The time has come again! An intense amount of pressure, little, unsatisfying sleep, and excessive use of caffeine-based stimulants are what usually comprise the college student’s last week on campus. While stress comes with the territory of being in college, this particular time of each semester brings additional and often overwhelming expectations, as some professor’s base an entire semester’s effort on a 2-hour in-class final or a major paper.
Since the outcome of finals can notably accentuate or detract from what you have been working toward since the first day of classes, students tend to feel anxiety so great that it can become counter productive, and each student has their own distinctive way of handling the demands.
Senior Education Major Alisa Silvestri explains that although cramming is recommended to be avoided at all costs, sometimes it is inevitable.
“I am so wrapped up during the day with classes and work that I’ll usually only get to study at night,” said Silvestri. “I feel like there is a lot of pressure during final time because if you’re not studying for tests, you’re under the gun to get papers done and hand other things in. I don’t end up getting to bed until really late.”
Since the majority of students are inclined to forget most of what they cram directly before the exam, due to lack of rest and the inability to absorb such a great deal of information in such a short span of time, it is recommended to instead, assess what you have to learn and separate it into manageable chunks of work over a period of days. Begin each study session with a review, recapping the main points you studied the day before and connecting them to today’s session.This will allow you to get a sense of the “big picture”, recognize how each component relates to the basis of the class as a whole, and have enough surplus time to get adequate sleep for each exam.
“Surprisingly, I think that I sleep enough during final time, because I tend to try and balance my work out well over the extent of the week,” said Junior Public Relations Major Alissa DeRuscio. “However, I know it would be a lot more difficult if I had another major priority besides school, which can be a disadvantage to some students.”
For those students who hold the added responsibility of a part-time job, the balancing act that is college can seem like even more of a struggle, but the key to succeeding on finals is to utilize whatever time you have allotted for studying, despite how big or small, to actively engage in the material.
There is a big difference between rushing to manipulate facts or formulas into your short-term memory and actually being able to develop a true understanding of the material, which will essentially program the answer to any question they could possibly throw at you into your long-term memory. Ask yourself what parts of the topic you do and do not understand, and then what kind of questions can be drawn from them. Recite facts orally or talk about the topic with family members, and develop pneumonic devices to aid memorization.
Also, don’t underestimate the value of a breather, whether it be after finishing a section or right smack-dab in the middle of a struggling thought. Delaying gratification can be especially effective during a study session, as completing a task will grant you a much-appreciated reward, i.e., a snack, a phone call, a cup of coffee. Also, if you happen to hit a road block and can’t seem to focus, removing yourself from the material for a bit can be in your best interest. While persistence is crucial, so is maintaining your energy level to avoid crashing.
“To relax the brain for an hour or two, I’ll grab some coffee and watch a movie or some television, or take a nap,” said Senior Sports Management Major Sal Brucculeri. “Then I come back to it, with more energy and ready to keep going.”
Lastly, if you must cram, try to follow the one major rule of studying-preparation.
Plan the cram session, at your time of peak performance. Some students may feel most productive during daylight hours, while others don’t feel pressured enough to begin until the sun goes down. Whatever time of day you find yourself hitting the books, ditch any guilt you may feel for waiting until the last minute and use every moment to your advantage. Anxiety will lessen as you conquer the workload, so panicking will only delay you from feeling relief!
Commit to understanding essential material and studying summaries and conclusions, as opposed to trying to get through entire novels or textbooks. Keep in mind how the exam will be graded, focusing on the parts that carry more weight and less on the parts that leave room for correct guessing, i.e., short answer vs. multiple choice.
Take brief breaks regularly, avoid snacking on heavy food which will induce tiredness, and keep light snacks on hand, like fruit or crackers. Know your own sleeping habits, and whether or not lack of sleep will affect your performance more than lack of study. Use stimulants carefully, as an overdose of coffee can cause a rapid caffeine high which will always be supplemented by a crash.
Ultimately, maintaining a positive attitude about your own abilities can have a surprising and impressive impact on the outcome of your final.
“I just try to take everything in stride and not stress, and just take what I learned throughout the semester and apply it during the final,” said Junior Speech Pathology Major Stephanie Adler. “A little anxiety is good, but being overstressed is a burden on the system, so I just remind myself of my capabilities, and enter the room with confidence, and I usually end up doing great.”