Finals are among the most stressful occurrences for students everywhere – college students, graduate students, and everyone, everywhere. We are tested on material taught over the course of 16 weeks crammed into 5 short days. While this time period can be stressful, lacking sleep, and full of anxiety, I have learned some habits that help me thrive in this critical time period that happens at the end of every semester.
What is left in each course? Chapter 22 homework? A lab report? Each exam you’ll be taking? Make a list. Of EVERYTHING. Add the dates & deadlines. Simply writing these things down eases any bit of panic. You won’t miss a single thing! And this way, as soon as a task is done, nothing beats the gratification of crossing things off a list. I hang mine up where I can see it until the last task is done!
Break it down.
About two weeks prior to finals, with my comprehensive list of academic tasks and deadlines, I make tentative plans for each day in both my paper planner and on the sticky notes on my computer. This way, I have it available wherever I need it. This helps me stick to the plan. I start by making a (reasonable) list of everything I wish to accomplish that day.
Getting in a good workout is essential to my success. It grants me mental clarity and focus, and I feel great afterwards. It’s also a great distraction from the stress of exams and studying. When I exercise during this time, I do not bring any study material with me to attempt to read over. I designate time for the gym and crank up the tunes. One hour at the gym is not going to cause you to fail. In fact, it may even help you do better. 🙂
Every exam period, I clean my bedroom and organize the parts that may have become disordered from the craziness of the semester. This includes recycling old papers and receipts, clearing off my desk space, washing my bedding, wiping down my computer, and cleaning out my car. These simple practices just give me more mental clarity and less scatter-brain.
I will forever refuse to pull an all-nighter to study. Preparing and utilizing designated study time and blocking off specific time to do so prevents the build up of stress, or the thoughts of “I should be studying” [see last point]. I do my best to relax before bed and trust in my preparation for the upcoming exam. Sleeping 7-8 hours before an exam has proven to help students focus. Take melatonin and go to bed. 😀 I value hydration as well as proper nutrition and find them crucial in this time frame. Taking care of yourself overall is one of the best things you can do now and in the long run!
Give yourself something to look forward to when you’re done. Get drinks, buy yourself something you can wear or read, or go on a small road trip! My best friend and I take a road trip to Fargo as soon as we finish our last finals for the last few semesters. It is so nice to get out of town and switch up the scenery.
Designate time to study.
Allocating specific time to study (depending on how specific you want to get) has allowed me to eliminate that dreaded last-minute cramming. For example, one hour for chemistry, a half hour break for lunch, an hour and a half of creating a study guide, 1 hour at the gym… etc. The key is to be productive in that designated time. Remove distractions, fill up your coffee cup, and study! The most difficult aspect of this for me was getting the notion of “I need to be studying 24/7 to do well!!!” out of my head. The amount of time “studying” is simply not effective if it involves a lot of scrolling through social media (I speak from experience). One hour of focused studying is far better than two hours of distractions.
Now relax, take a deep breath, and trust in your preparation to do well on all of your exams. Good luck, my friends!