Thursday, December 9, 2010

10 Tips for Finals

It's that time again! Finals are almost here, and so are all-night cram sessions, caffeine overdoses and flashcard explosions. But before you go hide under your covers and cry over the countless hours you spent playing tetris when you should have been studying, consider these unlikely tips—many of which came from the team in Gordon's Academic Support Center—to help you succeed. They could mean the difference between your sanity and roaming around campus with a case of the jitters.

1. Before bed, make a plan for the next day—decide what time to get up and what to study first. It helps you get out of bed in the morning because you have already made decisions about what you are going to do, and you have had a chance to emotionally prepare.

2. Keep a big bottle of water with you as you study. The brain is mostly made up of water, so drinking water helps you think better, be more alert and concentrate. Caffeine drinks are dehydrating, so put off drinking them as long as possible into your study time.

3. Stay focused. If you're having trouble getting into the material, try the five-minute method. You can do anything for five minutes, so set a timer and force yourself to study for just five minutes. When the alarm rings, tell yourself you only have five more minutes and so on. Pretty soon you will get into the studying groove.

4. Cramming. We all know it’s overwhelming, but sometimes you just have to. Concentrate on what you have to do and make the best use of your time. This same advice also goes for all-nighters. If you have a late night of cramming on your schedule, try to study somewhere far away from your bed to keep from
closing your textbook for a quick nap. (And bring water!)

5. Writer's Block. Take a series of slow deep breaths and try to relax yourself. Clear your mind and think about something else for a minute. After you've cleared your thoughts, think back to your studying and things usually start to come back. If there are topics you are worried about remembering for a test, look them over right before the exam. When you first get the exam, turn it over and do a “mind dump” writing down everything you want to remember. Then you can refer to it and not worry about forgetting it when you get to a question. Also try stretching half way through your exam to help oxygenate your blood and improve circulation. This technique should help you feel less fatigued and more alert, which is always helpful for doing one’s best on an exam.

6. Eat well. Don’t skip meals this weekend or next week. Eat high protein, high fiber and low carbs to keep your blood sugar at a steady level. High-carb snacks give you quick energy, but the aftereffects of a big drop in blood sugar leave you groggy and lethargic. Instead, try apples, eggs, chicken, fish and whole grains. Get fiber and protein into each meal during finals week.

7. Jump around. Break up your study time with some physical activity. Get your blood flowing by running up and down the stairs, a fast-paced walk around the quad, or putting on a dance jam and creating your own Napoleon Dynamite dance impression. Try to get a few minutes of physical activity in every two hours.

8. Study Groups. Study with people who have done well on their exams—not with friends (unless they've done well on their exams!).

9. Flashcards. Make two piles—the topics you know well and the things you don’t know at all. Work on the stuff you don’t know and just occasionally refresh the ones you do know.

10. Overwhelmed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, just do the next thing in front of you. Remember the African proverb: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Academic Support staff can help you organize a study schedule if you need advice. Ask your family and friends to keep you in their prayers. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and relatives are a great support during stressful times.

Also, remember the staff in the Academic Support Office has created additional quiet study halls on campus, and has subject tutoring, snacks, and lots of great advice for students needing any support during examination time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In classic 20-20 hindsight, I would suggest that what a student does at the start of a course significantly impacts what happens at the end of the course. A weak start usually leads to a stressful finish.

I am surprised to see no mention of student gatherings for prayer seeking God's intervention as finals are prepared for. "And how blessed all those in whom You live, whose lives are roads You travel."