With finals approaching in a few weeks, it’s natural for students to feel the pressure.
Between classes, projects, part-time jobs and extracurriculars, there isn’t always a lot of time to slow down and catch your breath. In order to find success and maintain balance during this time of year, you need to be able to pinpoint the source of your stress. Here are some common “exam-season” symptoms and how to handle them.
1. Procrastination regrets
Everyone has been guilty of procrastination at some time or another – in fact, students are prone to putting off studying when they view it as a huge undertaking, rather than a series of tasks. If you find yourself in this situation, take some time to break down the material and analyze what needs to be done in smaller chunks. This will make it seem less intimidating.
Manage the remaining time you have left before your exam effectively by creating a timetable. This should include everything you have going on, including academics and extracurriculars. Aim to make the schedule as realistic as possible for yourself and your own needs because, let’s be serious, setting aside one hour to study 6 chapters is just impractical.
2. Too many shifts at work
Balancing part-time work and school is great because it equips you with excellent skills that will help you with your future endeavours. However, having a job during exam time can be very draining. Realistically, there isn’t enough time and energy in the day to work a long shift in retail and study course material for your exam – not effectively, that is.
Curb this issue by planning ahead. Once you know your exam schedule, work with your employer to create a strategy that satisfies both your responsibilities. This may involve changing your shifts or taking a few days off, so it’s important to keep your coworkers’ schedules in mind as well. Be considerate of them so they are not left struggling.
3. Prioritizing course material
If you missed some classes over the semester or found some gaps in your notes, you may be struggling to put together an effective study strategy. While some professors may offer hints in class about the exam content, it’s by and large the student who is left to figure out the weight of the lessons taught in lectures and labs.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to form study groups with your peers. Brainstorm and create mind-maps to connect important concepts in the material. Studying isn’t all about reading in your head – the more you discuss the topics with others, the more information you will retain. Place yourself in the professor’s shoes: What are some of they key topics they have reiterated time and again in lecture? What is the main idea they mentioned on that concept? You can create an effective strategy by going through practice questions, even similar ones found online for your own review.
4. Lacking a proper workspace
Whether you live at home or in a dorm, distractions can be found just about anywhere. Being in an environment that’s too busy can have a negative impact on your study efforts so it’s important to take the time to find the kind of environment you work best in.
Some people study best with their books spread around them, some people like to work in a silent space, and some learn best in coffee shops with minimal noise in the background. Find or create your own ideal study space that encapsulates everything you’ll need to focus: your necessary books and notes, proper lighting, a chair with proper back support, and room for your notebooks/laptop if you need to work with them as well.
5. Not enough sleep
As someone who has recently graduated, I’ve seen my share of sleep-deprived undergrads commuting to school. While some people thrive on little sleep or claim to work more productively at night, extended periods of exhaustion will have a negative impact on your well-being. According to a study at Harvard Medical School’s Health Sleep division, sleep optimizes focus and consolidation of memory, aiding our ability to recall information.
6. Unhealthy eating
If you’ve been consuming nothing but coffee, energy drinks, and junk food, you are likely contributing to your stress levels. Healthy eating has a positive effect on our focus/memory when studying, so it is worth taking the extra 30-minute break to cook a decent meal.
Plan your meals in advance – there are many simple recipes that take little to no time to prepare, such as chili with ground beef and kidney beans. There are many blogs and websites that offer tips about healthy eating during exams. For example, foods rich in iron and B vitamins like red meat, fish, soy, cereal, spinach, whole-grains, eggs, and nuts are especially important to maintaining the physical and mental energy necessary to study well. Eating at regular times will help reduce laziness drastically, while also curbing unnecessary snacking. For those who like munching while reading, fruit, veggies, and raw almonds are great “brain foods” to eat while studying and before exams.
7. You don’t take enough breaks
If you’re one of those students who reads material nonstop for hours, this point is for you – give yourself a break! It’s important to rest your eyes and change your surroundings once in awhile so you can return to your studies feeling refreshed and energized. Try taking a walk with your dog, gardening, attending a yoga class, or going for a quick run. Taking this time to relax means your time spent studying will be more effective – you will return with an increased attention span and higher levels of concentration.