It’s that time. Finals. End of the semester. Pass or fail. STRESS.
Students across the country are dealing with the most demanding part of any semester. Papers, projects, last-minute revisions, and exams. This usually means late nights, extra caffeine and sugar, and little sleep. All in an effort to store a semester’s worth of knowledge into short-term memory and attempt to retrieve the exact right information at the right moment during an exam. I’m exhausted just writing this ridiculous strategy in a long run-on sentence.
There is a better way. The best way, of course, is to begin weeks before finals begin. If you find yourself running out of time, here are a few strategies to help you focus, manage your stress, and perform to the best of your abilities with the time you have now.
Create a Schedule: One of the most important things to do is create a daily schedule with blocked time and stick to it. Chunk the work down into manageable bite-sized pieces so you have a chance to get everything in. One of the biggest mistakes I see students make is to focus all their energy on one class and run out of time and energy to focus on the other four. Set reminders to switch to a different class, or chapter, or task. Don’t sacrifice your good grades by only studying for your most challenging class.
Form a Study Group: Studying with other people can be a terrific strategy, especially in classes where you may be struggling. There is usually someone in the group who understands a concept better than others or someone who just explains it in a way that makes sense to you. It’s also more fun to study with people. The caveat is that your group is studying and not just socializing. If you have a disciplined group of friends who are committed to doing well on their exam, go for it.
Take Short Breaks Often: It’s important to take breaks every couple of hours to get a (healthy) snack, move around, stretch, and clear the mind. Planning breaks with others to blow off some steam is a game-changer. Make sure you set a timer for 15-20 minutes, so you can jump right back in and get on task. Frequent and controlled breaks are key.
Breathe: Taking a few deep breaths any time you feel stressed, tired, or overwhelmed is a simple yet invaluable skill to master. Take a deep Breath in for 4 seconds, hold at the top for 4, exhale for 4, and hold at the bottom for 4. Repeat 3 times and feel the calm settling in. Try this right before your final and feel the difference in your performance.
Sleep: All-nighters don’t work. Take it from someone who once fell asleep during her final. Seriously, go to sleep. Getting a good 7-8 hours of rest will do more than trying to cram last-minute knowledge into your tired brain. You are more likely to retrieve the info you stuffed into your head after a full night’s sleep.
Now you are ready to tackle Finals Week. Crush it!