8 Tips to Help You Through Finals

The end of November is quickly approaching, which means snow, Christmas, and holiday baking are on their way. However, it is also a stark reminder for every student that their worst nightmare is bearing ever closer. Exams are by far the most stressful time of the year for the average student; a time of frantic cramming and late nights. Even though we tell ourselves every year that this exam period will be different, it never really seems to change. Exams pass by in a blur of procrastination and all-night study sessions, interspersed with panic attacks and tears. This year, I wanted to give you some tips and tricks on how to get through your finals while retaining some semblance of calm and sanity. 

1. Start studying early

The earlier that you get a jump start on the material, the more time you will have to absorb all that information, and the easier you will find your exams. It is best if you start making exam study sheets or reviewing as soon as you can, so that all the information you are trying to cram into your brain has some time to sit and absorb. Getting a jump on your studying is easier said than done; we all have things going on in our lives and studying quite often falls by the wayside. However, try your best to start as early as possible.  The sooner you start, the easier, and less stressful your studying sessions will be. 

2. Set yourself a task list

Studying for exams can seem completely daunting. How do you go over an entire semester’s worth of concepts in a few weeks or less? The best way to tackle this problem is to split your workload into manageable pieces. By making yourself a task list for each day, you have a clear, achievable goal to work towards. At the end of the day,  you end up feeling as if you have accomplished more than if you were working through a huge listing of concepts that you would never have been able to finish in one sitting. Having a list is a huge help from an organizational standpoint, as you can clearly set out what you need to study, and what you have already gone over. More organization means less panic and stress down the road. 

3. Allow yourself study breaks

As much as studying is important, so is taking a break. It is recommended that you take a ten to fifteen minute study break for every hour that you study, as the brain actually decreases its ability to absorb new information after that point. These breaks also allow you get up and move around, so that your body and mind can get revitalized before you get back to the grind. You can also use these breaks as a reward to look forward to. It is hard to promise yourself you won’t go on your phone at all while you study, but it is easier to say no phone for an hour, but then you have fifteen minutes to do as you please during your break. 

4. Eat healthy 

During exams, many of our other priorities tend to fall to the side, and that includes what we eat. Usually, eating a meal means grabbing whatever is the most convenient, and often that means grabbing takeout or running to 7/11 for junk food. The thing is, it is important to eat smart, not easy. Healthy snacks, like a banana with peanut butter or a handful of almonds, help keep your blood pressure stable, which actually helps you retain more of what you are studying. For some more healthy eating tips during exam time, check out this article.

5. Get enough sleep

Sleep is another thing we tend to sacrifice during exams. Almost every student has pulled an all-nighter or gotten just a few hours of sleep in order to cram. However, sleep deprivation, even if it only a few nights, can wreak havoc on your body. Not getting enough sleep can have affect “mood, energy level and ability to focus, concentrate and learn," all of which can negatively impact your studying. Most physicians recommend between eight and nine hours of sleep a night, especially before any exams. You can learn more about the effects of sleep deprivation and exams here.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It is so easy to get caught up in the stress and worry of exams that we forget that there are people around who are willing to help us. Professors and TAs are there for extra help; all you need to do is ask! If they don’t have any scheduled office hours, shoot them an email and ask them if it is possible to make an appointment. There is also the SFU Learning Commons. They have great online and in-person resources to help you with anything involving exam preparation. On Tuesday, November 24th, they will be hosting a workshop entitled "Crunch Time Survival 101" about how to get through your final exams. You can enroll in the workshop and find out more information on their website.