Categories: Academics

How To Survive Exam Week And Finish The Semester Strong

Upon loading my Canvas site today, you won’t believe it, it’s not even exam week and one of my professors for next semester has already uploaded their Canvas site for me to view. What was his first message to us you may ask? He was letting us know what books we will need for the spring semester. It is November. Can he not allow me to end the suffering of this semester first before springing next semester onto me? Get it, “spring”-ing, because it’s going to be the spring semester? Okay, I’m lame. Anyway, I wish I was kidding, but at least we now know he’s not that professor who takes forever to update their canvas. Now that we are all getting those annoying course evaluations popping on our screen, the panic, late nights, early mornings, and obsessive espresso drinking is here. Finishing the semester strong while ensuring you don’t go into an all-out anxiety-ridden, library hermit is one of the hardest things we do all semester. No need to worry, calmness is to our advantage during exam week and I am going to tell you how to keep it. 

1. Plan ahead

If you don’t have a planner by now, it may be too late, but if you do, start by writing out all of your assignments from now until the end of the exam week. This is what we will use to build our game plan. If there are any projects, highlight them or write them in a different color from everything else. Homework will go in another color, and tests in another. Since tests require studying, we need to avoid the chances of you having to pull an all-nighter by waiting until the night before. Plan to begin studying at least four days before. That’s an absolute minimum to avoid stressing yourself out and cramming too much information in. Next, decide how big your projects are and set aside time to get these done early, so you won’t have to worry about them too much while studying. Finally, fill in the gaps with your last homework assignments. 

2. Sleep

I know it’s going to get stressful, I’m already there with you, but the last thing you should do is lose sleep before exam week. Please give yourself at least six hours of sleep, if possible. Not allowing yourself sleep will not only cause further anxiety, but it will prevent your brain from being able to sort through all of the new information you are studying, making it harder for you to study. Whatever you have to do, you need to rest, mentally and physically. You may think that you’re helping by pulling the all-nighter and cramming as much information as possible. However, you are only exhausting yourself, and possibly making it less likely for you to actually do well. 

3. Start now

I know we are still three weeks away from exam week, but you will want to thank me later. Start now. You’ll wait, and you’ll panic because you don’t have enough time. Do a little bit each day, and pretty soon you will be done and won’t feel so behind; you may even end up ahead, what’s so wrong with that? Take advantage of your Thanksgiving break as well, I know you want to relax and forget about everything going on at school and I agree that you need to get quality time with friends and family. However, if you find yourself bored or you have a spare moment, squeeze in an assignment or a small chapter of studying you have to do. I know the last thing you want to do is eat your turkey and stuffing in front of your math notes, so how about you eat your leftovers with them instead? I promise you all, I will do the same.

4. Pick your study setting

I have a very bad habit of studying in my bed; do not study where you sleep. My studying turns into quick naps, and then nothing ever gets done nearly as quick. Instead, think of a place that will be comfortable that promotes your creative thinking but will not disturb or distract you from your studies. Some people love coffee shops because they can get a constant flow of coffee, listen to light music, and work without any distractions. Other people can’t even think in a coffee shop with the constant noise. No matter what you prefer, figure out what promotes you to work the hardest and fastest. I am writing this with quiet music in my kitchen because it is the best way to keep me from turning on a t.v. or reaching for my phone. There are tons of places you can study at, it’s a college town. Some places around FSU could be the sweet shop, Strozier and Dirac, one of the Starbucks locations on or near campus, a dorm hall study room, maybe even your kitchen.

5. Study groups

Nothing keeps you more responsible for staying on task than a study group created by individuals in your classes. They will keep you responsible to meet and study with them; whereas you could easily put it off if you were scheduling it on your own. Plus, they are also beneficial for solving problems you may not be able to on your own or adding perspective you hadn’t thought of yet. If you have trouble going to your professor, this could be a good opportunity for you to get tutoring from people in the class with you. 

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6. Meet with your professor and ask questions

Another benefit of starting now is that you can start asking questions before it’s too late. There’s nothing worse than studying the night before a test and realizing that absolutely none of what you are reading makes any bit of sense to you, no matter how many times you read it. In these cases, you should try to meet with your professor, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Going and talking to them now can clear up your understanding sooner rather than later; also, there will be tons of other people wanting to meet with them the closer we get to the end of the semester. You may find it difficult to meet with them the later that it gets. 

7. Create study guides

Study guides are a college student’s best friend. If I don’t have a professor giving them to me, I make them on my own. I create general guidelines of the things we have done so far, determine the topics we covered more in-depth, and glance over old readings. From there, I decide what we spent the most time on and begin with studying the topics I know that I have the most trouble with. I am a firm believer in rewriting information and the ability you have to memorize it better that way, so I will even go so far as to rewrite old notes that I know I had a hard time understanding the first time around. If possible, ask your professor what sites they recommend for studying or what information they plan on including on the test. It never hurts to ask, it only shows that you care and you would like to study the right information. 

Exam week is known for being the worst week of the semester, with the week of midterms following in a very close second. With everything piling up and your grade riding on how you do on this one last thing, it’s no wonder we see a lot of tears in Strozier. However, with a great deal of planning and getting head, we can have better control over our stress, time, and grades. We put our pressure on these last few grades, but if we took the time to concern ourselves with it way before exam week, we could stress less about our grades.

Featured image source: Pinterest
Taylor Saathoff

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