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How to survive exam season

Author: Yi Nuo

Man, who doesn’t just love final exams?  The never-ending stress, the weight of impending doom as your exam approaches, the draining feeling after an exam that you know you bombed… You’d have to be crazy not to enjoy that!

Jokes aside, finals are a stressful time.  These exams count for a considerable percentage of your overall grade, and therefore have quite a large hand in what your future might look like.

Procrastinating and then cramming the night before is a tactic that I have personally employed, but I know that 1) it’s a terrible habit, and 2) for a deal as big as finals, last-minute studying just won’t cut it.

So this time around, I pledge to actually get off my butt and be proactive about studying. To stop saying “I’ll do it later,” and instead to seize the moment and be the organized go-getter of my wildest scholarly aspirations.  And I invite you to join me in this challenge- let’s ace these exams together!

1. Make a Schedule

At least a week in advance of your exam, map out adequate times for you to review.  Make sure to allot more time for more difficult subjects.  Steer away from putting yourself in for last-minute review.  It’s ineffective, super stressful, and if you suddenly discover that you have a question to ask your teacher, it’ll be too late.

Cramming fact: doing all your studying the night before definitely makes you feel like crap, but did you know that it takes a toll on your memory too?  The increased anxiety and pressure actually will impair your brain’s ability to memorize, understand, and synthesize information.  That’s why it’s advisable to plan ahead when studying.

2. Prioritize!!

If you spend more time making your biology diagrams look nice than you do actually studying how they work, then you might want to look into prioritizing.  Write down the subjects you have to study in order from most important/difficult to least, and then work your way down the list.  Once you’ve got all the heavy stuff out of the way, you’ll feel much better.  Plus, this way, you won’t run out of time to go over the things you really need to review.

3. Take Care of Yourself

Take breaks when you need them!  Pulling an all-nighter will not only make you feel terrible the next day, but you will not remember what you studied as well as you would’ve with adequate sleep.  Take at least ten minutes per hour to break and just relax your mind, and don’t study super late into the night.  Furthermore, don’t lapse into the harmful habit of eating junk food.  Meal prep a few days before studying to avoid binge-eating.

Relaxation tip: Search up meditation videos on YouTube.  They can be as short as five minutes and will really help ease your stress and anxiety, increasing the quality of your sleep and your productivity!

4. Become a Hermit

I’m only half kidding about this one.  During studying, the last thing you want to do is be distracted, so take preventative measures.  Temporarily delete social media, or, if even that can’t stop you, get an app that will block social media distractions for a set period of time.  Tell your friends to only text you if it’s an absolute emergency.  Immerse yourself in your studying, seek focus away from the noise of the outside world, and basically become a social recluse for a couple weeks.  The grades are worth it, I promise.

5. Don’t Just Do Notes

Instead of simply writing and reviewing notes, try active studying strategies.  Ask your professors for practice questions to do at home, or find them yourself online.  To see if you’ve really got a subject down pat, try teaching it to a friend or family member.  All in all, switch up your studying methods frequently, especially when you feel yourself falling into the mindless, eye-glazing-over-ly boring pattern of reading and repeating facts over and over again.

Note about notes: if you are the kind of person who studies most effectively by writing out notes, then my suggestion is to try making colour-coded charts and lists to maximize studying effectiveness.  Use highlighters and colourful pens to go over and accentuate key points in the notes that you’ve made- it’ll look organized, and be easier to read through and remember!

After everything’s said and done, I’m sure you’ve heard this piece of reassurance a million times: grades are not everything. It’s true, though.

These exams are only going to take up, at most, a few weeks of your life, and your health is much more important in the long run.  In the heat of battle, it will definitely feel like the end of the world, but I promise it’s not.  Take a deep breath.  You know that you’ve put a lot of work and effort into this, and that’s all anyone can really ever do.  If you’ve done your best, then you should really be proud of yourself for that.

Now, go out there and absolutely crush that exam!

If the stress if becoming too much, it can help to talk about what you’re feeling. Reach us by phone, chat, text and email.

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