Finals week can be hectic and stressful! But this important time does not have to be filled with anxiety and chaos. There are things you can do to avoid potential problems and conflicts during your finals. Read over the suggestions below and create your own strategy for success.
1. Find a secret hiding place. When settling in to study for your next finals, the last thing you need is a loss of concentration caused by a noisy party in the room next door. You could also have the unpleasant surprise of a (noisy) unexpected guest in your own room, like a roommate's friend or study partner.
If you are the type of student who needs a quiet space where you won’t be distracted by music or loud voices, you should prepare by finding a secret, quiet spot that you can use if you need it. Reserve a room in your library if you have that option, or look for a building that has lots of faculty offices. Students usually avoid those!
If it’s the last minute and you can’t plan ahead, just look for an empty classroom. There are usually plenty of those during finals.
2. Stock up on supplies. Don’t run the risk of wasting time during the test trying to find a replacement pen or pencil. Be prepared by packing a supply of replacement tools. Pack your bag with pens, pencils, blue books, paper, a spare calculator, or any other gadget you might need during your tests.
3. Visit the instructor. It never hurts to visit your teacher and find out as much as you can about the exam. Keep in mind: it’s true that teachers don’t like to hear students ask "What’s going to be on the test?" Of course they’re not going to divulge that.
But it is OK to ask the teacher some questions. Every teacher is different, but you might be successful in asking your instructor things like:
- What’s the most important thing to focus on?
- What themes or ideas should I think about to prepare for the test?
- Is there a part of the book that I can ignore when studying (it happens all the time!)?
- Will there be essay questions?
4. Test and trade. The best way to prepare for a test is to take a practice test. For best results, you should find a partner, make up test questions, and switch practice sheets. Test each other, in other words. You’ll be surprised how accurately you both predict the questions you’ll find on the actual exam.
5. Stop and start. Your brain likes to take breaks. It retains information best when it experiences repetition. This means you should study until you get tired, then take breaks and return to revisit material. An overnight rest is best, if you have the time.
6. Eat and drink wisely. Do you know that caffeine can have a bad effect on your memory? Don’t make the mistake of staying up all night and filling up on caffeine. That just leaves you sleepy and fuzzy headed during the exam.
7. Try chunking. No, this has nothing to do with disgusting frat party activities. Chunking is a way of condensing information into smaller and smaller "chunks" until one word can prompt you to remember an entire page of information.
8. Use your head. You can avoid common test problems by applying a little bit of common sense. If you are inputting answers on a bubble sheet, for example, please take a moment to align your answer sheet accurately! Many students have bombed exams because their answers were placed on the wrong lines of the bubble sheet.
Also use common sense when it comes to behavior. Don’t be tempted to attend that party on the night before a test. It’s too easy to overstay and miss out on valuable study time.
Common sense also comes into play when it comes to pacing yourself during a test. Don’t spend all your time on a few questions and leave half of the test blank! And try to answer high-point questions first, then move on to questions worth fewer points.
9. Mind the calendar. To avoid real trouble with deadlines, keep an eye on your planner to avoid conflicts in your study time. For example, don't end up trying to study for a biology exam on the same night you need to finish a history research paper. Even if it is against your nature, learn to plan ahead during finals week! You can go back to your old self after exams.
10. Try an ancient technique for staying calm and confident. Some say there is great power in positive thinking during a challenging time. Why not try thinking yourself into a positive state by using ancient methods of Eastern philosophy? If you’re open to alternative medicines, give one of these techniques a try.
A mudra is a hand gesture that is believed to have some influence on the body’s energy flow. Some believe that focusing on a specific mudra will help manifest positive effects. The Hakini mudra helps thinking and concentration.
Another technique you could explore is meridian tapping. This is a technique used to free oneself from mental anxiety or fear. It involves a sequence of gentle tapping motions on specific locations of the body to clear negative emotions from your energy field.
Others have found success using affirmations in the hours before a test. These are simply positive messages you say to yourself to "affirm" the good things you know about yourself—those positive thoughts and traits that you possess that will help you succeed as you face the challenges of test day stress.