Survival Skills for Exam Week

By Ryan Zimmerman

The clock is ticking, and exam week draws closer. Making the grade might feel as unlikely as winning the hunger games at this point, and with parents awaiting report cards, as deadly! The pressure is intense, and grades are high on our list of priorities; unfortunately, this can mean self-care can fall by the wayside. It’s important to focus on both our grades and our health, mental and physical.

To start, here are 5 tips and tricks to consider while you study:

  1. Eliminate distractions.

The groupchat is always most active at the worst times. So make sure to keep your phone out of reach when you’re ready to focus on studying. You can use it as an incentive to work more diligently, and something to look forward to on your breaks, but hearing it buzz will only make resisting the urge more difficult.

  1. Study during daylight hours.

Our mind is most alert when we work within our circadian rhythm. To all my fellow night owls- late nights may feel like the best option, but studying- or doing any intense mental exercise after 9pm- isn’t optimal. To get concepts to stick, make sure to go over them before you start yawning.

  1. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses.

Personally, I can’t work well unless I have company to hold me accountable. 'Company' can be anything from a friend who knows how to be quiet to a coffee shop with people that couldn’t care less about what I’m doing (which definitely counts). Maybe you work better in the morning, or with your cat in your lap. Be patient with yourself; everyone’s learning style is different, and you know yourself best. Cater to your personal brand of efficiency.

  1. Take time to plan.

Scheduling is perhaps the most daunting task on this list, but it’s also one of the most important. Blocking out your day allows you to hold yourself accountable; it saves time and eliminates the complicated machinery of decision-making. If you have your day planned out, you can accomplish more without procrastination and the guilt that comes with it.

  1. Active recall-

Active studying means writing, analyzing, and interacting with the content. Actually working with the content allows you to understand it from all sides and prepare for any question you might find on the test. One smart way to study is to find and take another teacher’s final for the class online. In this way, you can strengthen what you already understand, gauge how you might perform on the real deal, and find areas to focus on in your studies.

We can anticipate and prepare for the week of the 12th all we want, but the stress that comes with impending exams cannot be controlled as easily. Here are some research-backed strategies for taking back the power you might be losing to anxiety.

  • Physical Health-

    • Move- This can mean stretching, taking a stroll, or playing a sport. Get those muscles moving!

    • Sleep- Keep your bedtime regular, and try to get 7-8 hours of sleep- especially on nights before exams. If overthinking is keeping you awake, put on soft music or a podcast to quiet your thoughts.

    • Eat- Fiber is important, especially on exam day. Regulate sugar, get enough vitamin C, and eat 3 solid meals a day, if possible.

    • Get some sunlight- Even just 15 minutes outside can boost your serotonin levels!

  • Breaks- make sure to take brain breaks as you study. Including 15-minute breaks to split your work into chunks makes the load more manageable- it allows your brain space to process the work you’ve already done.

  • Social Media- FOMO will only hurt at this point. Instagram and TikTok are specifically designed to suck you in, so it’s best not to give them the opportunity.

  • Keep a routine- Maybe you’re sick of hearing it, but there’s nothing more effective than a routine. The simple comfort of knowing what to do and what lies ahead can make a huge difference in stress levels.

  • Confidence- You’ve been learning this material all semester- you know it better than you realize. Studying will refresh the knowledge you already have. Stay positive and believe in your abilities. Trust your instincts; a lot of the time, they’re right!

This is a lot to keep in mind; it may even feel like unnecessary extra work when your plate is already overflowing. But a proper strategy is essential to accomplish what you’ve been working toward this whole year. Study hard, but also remember to play hard! If it’s all too much, take a second or two and step back. We all get overwhelmed, and this time of year, there’s more than enough stress to go around. Take a breath. It’s not the end of the world. You’ve got this. May the odds be ever in your favor!