Finals Study Tips

By Rosie Alger

Elm Staff Writer

The end of the semester is almost upon Washington College students, and the idea of finals week is looming ahead. If you often find yourself frantically cramming at the last minute, here are some tips for how to do well on exams while relieving stress.

1. Find your study location

If you find yourself binge-watching Netflix while trying to study in your room, look for a study spot that is more focused. The library can be a great place, but during finals week it tends to be a bit crowded. Have a backup plan if you cannot find a seat. Health Services sent out a “Test Better” study tips announcement that said, “Mixing up where you study—e.g., transferring from the library to the café —can help you remember your material, according to a 2008 study in Psychological Science in the Public Interest.”

2. Be Prepared

In the last few weeks before finals make sure that you have all of the class notes and materials you will need. It is never too early to start preparing, studying, and thinking ahead. Doing so will be much more beneficial in the long run. “The biggest way to prepare is to start early and stay away from cramming,” said Hilary Chubb, assistant director of the Office of Academic Services. “I know we hear that advice all the time, but even if students can start two or three days ahead of time preparing for an exam rather than the day (or night) before, they tend to have a stronger outcome.”

3. Get organized

Know what study methods work best for you but don’t be afraid to use variety. Make flash cards, flowcharts, and diagrams. Try and do as many practice quizzes as you can. If there is not an established resource that your professor has set up for this websites like Quizlet can help you get the practice you need. It is important to engage a variety of your senses, so visual or audio aids can be helpful. The Health Center’s “Test Better” guide said, “Illustrations promote deeper learning, especially when they draw connections between concepts, according to a 2003 study in Learning and Instruction.”

Freshman Allie Grillo is shown ready to tear her hair out because of the stress finals bring. Trying these tips, however, may help so you don’t get to that point.
Freshman Allie Grillo is shown ready to tear her hair out because of the stress finals bring. Trying these tips, however, may help so you don’t get to that point.

4. Eliminate distractions

Studying can take a lot of mental energy and it is easy to waste time on social media or other outlets. Senior Phoebe Shelor said, “I need the Internet to study, but I also get distracted pretty easily by non-homework related sites, so I downloaded this program called Self Control that blocks certain websites for me. I enter them in on my blacklist and set a timer, and I won’t be able to access those sites until the timer runs out, even if I uninstall the program, so it kind of forces me to study.”

5. Take care of your body

If you are starting to get overwhelmed make sure you are doing those basic things to care for your body and mind. Do not sacrifice sleep in the name of studying, and make sure you drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. Having the proper nutrients and rest will help your brain function at its best capacity. Caffeine can be a good boost, but it is no substitute for a full night’s rest.

6. Take Breaks

It is natural for all of the studying to start to get to you, and trying to perform well on an exam is extremely difficult if you are anxious and stressed. Take breaks to go on a short walk, get dinner with friends, stretch, or listen to music. Getting some exercise and social interaction will wake up your body and mind, helping to lower stress levels, and ultimately allow yourself to focus better when you return to work.

7. Seek help if you need it

You are not alone. The whole campus is revving up for finals with you, and if you find that you cannot seem to tackle your materials by yourself, seek a classmate to study with. “Use your resources. Professors and tutors are here to help. Take advantage of the office hours, and schedule individual appointments with the OAS Peer Tutors, Quantitative Skills Center Tutors, and Writing Center Tutors,” Chubb said.


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