Studying for Finals

Chapman Pendery, a freshman, studying for finals, Dec. 10, 2017.

As college students, our lives can get pretty stressful at times. With so much work and so little time, it can be hard to find a balance between school, work and a social life, especially with finals season coming up on the horizon.

Add to this the times when you have several exams within the same week, or worse, multiple exams on the same day; it feels like there are definitely not enough hours in the day. Luckily, there are tips and tricks to help students survive a stressful week at school.

As far as studying goes, all-nighters are not the best possible method. Rapidly cramming information into your brain only activates short-term memory, which does not help you retain information. Additionally, sleep is a biological need, and sleep deprivation has a negative impact on the working memory.

Instead, a better approach to tackling several tests in a short period of time is to avoid procrastination by preparing a study plan in advance. Tackling a little bit of information every day allows the brain to retain more of it, and it creates less stress.

When dealing with multiple assignments or exams within a short period of time, time management is as important as planning ahead. Create a study schedule and dedicate a specific amount of time to each subject depending on factors like difficulty, the amount of material covered and proximity of the exam. It is important to stick to the schedule in order to avoid spending too much time on any one subject.

In regards to studying techniques, it’s important to go beyond simply reading through material, taking notes and highlighting or underlining texts. One method of studying is to create your very own study guide, complete with personal examples based on experiences as well as practice questions and answers.

For more technical classes like mathematics or physics, it is helpful to work out problems, explain the different steps and  draw out diagrams. Non-technical courses like psychology or history often tend to revolve around big ideas, which you should explain or reevaluate.

Flashcards are another extremely popular study method. These study tools are fairly easy to make; all you need is some index cards and a writing utensil. Those who are more internet savvy should create virtual flashcards using an app like Quizlet, which allows you to study on your phone. Additionally, this app provides other study tools and games as well.

As an added bonus, this particular technique allows you to study for multiple subjects simultaneously, which is great when you have multiple exams in the same week. When making paper flashcards for several different subjects, it is helpful to color code them based on their subject. With an app like Quizlet, one can create different sets of flashcards for each subject and alternate between sets when studying.

Also, studies have shown that one of the best ways to study is by teaching others, which allows individuals to develop a better understanding of the information. Additionally, stating material out loud ingrains information into your memory in a much more effective manner.

If you are not able to cover as much information as intended in one subject because of time restraints, move on to the next subject and come back to the initial topic if there is any extra time. Also, take the opportunity to learn from each experience by either giving yourself more time or figure out how to more efficiently get through the necessary material.

Of course, managing stress levels caused by academics goes beyond improving study techniques. When a student has multiple assessments within a week, stress levels tend to be rather high. It is important to eat healthy during a stressful time. People tend to eat more in response to long-term stress, caused by a release of cortisol.

When stress eating, it is important to choose appropriate snacks  that not only provide energy but also reduce hunger, which is a distraction while studying. If you want something filling, microwaveable oatmeal is the way to go. It’s quick and easy enough to make in a dorm room.

Fruits such as apples, oranges and bananas are not only cheap and full of vitamins but also require little to no prior preparation. Raw carrots and green veggies like celery or broccoli with a side of hummus or ranch dressing are also great snacks for similar reasons.

In contrast, short-term stress actually leads to appetite suppression; however, despite the lack of hunger, it is important to still eat. Snacks like trail mix and nuts are quick and easy, and they provide protein and energy needed to make it through the day.

With finals coming up in a month, the key to less school-induced stress is to plan ahead, eat healthy and, of course, get an adequate amount of rest.