The Exam Apocalypse: How to survive finals
The Final Exam Apocalypse is coming! It feels that way sometimes, and you may feel you need a survival guide to weather final exams. However, fighting your way through finals is not nearly as hard as fighting off a horde of zombies! You can follow a few simple rules that may help you sail through finals without sacrificing your health or sanity.
Rule 1: The time to prepare for finals is the first day of class.
You heard that right; start preparing for finals on the first day and you may have a much more comfortable final exam experience knowing you have studied. There are several reasons for this strategy. For one, many classes allow you to exempt finals if your grade point average and attendance are good. By planning to be in class every session and keeping your grades up, you may not have to take finals. Also handed out on the first day of class is your syllabus—the key to your final exam. The syllabus outlines the expectations for the course. From time to time you should review your syllabus and its objectives; this can be a great way to outline possible study questions for your final review.
Finally, studying throughout the semester is always better than cramming. In some cases, cramming can even be counterproductive found from a study out of the University of California, Berkeley stating that “steady absorption that’s key to long-term learning”. If you space out your studies to review, take in new material, and review again in measured increments, you are more likely to remember material for your final exam—and beyond.
Rule 2: Plan to study for finals at least one week in advance.
Two weeks is actually a more manageable goal for many, giving you ample time to review and associate detailed concepts to overall themes. Review overlapping sections each day; in other words, review some of the previous day’s material before you start on the next section. This will help you focus your mind on what you already know, which is the key to unlocking memory.
Rule 3: Thrive and survive! Take care of your health.
While you may need to engage in protracted study sessions, skimping on your health will not make you study harder or better. Every few hours, take a break, go for a walk, do some yoga, or engage in some other physical activity to counterbalance your mental hard work. Eat reasonable, frequent meals; gorging on pizza will make you feel bloated and sleepy, which aren’t exactly conducive to good studying. Instead, eat five or six times a day and plan small meals of fruit, cheese, lean meats, soups, whole grains, and other healthy foods. These can help you avoid spikes or drops in your blood sugar level.
Additionally, be sure to get plenty of sleep. No matter how much you need to study, skimping on sleep is not going to help your grades. A study out of the University of Alabama found that getting enough sleep is “crucial for memory consolidation and retention” and that “overnight studiers (or crammers) don’t have the benefit of that consolidation, so they will retain less information when it comes time to taking the test the next day.” Meaning, you can undo the benefits of hours of study by showing up at a final exam groggy and sleep-deprived.
Rule 4: Review essays and take-home finals several times before you turn them in.
If you rush through a take-home or essay final, you are likely to make mistakes. Instead of being in such a rush, take the time to review your work carefully. This means working every day on a section of your exam rather than trying to finish it all in one night. Each day, review the previous day’s work before starting on another section. Reserve a day or two prior to turning in your essay so that you can review the final product in one piece.
Rule 5: Alternate study topics.
Spending too much time on one topic eventually saturates your brain and makes it difficult to concentrate. Just switching from history to math can give your brain a jolt, so try setting a study time limit for each subject. When that time limit is reached, move on to another subject. You can come back to the original subject after a few hours if you wish, and continue this alternating pattern as long as you need to cover the material.
Follow the rules to avoid the Final Exam Apocalypse. The idea is not simply to survive your finals, but to ace them in style!
Chad Fisher is an education enthusiast with a passion for building education and career-oriented websites to help people learn more about careers that interest them. Lately his desire has been helping people start a career in Civil Engineering. Learn more about Engineering at CivilEngineeringCareers.org
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