Tips for a Less-Stressful More-Successful Final Exam Week

Staff Writers: COMM435 – Feature Writing Class

In just a few weeks, Wingate students will be faced with final exams. For some, the results of the test may change a letter grade or make a difference between passing and failing a course. For others, final exams may hold graduation in the balance. 

Whatever your situation, the following are a few simple tips that can up your odds of exam success. Here’s wishing you good luck and good grades!

Make a study guide . . .

Study guides can be a very effective tool to use for different tests, especially final exams. They can come in a number of forms including making flashcards or simply re-writing information. Sometimes you can use a friend to quiz you on the information. Sometimes a professor will provide students with a study guide.  Make sure to use this to prepare for the information that will be on the test. 

Don’t cram for your exam . . .

While cramming may be the ideal way to study for the procrastinator in you, Williams College psychologist Nate Kornell, Ph.D. found that although that last-minute study time may allow you to pass a test, you won’t remember the material for long. There is a lot of research that has shown spacing out study sessions over longer periods improves long-term memory. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why the spacing is so effective, but one possible cause is that over time people often forget what they learn during their initial study session. So, when students come back to the material later, the study session jogs their memory allowing them to recall what they learned the first time. This process of forgetting and retrieval helps cement the new knowledge in place.

Join a study group . . .

Studying in groups is beneficial for students so that they can share their notes with each other. It can help students bounce their ideas off of each other and it encourages students to think creatively and comprehend what will be on the exams. According to the Education Corner, many students feel more confident after studying in groups prior to taking their test. It can improve your notes, gives a support system, helps cover more material, and can be a fun way to study!

Take a break . . .

Taking short breaks during your study time allows room for you to de-stress and eat a quick snack or brain food. These breaks increase your energy, your ability to focus, and productivity, according to experts at Cornell University Health. Rest breaks can range from 5 minutes to an hour, and no social media does not count.

Spend time with pets . . .

Cortisol (the stress hormone) levels are already high in university students, but the levels get even higher as exams get closer. A 2019 study conducted by Patricia Pendry and Jaymie L. Vandagriff showed that students who were randomly assigned to participate in 10 minutes of hands-on interaction with cats and dogs had significantly lower cortisol levels. Polheber and Matchock found that therapy dogs have a stress buffering effect on students who took their tests in the dog’s presence. When studying, take 10 minutes of your time to spend time with your pet. If you don’t have one, Pendry and Vandagriff’s study showed that even just looking at pictures of animals reduces stress and anxiety. So  – look for cool dog videos on YouTube or google your favorite breed and scroll through the pictures. It may sound weird, but it is scientifically proven to help.

Exercise . . .

When you keep your body healthy, your mind stays healthy as well. Going beyond eating and sleeping well, if one regularly exercises it helps give the brain a clear horizon for focusing on studying or taking the actual exam itself. Exercise helps release tension and regulate oxygen to the brain, which leads directly to helping your brain retain information more clearly and to be able to recall it during exam time. 

Eat a real meal . . .

Eat a healthy, substantial meal the morning of an exam – something that will keep you awake.

Unfortunately, a bowl of cereal isn’t gonna cut it; all that sugar will just go right through you and you’ll be tired and hungry again before you know it. Try some oatmeal; oats are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. They’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Try making it with plant-based milk for an extra punch.

Don’t cheap on sleep . . .

While college students generally suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, the additional

stress and anxiety associated with exams can lead to students pulling “all-nighters,” or

not sleeping at all, to cram for tests. Unfortunately, those all-nighters can actually hurt

your grades. Some studies have found that getting a full night’s sleep before taking an

exam is correlated with better grades and a higher overall GPA. Research also shows that a brief nap late in the morning or early in the afternoon can help prevent “burnout.”

Taking a quick nap between exams may help you maintain peak performance for the

rest of the day. Many researchers even think that sleep can help improve your memory. Getting a full night of sleep after studying may help your brain “consolidate” new information. This may help you recall the information as you take the exam.

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