As you move into the end of a semester, the pressure of exams can daunt even the most successful students. It’s a busy time of year in general, and the mounting strain of a large looming test can feel outright agonizing! Fear not. Here is a list of go-to tips to help you be your most prepared and confident self going into those final exams (or any tests, at any time!)
Prioritize and get your schedule in order. Which final gets first, as they say, dibs? It might be the one that gives you the most stress, your most challenging subject, or perhaps one that holds more weight on your final grade. Whatever the reason, pick an order of how you want to tackle each subject area and test. You might devote five hours to an algebra final and only two to an English one, or perhaps vice versa. Know yourself and set realistic goals for each individual exam.
- Get organized (click here for more tips from the New Yorker)
Gather your materials and get them in a relatively neat and organized folder and space. Do you use tangible materials, like notebooks and flashcards? If so, get them in order. Know where they are. Have all necessary textbooks, novels, printouts, and websites readily available. Are you more techie and have it all compiled on your laptop or tablet? Have a folder on your device for each set of test notes.
- Pick a study space
The area where we choose to study can have a great impact on our ability to concentrate and retain information. Where do you focus and study best? The library? Coffee shop? At home in your room? Pick a space that you know is conducive to concentration and staying on track. Perhaps a study partner helps you, someone to bounce ideas around with or to quiz you, and maybe you do your best alone. As an article from Edutopia states, if you’re introverted, certain personal choices will make learning a whole lot easier. You might need to choose the absolute quiet or invest in some of those noise-cancelling headphones. If you’re more extroverted and like the bustle of a study group, join one or form a crew of your own.
- Talk to your teacher/professor
Got some last minute questions? Need some clarity on a certain formula, theme, or essay question? Don’t be afraid to talk to the teacher. Bounce some of your ideas off of them. Engage in a dialogue about what you learned throughout the semester. Reflect on what you’ve learned and also look ahead. Such conversations not only help clarify your queries, but they can also create a bit more peace of mind around a stressful time. (Just, you know, don’t badger them - they’re stressed, too!)
- Set goals and rewards
Setting small goals for each study period and providing rewards at the end of both small and larger tasks creates motivation and inspiration. If you put in a solid two or three hours working through your science or history notes without huge interruptions to check social media, give yourself a nice reward, like a delicious (nutritious) snack or something indulgent for the weekend like a massage or a little shopping trip. Humans respond very well to the process of achieving something and being rewarded, so do a little experiment on yourself. That snack or massage or shopping item will feel far more satisfying if you’ve sufficiently met a goal. Try it out!
And the icing on the cake…
If you take good care of yourself and practice these suggestions, things will fall into place, but always remember to put good self-care at the forefront of your overall recipe for success. Remember those things mom used to bug you about, like eating well and getting enough sleep? Well, they work! Stay hydrated and well-fed on nutritious snacks, avoid all-nighters, get some exercise and time outdoors, and perhaps try meditation or breathing exercises in order to keep the cortisol and adrenaline in your body to a healthy minimum. Most of all, have confidence in your ability to be successful. Best of luck, and remember - learning is fun!
About the Author
Stephanie Ingraham is a former English teacher turned writer and tutor with a BA in English from UCLA and a Masters in Education from Pepperdine University in Los Angeles. She is deeply passionate about education, psychology, child and adolescent development, literature, and writing. She believes the education world can benefit greatly from the meditation world - mindfulness and self-compassion are key! In her free time she loves reading and writing, music, baking, yoga, dance, animals, and exploring new cities. She currently lives in Chicago, Illinois.