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Advice for surviving final exams week

December 12th, 2010 Posted in Arts and Life, Opinion

By Alex Thatcher

Even after five years as a college student, I still feel less prepared than I’d like to as we enter finals week. I still find myself putting in a few late nights and scrambling to finish a paper or cramming for an exam.

A helpful website confirms my impression that cramming for exams isn’t effective and should be avoided. “You should only cram for an exam as a last resort,” it says. “It’s hard to take in and retain a large amount of information in a short period of time.”

This doesn’t come as a surprise, yet so many students—including myself—end up cramming for finals. For many it may be too late to avoid cramming this semester, but whether you do or don’t, here are 10 tips to surviving finals week from the Office of Health Education:

1. Don’t panic. The first thing you should do is check the syllabus to see how much the final is worth. Remember, it’s only one component of your final grade. If it is worth 20 percent or less, you probably won’t be able to bring your final grade up or down by more than one grade level, unless you perform much better or worse than you have on other exams and assignments during the semester.

2. But don’t be too relaxed, either. On the other hand, you should try to do as well on the final as you possibly can. Sometimes the final is a significant part of your course grade—20 percent is still one-fifth!

3. Make time for “renewing” activities. This is not the time to stop exercising or doing other things that you find enjoyable. Pace yourself. You will study more effectively if you spread things out and take breaks.

4. Use an effective study method. The key to retention is repetition, and not overloading your brain by cramming.

5. Get enough sleep. Don’t pull an “all-nighter” before your final exam. You’ll do better if you are rested.

6. Resist the urge to party on “off” days. Instead, if you have a break in your exam schedule, use it to get a head start on the exams coming up.

7. Arrive on time. Be especially careful about setting your alarm the night before the final. Save yourself the anxiety and embarrassment of arriving late.

8. Follow the rules of good exam-taking. Read the question carefully before you answer, come up with the answer in your head before you look at multiple-choice answers, use elimination, budget your time (don’t spend it all on one question), etc.

9. Don’t worry if others finish before you. Take the time you need.

10. When the exam is over, let it go! Move on to the next one, or enjoy the holiday break.

I hope you find some of these tips useful and plan on using them this week, as I do. I don’t know about you, but after my last final I plan on first, taking a deep breath, and then doing anything but studying for a little while and enjoying a good holiday break.

But I know it will be more enjoyable if I do well on and feel good about finals.


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