’s a nootropic—cognitive-enhancing compound—out there that will help you prepare for and perform well on your exams. Fortunately, there are multiple nootropics that can give you the boost you need to perform at your best.
When choosing the best nootropics for studying, there are a few qualities that you’ll want to look for:
- Enhances ability to stay awake
- Increases memory and learning abilities
- Promotes focus and mental energy
- Boosts mood and motivation
You may find that you’ll want to take a different nootropic when studying than what you take during the exam itself. For example, studies have found that caffeine can help you stay awake and work faster, but the jury is still out on whether or not it positively or negatively affects memory and test performance.
Highlighted below are the top three nootropics that help you focus, stay awake, learn more, and perform at your highest level on test-day.
Stimulation and Fighting Fatigue: Caffeine + L-Theanine
You may have never realized it, but caffeine is the most popular nootropic around the world. Most people head straight towards their personal caffeine source—whether that’s the coffee maker at home, a caffeine-spiked drink from the grocery store, or the largest cream-and-sugar laden drink at the local coffee shop first thing in the morning.
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And it’s no mystery why: caffeine helps people wake up in the morning. Additionally, it can make it easier to find the motivation to get things done, the energy to keep going through the day, and even the extra help you need when pulling an all-nighter to study for an exam.
Furthermore, many people believe that caffeine can help them more readily learn new material, although the evidence for this use is not as strong.
Nevertheless, research has found a range of benefits that caffeine can provide that can help you excel during final exam time. Caffeine helps individuals stay awake, feel alert, speeds up work rate, and reduces feelings of fatigue.1
However, there is one important fact to keep in mind if you decide to use caffeine when studying for exams: studies examining the effects of caffeine on memory have found contradictory results. It appears that caffeine may inhibit working memory (this is the memory used when you are trying to remember relevant information in the moment—the memory you use when taking a test).2
This suggests that it may be best to keep caffeine use reserved for when you need extra energy to stay awake or to finish a project quickly, but you may want to avoid using it when you’re actually taking the test.
With that said, it’s postulated that this decrease in working memory may be largely a result of the overstimulation that caffeine can cause. To remedy this overstimulation while maintaining the beneficial effects of caffeine one should supplement with L-theanine.
In one study, individuals who took both 50 mg of caffeine and 100 mg of L-theanine were found to experience greater improvements in focus and memory than those who took just 50 mg of caffeine. This study found that both groups saw improvements in energy, speed, and accuracy, suggesting that L-theanine doesn’t take away from the benefits of caffeine, but rather enhances them.4
All-Natural Boost for Memory and Learning: Mind Lab Pro
Mind Lab Pro is an all-natural nootropic supplement made up of 11 nootropics that have been chosen because of how they work together. Rather than boosting attention and focus through stimulation, Mind Lab Pro’s formula is designed to enhance memory and learning, boost focus, reduce mental fatigue, and increase memory recall.5
Its ingredients include:
- Bacopa monnieri
- N-acetyl L-tyrosine
- Lion’s mane mushroom
- Maritime pine bark extract
- Rhodiola rosea
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B9
- Vitamin B12
You’ll want to take this natural nootropic every day as some of the ingredients increase in efficacy the longer they’re taken. Additionally, you can combine this memory and learning stack with caffeine or other stimulants when you need extra help staying awake or working quickly.
The Ultimate Study Nootropic: Modafinil
Some students are looking for a nootropic that provides benefits most similar to Adderall, or the “limitless” pill. If this is you, the nootropic you’re looking for is a synthetic drug called Modafinil.
Modafinil has been shown to promote wakefulness without the jittery feeling that you get with traditional stimulants like caffeine or Adderall. Additionally, it can help you stay awake overnight while improving your memory and cognitive function.6 It also helps boost attention, which is extremely helpful when taking an exam or cramming all night long.7
Be careful to use Modafinil sparingly and know there are some side effects.8
Whether you are studying for midterms, finals, or a standardized test, these nootropics will help you stay awake, focused, and motivated to optimize your studying potential.
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