1. Create a good schedule and STICK TO IT – If you’re like me, you’re an obsessive organizer and everything has to be scheduled, even eating and showering. While most people aren’t necessarily this anal about their time and schedules, having a schedule can help out tremendously. This should have probably been prepared the week before finals so you can know what to study and when to study. But if you’re just now starting, do not fret. There’s still time. Create a schedule that carefully plans your projects, papers, and study time. Always leave room, so overestimate how long it will take you to finish a project, paper or review your notes. Never underestimate yourself because you’ll probably be even more stressed out that you didn’t finish in a certain amount of time. Create a schedule that you can manage during finals week. Also gather everything that you need in order to study – find all of your notes, make outlines, print off all of the slides, etc. Have all of the material at your fingertips in order to study. Avoid procrastination at all costs this week!
2. PRIORITIZE – Give everything a priority – such as studying for your chemistry final would get a 1) and visiting facebook would get a 10) on the priority list. Avoid wasting too much time reviewing material for a class that you have not had to study that much for. Also avoid reviewing unnecessary material completely. Only study what you absolutely have to. Finals week is not the time to be catching up on your textbook “just for fun” reading. If you have a final in a class and you’re on the edge between an A and a B, make that your top priority, even if the material is difficult. If you have A’s in every other class, obviously those would come behind your on the border class in terms of priority. If there is a class in which the final makes no difference to your grade whatsoever, that should get last priority. In essence, study for the most important courses first and those that are easier and don’t require much studying last. Prioritizing will not only reduce stress and help you organize what to study and when to study it, and will also help you get an idea of which finals are more important than others so you can effectively divvy up your time accordingly.
3. Study in your own personal/effective way – by this I mean what works for you? For me, I use tons of flashcards, make creative outlines with every color of Sharpie you can imagine – the prettier, more colorful notes the better. I also hi-lite a lot of material. I’m a visual learner and the brightness of the text stands out in my mind better easing recall of the information. Also, mnemonics can be your best friend! Learning material sticks in your head much longer if it is creative and appeals to you! I’ve often been known to do a dance or talk with my hands during an exam. However, don’t distract your classmates. Write on dry-erase boards, create a story, be able to teach someone else the concept! Also, where do you study best? I switch from my room to the library. Wherever you can find yourself getting the most out of your time, go there and stay there!
4. GET SOME SLEEP – As absurd as this may sound for us pre-meds, it’s actually true. Give your brain a rest. The ideal amount per night is 8 hours of sleep for the normal person, but as we all know, none of us fall under the normal category – we’re PRE-MED! Get at least 5-6 hours of sleep. Running on an all-nighter with excess amounts of caffeine can cloud your judgment, not allow you to focus and you could end up making stupid mistakes or misreading questions and answers which could possibly blow an exam! Studies have shown that studying right before you sleep is most effective and by this I mean, your body and mind must enter all three REM cycles in order to effectively recall information! Not sleeping can lead to you worrying, being unprepared, weaken the immune system, and lead to more stress! Pulling an all-nighter the week of finals is not good for your brain or body no matter how much time you will gain by studying all hours of the night.
5. EXERCISE! – Exercising is so beneficial to the body. It releases toxins from your body, increases heart rate to allow you to sweat, boosts metabolism, boosts your mood and energy, controls weight, promotes better sleep, and REDUCES STRESS. Exercise burns away cortisol and norepinephrine that cause stress and releases endorphins into your system which can make you feel much better, even after failing an exam. Do not overwork your body during this time and don’t make your workouts so exhausting to where you cannot study afterwards. Make them reasonable, fun, and effective workouts that you are capable of: such as running on the treadmill for 30 minutes listening to your favorite music or going over flashcards, walking for an hour, riding a bike or cycling for an hour or less. Avoid vigorous, strenuous exercise that will tire you or tear your body down. Do some abs at home, exercise with a friend, go to the local gym and pump some iron! Also, yoga is one of the best forms of exercise due to its physical activity plus relaxation! If your campus has any yoga or pilates classes for free, go take one in your spare time to give your mind a break from studying!
6. Get help (if needed) – Although it may be a little too late to raise grades in certain areas, for some of us, the final is the breaking point from a B to an A. If you don’t understand something, don’t be shy! Ask a teacher or a tutor or even another classmate for help. It’s never too late to do so! This could help you score some major points on the final if you don’t understand a certain concept. Schedule some extra hours of tutoring or visit the professor during office hours to get help in areas you need.
7. Have some fun and be social! – Can you even see what you’re writing in that Ochem lab report? Take a break and have some fun! By this I mean get dinner with a group of friends to get your mind off of studying for awhile, call that friend back home and talk for a few minutes, spend some time OFF CAMPUS, join a club etc. Don’t go overboard, but give yourself a rewarded break now and then! Vent with your friends, chances are they are facing the same issues and problems you are, unless they’re education majors. In that case, you probably don’t relate to their coloring and arts and crafts activities. 😉
8. DON’T PARTY! – With alcohol in your system, your judgments will be impaired as well as your focus. If you want to party, finals week is not the time to do so. Going out can cost you precious time of studying and can set you back. It can also make you sick and if you get too hungover, you could possibly sleep through an alarm and miss a test completely! Alcohol can remain in the system even if you no longer feel its effects. It can cloud your judgment greatly and not allow you to perform your best on test day. Save the partying for the day when all of your finals are completed! I promise it will be worth it!
