During the length of finals week you probably have two goals: Do well on your exams and keep stress to a minimum.
Rather than turning to coffee and energy drinks, try these ten unusual strategies to study better and lower stress.
Vigorous exercise breaks can help relieve the stress that makes finals week so…stressful! Bicycling to and from school is one exercise that can help. In addition, brisk walks, runs, and other sports can be a good way to let off extra energy and regain your concentration. Just do not make your exercise breaks too long – keep it to 15 minutes at most.
#2 Eat Healthfully
Amazingly, many people eat even more unhealthily during finals week than they do during other seasons. With the shortage of time, they often eat whatever is quick and tasty. This is a big mistake. Junk food may give you instant energy, but it will damage your concentration and memory. Eating healthy food will increase your concentration and retention. Fruits and vegetables are best. Keep breads (whole wheat!) and meat (organic!) in moderation. Simply eating a healthy diet is an easy way to help manage stress and get good grades during your finals.
Some people can function well on three hours of sleep, but most people need more. Even during finals week, do not try to pull all-nighters. If you need your eight hours a night, get them! Plan plenty of sleep time in your schedule. Because sleep will help you study better, even though you will have less study time, the time you do have will be worth more.
#4 Take Short Study Breaks
Studying non-stop is actually not helpful. After a long period of studying, your concentration will be broken, and the material that you are trying to learn will not be retained well. A trick that I learned from Accelerated Distance Learning by Brad Voeller is taking study breaks. He explains that not all study time is equal. For example, one hour of solid study time is not as useful as three study times of 20 minutes with five minute breaks in between. In either instance, you would study for one hour, but in the second case your concentration and retention levels would be raised by the short breaks. During these short breaks you can exercise, eat, rest, or do some other activity that takes your mind off the study material.
#5 Choose Your Environment Carefully
Do not just start studying anywhere. Find a quiet, orderly place. Unfortunately, your dorm room is probably a bad place to study. With all the familiar objects around, it would be too easy to get distracted. Instead, try to find your “own” corner of the library. Everyday, get there early and start studying. A peaceful environment will be an immeasurable help to your concentration.
#6 Become a Time Miser
Beware of activities that steal your time unnecessarily. During the finals week, you must become a study machine. You do not have time to go out to lunch. Long talks with friends must be postponed until after your finals. However, you can have short (5 min.) talks during your study breaks. Basically, during finals week you should endeavor to forget that you have a social life. Everything that is not absolutely necessary must be put on hold.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” We have all heard and agreed with that old adage, but how many times do we still forget to plan? If you just start studying without a plan, you are likely to overlook important areas and over-study unimportant subjects. Plan your week, plan your day, and plan what to study.
#8 Get Help
Many students are afraid to ask for help. This is a big mistake. If you do not understand what to do or study, ask someone. You can ask friends, classmates, and professors. As long as you do not take too much of their time, any of those people will most likely be glad to help. After all, you are all working together. Doesn’t the professor want to see you do well? When you think about it, the student’s grades reflect on the professor’s teaching ability.
#9 Use Study Groups
Study groups are a very controversial subject. Should they be used or ignored? Much of the final decision depends on the individual group. Some study groups are not at all useful for study, and others are somewhat useful. The best way to use study groups, if you do use them, is for review. Learn the material by yourself, and review it by explaining the subject to the study group. Be very wary of using study groups to study – it rarely works.
#10 Double-Check Your Exam Times
You might think this is unnecessary. “Oh, I would never forget my exam times”, you might say, “I have even had nightmares about them!” Nevertheless, it has happened. When you are taking many exams in the same week, it is easy to confuse the times. Write the time on a sticky note and put it on your refrigerator, computer, class books…anything that you will see on a regular basis.
What are your favorite tips for thriving during finals week?