Features, Column

Planning Ahead Can Foil Final Exam Meltdowns, Stress


It’s hard to believe, but the semester is already drawing to a close. In just two days, classes will be officially over, bringing forth the stressful week and a half of finals.
We’re in the home stretch now, and as daunting as the next weeks seem, going home for the holidays, spending time with family and friends, and having a three-week break is an awesome light at the end of the tunnel. How do you get there, and how do you survive finals week?

Whether you’re a freshman getting ready to experience finals for the first time or an upperclassman looking for new study methods, read on for the best ways to prepare for, excel in, and survive finals week.

Make a plan: It helps to write out when all of your finals exams are and when your papers are due. Plan your studying accordingly depending on when each exam is scheduled.

For example, you should probably use your study days to study for those exams on Dec. 14, 16 and 17, and wait a few days before you start studying for exams later in the finals schedule.

Figure out which exams and papers you’ll need to spend the most time on, and schedule more time to study for those classes. Find out which days you don’t have exams, and plan to use those days to get more studying done than the days you do have finals on.

Depending on your personal mindset, it may help to schedule out which classes or topics you want to study for each day. For example, plan to cover one chapter for a class each day or to write a certain number of pages for an essay each day.

Take breaks: “It’s important to take study breaks and remind yourself that it’s healthy to de-stress and not only focus on grades and studying,” said Brooke Shawcross, A&S ’16. Your mind needs to rest, and it will be counterproductive to study too much.
Plan small breaks every half an hour or hour and plan larger breaks to split up study sessions. Shawcross also suggested a good workout: “A good study break is taking an exercise class at the gym, like yoga, or getting some fresh air by going on a short walk,” she said. Students could watch a TV show or movie as it’s a perfect time to catch up on all those Christmas classics, take a nap, or make a trip to White Mountain Creamery.

Know when you’re getting tired of working and give your mind a rest so that you can ultimately study more efficiently and retain more information.

Sleep: You’ll only be at your best if you sleep well.

Plan your time wisely so you won’t have to stay up late cramming the night before an exam. Try to get enough sleep the night before your exams so that you’re well rested and can give your best effort.

Switch up your study space: You’d be surprised how much you can start to hate Bapst if you spend all your time studying there. You’ll get antsy and bored if you study in the same place, so try to change where you study each day.

Switch between libraries, classrooms, dining halls, and lounges. Megan Ebner, A&S ’16, said, “find a class room or a study space where you can work with friends.” You can take breaks together and motivate each other to study. “And, start looking early for a place to study,” Ebner recommended, because classrooms and seats at the libraries fill up quickly.

You could also go into Boston on a day you don’t have any exams and study at the Boston Public Library. Lunch at Panera, Starbucks coffee breaks, and Christmas shopping on Newbury offer great study breaks, too.

Or, go to a coffee shop in Newton Center or Cleveland Circle for the day. A change in scenery will energize and motivate you to study.

Take advantage of your resources: Your professors and TAs have office hours and review sessions for a reason, so go to them.

Don’t be afraid to go to your professors to go over essay outlines or ask questions about the exam. Find out if your class is having an extra review session-even if you don’t have any specific questions to ask, it will help to listen to discussions on the class material, and maybe other students have questions that you haven’t thought of.

And finally: relax. Countless students have survived finals week, and you will, too. As long as you prepare, take care of your body, and find ways to motivate yourself, you will be fine. Good luck!

December 9, 2013