Let’s talk about final exams. This word that can generate fear, nervousness, stress, and anxiety. I have experienced all of these feelings before during finals week. Having just completed another set of finals, I would like to share some tips that have helped me get through finals thus far.
Tip 1: Prepare at the beginning of the semester.
How? Well, you get your syllabi within the first days of classes and sometimes even earlier thanks to technology. So, mark on a calendar when each of your finals will being taking place. Just laying them out and seeing how far away the dates are can relieve stress. Once you have written the dates and times, look at how many chapters will be covered in the courses. Then, mark in your calendar when to review a couple of chapters per week to slowly build your studying a month before the exams. This reminder will eliminate the stress of cramming before each final. Early preparation within the first week of classes can help you feel in control of how you will tackle challenging finals at the end of the semester.
Tip 2: Learn as you go.
When studying for “Test 1” in a course, remember that you are studying for “Test 1” and the final exam. I had a teacher in middle school who once said to me, “If you learn something for the moment, you never really learned it. You have memorized it. When you learn something, you learn it for life.” I think about this quote before starting each semester and it reminds me to learn the material and not memorize it. If you actually learn the material as you go, you don’t have to worry about “relearning” it for the final exams. If you learn it when it is being taught in class, you will just have to do a quick review to get a “refresher” of the material during finals week. It makes a huge difference energy and time wise when having to study.
Tip 3: Take care of yourself.
Remember to breathe, eat, and sleep. I know that it may be much easier said than done, but taking care of yourself during finals week is key. The stress can be overwhelming and anxiety can build as exams approach, but remember that you can learn to control your nerves and anxiety so that you do not blank out during tests. For example, take deep breaths before studying and before each exam and take breaks in between study sessions as a “breather.” These breaks may be listening to music, cleaning, taking a walk in fresh air, dancing, working out, etc., to just give your brain a fun break.
Our bodies need food. I know we can get caught up studying and preparing, but nutrition is very important. If your body lacks the nutrition it needs, you can’t learn as well, and you will not perform at your best during exams. So, even if you don’t feel like you have time, stop to eat! It will pay off in the end and you’ll feel better.
Sleep is important for our energy during exams and for our learning! I have personally never pulled an “all nighter” since I know that our brains need that consolidation period that takes place during our sleep. If the material you are studying does not consolidate and get stored in your brain, then you will not be able to retrieve the information. Therefore, you need sleep more than ever when studying for final exams. My friends are the perfect evidence as to why “all nighters” are not a good way to handle studying for exams. They have told me themselves that they did not think it was worth it once they get their grades back. With the comments my friends have made to me about their grades correlating with their “all nighters,” I think I’ll pass. I would advise others to treat themselves to sleep as I do because it is truly needed during finals week.
Tip 4: Learn the “Study Strategies”
We all have our own methods of studying, but I have realized over the course of a semester that there is this one amazing website that all students need to know about before final exams and even before going to college. The Learning Scientists (www.learningscientists.org/blog/2018/1/11-1) is a website that I find introduces the absolute BEST studying strategies. My professor for my Learning and Memory course this past semester introduced this website to me and I would like to share it to my fellow first-gens who are either about to start their college journey or who have already started and could use this going into the next semester. Utilizing this website has allowed me to realize that certain strategies work better for certain courses and that all the strategies help with learning the material better. I hope this website can help you all with studying for exams the same way it helped me this previous semester. Enjoy!
I hope that these tips will help prepare those of you who have yet to start college and hopefully even help those who have started college and would like to improve the way in which you tackle finals. Remember to be confident and to know that if you use the tools that work best for you, then you’ll be able to succeed with less stress.