Thursday, December 11, 2014

5 Tips to Surviving Exam Week

Hey guys! Kate here.

I know you haven’t heard from me on the blog, Twitter, or Instagram in…welp, a really long time, but it’s been a pretty ridiculous winter. Between winning NaNoWriMo, working full-time, and finishing my semester of college, I have been crazy busy!

I’m on the tail-end of my exams, with only one more to go, and I’ll fully admit it’s been stressful. The pressure of wanting to excel (or just pass) an exam, coupled with all the other responsibilities in a student’s life can be overwhelming. As I look around at my friends and classmates, I see not only are some of them just stressed, but they’re cracking under the pressure.

Exams are, of course, going to be a time of exhaustion and anxiety, but there are ways to make them a bit more bearable. As a student, I will fully admit there’s no “Quick Cure to Exam Stress” or “Easy Way to Ace your Exams!” but these five tips definitely help me stay sane when I’m buried in notes and flashcards.

1. Make a schedule and stick to it. Man, this is so important. Exams are a huge portion of your grade, so telling yourself you’ll study when you have time just won’t cut it. As soon as you get your exam schedule, plan the one-to-two weeks leading up it around your study schedule. Fit in work, any important social arrangements you have to attend, and any last minute assignments, and then build your study schedule so you have plenty of time to review. If you can, give yourself an extra day for each exam to study; it always takes longer to get something down than you think.

2. Give yourself some downtime. While you're building your schedule, make sure you don’t fill it all up with studying. Yes, you need to know the material, but burning out or pulling all-nighters isn’t going to help you either. Make sure you give yourself an hour each day to digest by watching a television show, or going for a walk. Clearing your brain will help you remember the material and keep you from feeling overwhelmed.

3. Find a study method that works for you. Okay, you might not believe me, but if you’re not doing well on tests, there’s a really good chance it’s just because you haven’t found the right way to study. People learn differently. I, for example, am the hugest enthusiast of flash cards you will ever meet. Flash cards are amazing because they help you review the material while you write it down, but they also cause you to think about the material differently when you compose the questions. And then they train your brain to do exactly what it needs to do on a test: recall! But some people may find another method works better: re-writing their notes by hand, or studying in groups. Experiment until you find what helps you the most. Every test will get easier and easier once you do.

4. Trust yourself. You’ve attended the lectures, taken notes, studied, and yet you’re still telling yourself you’re going to fail, or do horribly. Why? If you’ve done everything you can do, then have a little faith in yourself. A lot more of the information will come back to you than you think. Also, I’m a big believer in positive psychology. I’m not talking The Secret stuff, but what you believe does have ways of formulating your thoughts and actions. Before the exam, stand in front of the mirror, raise your arms in a champion pose, and say: “I am going to ace this exam!” Don’t believe this will work? Listen to an expert.

5. Look to the future. When you’re in the blackest of black places, swamped with notes and facts and your hands are calloused from holding a pencil, remember: this doesn’t last forever. Look forward to what you’ll do as soon as exams are done, and also look even further and remember why you’re in school in the first place. Then buckle down and get to work.

Exams are stressful, and long, and they require huge amounts of mental energy. But keep in mind you’re willingly going to school, and you’re putting your money into this. Exam time is about you and your learning!

Good luck everyone!

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