How to survive finals week

Final exams don’t have to be so stressful.

Every year, right around finals week, the school buzzes with anxiety, and it can be hard to avoid it.

When I was a freshman, I was overwhelmed because I needed to do well on numerous exams but didn’t know how to study for them.

The week before finals, I retrieved every piece of paper I’d received from my teachers and started reading through them. Big waste of time. I spent hours studying just to feel like in the end I would’ve gotten the same grade if I hadn’t done anything at all.

Final exams don’t have to be worth the anxiety many people face. As a senior who lives at a high stress-level year around, I’ve finally cracked the code for success — and it’s simpler than you think.

The biggest key is to make a plan of action. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by how many tests I have to study for, I organize my thoughts by creating an outline.

Last year, I had three big finals: physics, math and government. Before I started studying for them, I wrote down the day/time, my current grade and what I needed to do to earn the grade I wanted. This included emailing the teacher, focusing on specific units, and watching videos. When I was finished, I felt calmer seeing everything laid out in front of me. This may seem like a waste of time, but knowing the exact steps you need to take to get the grade you want will relieve some anxiety about feeling lost or overwhelmed.

Realistically, final exams are only beneficial if you’re sitting on a border grade, like an 89 percent. This means prioritizing the exams that will make the biggest impact on your grade. This will help reduce the amount of work that you actually have to do and reduce the stress of having to study for every test like it’s going to make or break your grade.

I like to say, I do my best work with just a little bit of caffeine. Drinking a medium iced coffee or a strawberry acai refresher from Starbucks while I work dramatically increases my efficiency. With a little boost of energy, I am able to focus for a long period of time and actually retain the information.

Better yet, sitting in a coffee shop gives you nothing else to do but drink coffee and work. It doesn’t have to be caffeine either. Many people have their own sources of energy that work, for example, snacking on Nerd Clusters, Mike & Ikes or Trader Joe’s takis. It’s worth a try if you feel that you can’t study after a long hard day at school.

I know this may seem like a given, but I cannot stress this enough: study the study guide and only go back to your notes if you don’t understand something. Teachers give study guides for a reason, and chances are that they put very similar or the same questions on the test. When I was in physics last year, I noticed my teacher would put at least one question that was exactly on the study guide on the real test.

I’m not saying that using notes and previous assignments won’t help, but utilizing the study guide religiously will increase your efficiency and steer you in the right direction if you don’t know where to start.

When I was a freshman, I was under the misconception that I had to stay up late to cram during finals week. After a certain hour, my brain doesn’t retain any information. During finals week, many people stay up late, but senior Kylie Houghton does the opposite. “I go to bed early, and I wake up at 5:30 am to refresh my brain and look at my notes for 10 minutes,” she said.

While I know everyone learns differently, numerous students have mentioned to me that they don’t have an efficient way of preparing for big tests. From my experience, following the general study tricks like listening to music, taking breaks and going outside have never found their place in my study routine. When I get in my zone, I don’t want to stop. Making a plan for how I’m going to study significantly reduces the amount of time I spend actually preparing for tests.

Although December is one of the hardest months for high schoolers, it’s also the most rewarding. There are numerous ways to study, but I’ve made the recipe simple: make an action plan, eat/drink while working, memorize the study guide and get sleep. Good luck, and I hope all of your finals go smoothly!

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