9. EAT HEALTHY. Eating healthy will not only give you energy to study and make it through your tests, but it will also keep you healthy which can rid stress. A few good examples of some healthy foods:
- Protein bar – they fill you up and give you energy! They’re not too expensive either.
- Salad – this can satisfy both your stomach AND your brain!
- Sandwich – PB&J ,cold cut, etc. definitely your “classic” sandwiches. Nothing with grease, obnoxious amounts of sodium, fat, etc.
- Fruit – if you love sugar, fruit is the way to go! Its natural sugars can give you energy and also help you with that “sweet-tooth” craving. For more nutrition and energy, add peanut butter! The added peanut butter with an apple can help fuel your brain and give you extra energy from the protein!
- Trail mix – it’s easy, convenient, and fun. So many nutrients in such an easy mix. The mix can be healthy, give you energy, and with added small candies, also end the cravings of your sweet tooth. You can either make your own or go out to your local convenience or grocery store and purchase some, whichever is more convenient to you.
- Drink lots of water. Our bodies are made up of over 70% water and I’m sure we’ve all learned how important Osmosis is in the body. See why water is so crucial to functioning? Being dehydrated can lead to headaches, illness, and poor performance on exams. Don’t excessively drink water to the point of having to micturate every 20 minutes during the exam, but make sure you are well hydrated!
- Pasta (WHOLE GRAIN)– pasta is loaded with carbohydrates. If you have more than one final in a day and have to use your brain and energy for an extensive amount of time, I suggest carb-loading almost like how athletes carb-up before games and meets, except don’t gorge yourself which could lead to sleepiness due to the intestines and stomach stretching and swelling.
10. TAKE BREAKS – As much as we all wish we could study for 8 uninterrupted hours with no breaks, this would not be an effective study mechanism at all. Allow yourself to study for 1-2 hours, no longer. Take a 10 minute break in between – Check twitter, check facebook, feed your dog, do absolutely NOTHING, whichever floats your boat. Your brain can only handle and process so much information at once. Don’t overload it by excessive studying hours on end. Take those small, set breaks in order to recharge, break up the flow, and keep you from getting a headache from reading too much material at a time or focusing so long on material.
11. LIMIT THE COFEE! – Ahhhh I know some of you are coffee addicts, like me, but finals week is not the time for a cup of black coffee at 3 a.m. I am not saying to rid it completely, but limit as much as you can. As you know coffee is a stimulant that can often increase stress especially during times of high-stress periods aka FINALS WEEK. It can keep you up as we all know, and prevent sleep, and good, well-rested sleep at that. Get rid of coffee completely this week if possible but for most of us, knock your intake down to a cup or two a day or less. Replace your cups of coffee with water!
12. NO DISTRACTIONS – yes that means twitter, unfortunately. Turn your phone off, don’t get on twitter, facebook, instagram, blogs, etc. Avoid all social media altogether. Turn off the tv, radio, ignore those phone calls – unless they’re emergencies, resist the urge to go out, and don’t be afraid to say NO! However, some people study best with slight noises in the background. For me, I enjoy complete silence or classical music: Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky etc. Do what suits you best! Classical music would be better over television because you might be tempted to watch the shows or movies instead of study. Don’t be afraid to turn your friends down; most of your friends will accept the fact that studying comes first especially during finals week. Many of them will understand and you can plan an activity to do the week after finals together when all of your stress will be gone!
13. Most importantly, don’t stress about being stressed. Stress is a NORMAL bodily function as a result from stressful stimuli. So what if things don’t go your way? Find other solutions! What often helps me is writing things down. Make a list of everything that is stressing you out! You might find that some stressors are quite absurd and you can rid them from your life completely! We all go through stressful times and you’re not alone. Everyone on this Earth has experienced stress from time to time, although some have not experienced finals-related stress which to me, is a whole other level. If you’re stressed, admit it. Find a solution to your problems and figure out how to handle and deal with your stress! There are so many ways of coping that it is actually quite manageable. Admit that you’re stressed and instead of focusing on how stressed out you are, focus on getting through it and handling it!
14. THINK POSITIVE – you CAN pass that final and you CAN make it to see another day! Do not get down on yourself or let negative thoughts consume your thinking and activities. If you’re stuck on a problem or subject, try your best to get through it or skip it and come back. Sometimes answers are hidden in other problems and you can find them later on throughout the test. Picture yourself getting an A on that exam! Studies have shown that people who picture themselves doing well actually do better than those who don’t! See yourself short term, getting that A, passing the final, getting the highest grade in the class, getting a 4.0 and also long-term – putting on that white coat, etc. Positive thinking can be your most beneficial asset when it comes to finals week.
15. NEVER GIVE UP. If you fail a final, don’t dwell on it. There’s nothing worrying and crying can fix although that may be how you feel at the time. Chalk it up as a loss and move on! Don’t let one final or grade ruin your other finals and turn into a spiraling downfall. Don’t let one final get to you. If you did everything you could to prepare and you tried your best, that’s all that matters. Use your poor performance as a learning tool and motivation. Find out what you did and didn’t do and how to avoid or perform better in the future! Use it as motivation to ace all of the other finals. Don’t doubt yourself. Find your confidence. Don’t give up, no matter how hard that test is, don’t lose faith, and don’t lose sight of your true dreams, goals, and passions. EMBRACE FINALS! They can set you apart from the rest. Use them as your stepping stone to your career path, after all, you must pass them to move forward! BEST OF LUCK TO ALL OF MY FOLLOWERS DURING FINALS! HOPE YOU ALL ACE EACH AND EVERY TEST! XOXO