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Another term, another exam season — 5 ways to slay the time away

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Waterloo chapter.

Welcome to exam season, everyone! Time has flown by so fast now that I’ve entered university. In high school, the semesters were so long, and you actually had time to study and retain the information you’re fed in class. The university environment is fast-paced, and being on top of deadlines is our key to success this term. I’ve only been through one exam period, but I’ve gathered some tips from upper-years to help all of us out!

  1. Notion

This might seem like a no-brainer, but having a simple calendar or tracking website has certainly helped me finish work efficiently. I used to plan every hour on my Google Calendar and trap myself in a robotic system, but I shifted my focus to Notion this term, and it has helped loads. I searched for “aesthetic planners” on the Notion template website, uploaded one I liked, and now I keep myself accountable for daily tasks and the “must-dos” of the day, like writing this article! The best thing is, if you sign up with your school account, Notion will offer you Notion Plus for free, having access to everything on the app (not a promo, I promise). 

  1. Caffeination

I try not to drink caffeine everyday, but I make an exception for exam season. When I drink coffee or tea daily, the effects wear off (*insert some science-y reasoning for tolerance of stimulants*). Therefore, I cash in all of my caffeine points for the 2 weeks leading up to exam season, so that I’m fully alert throughout the day. Now, I know what you’re asking: What’s your go-to drink order? At Starbucks, the iced black tea with four pumps of toffee nut, two pumps of liquid cane sugar, light ice, no water, and substitute for soy milk (please order on the app; it is extremely embarrassing to do this at the till), tastes EXACTLY like bubble tea, and it’s only $3.25! At any bubble tea store, I go for an iced oolong tea with no sugar, regular ice, and tapioca. I also use bubble tea as a reward system after a long day of studying, motivating me to complete what’s on the day’s list. 

  1. Stay active

It’s easy to become glued to the library chair during exam season. Last term, during finals, I was there for seven hours everyday. Plus, there was a food court there — lunch, dinner, dessert, naps, and everything else was done in the library. This was indeed not the best mode of studying. I’ve recently joined weekly dodgeball intramurals, and I make it mandatory to get myself active and out of the sea of desks. Dodgeball usually only lasts an hour, but it definitely helps me diversify my schedule a bit — and might I add that I have a mean overthrow (I’ve yet to get anybody out in a game).

  1. Take breaks

Prioritize you! When studying, I sometimes use Pomodoro to help me stay on task and work towards a short break. If I don’t use the Pomodoro timer, I promise myself an incentive to keep working. For example, if I were to study for three hours without any breaks, I would take a thirty-minute break to catch up on the Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber drama (I am forever a Selener). Having these rewards tricks me into working harder without even realizing it. I also realized that stopping work before 10pm is a healthy habit for me to start as I can unwind before bed and read my favourite book (It Starts with Us by the best, Colleen Hoover, is my current read). 

  1. Get rid of distractions

Lastly, invest in your studying. I used to go into the library with $5 headphones that would not block out any white noise, and I would get super distracted at any opportunity. This was frustrating because I couldn’t get a grip on any of the concepts I was studying, because I kept going off task. Therefore, I recommend noise-cancelling headphones to every student. There are many affordable options, and looking out for sales is the way to go. I currently have the Sony 1000-XM5s, and it blocks out all unwanted side conversations and white noise. 

Wishing you the best of luck with the winter term finals. We are this much closer to the summer and warm weather!

Vanessa Duong

Waterloo '27

Hi there! My name is Vanessa and I'm in Health Sciences at the University of Waterloo. I love cooking, rambling, and am an advocate for mental wellbeing.