Survive Finals with Finesse — Five tips for keeping your cool during exams

Final exams and the weeks prior can take a toll on students as pre-testing anxiety builds and the desire to procrastinate seems increasingly appealing.  Caffeinated beverages replace sleeping, and dark circles under student’s eyes seem permanent.  To avoid stress from consuming your life, Dr. Barry Wolf, Psychologist and Learning Support Specialist for Albion College, provided several suggestions for managing time at the end of the semester. 

A student's stress gets the best of her.

 1. Focus on the process, not the final grade.
“Students often fall into the trap of ‘hyperfocusing’ on the outcome of finals,” Wolf said. “Instead of solely concentrating on getting an ‘A,’ trust that outcomes will come if you put in appropriate time and effort.” 

Procrastination at its finest.

 2. Do not procrastinate.
“Procrastination often gets worse in times of stress,” Wolf said. “Students tend to put off work if it isn’t due the next day and end up cramming or pull an all-nighter.  The human brain does not work well in these situations, so get into the habit of doing work early.”

Studying in a dorm room may lead to interruptions by distracting visitors.

3. Find an effective location to study.
“Study in places that pull for you to do work,” Wolf said.  “I do not recommend a dorm room because of multiple distractions, such as the TV, roommates, loud neighbors, etcetera.” 

 Dr. Wolf suggests the library, the 4th floor of the Kellogg Center, the Science Complex, or other places that are “quiet, boring, and have limited stimuli” as productive study spots. 

Wolf also added that the best time to study is during the day.  

“We are more energetic and efficient during the day as opposed to at night,” Wolf said. “You can get a lot accomplished in even just a half hour or an hour between classes as opposed to at night when you are tired.” 

A to do list helps organize tasks.

4. Organize yourself.
Rather than viewing your workload as an overwhelming mass of tasks, Wolf recommends breaking your assignments down into small, manageable tasks. 

“Make to do lists,” Wolf suggests. “Be clear about when things are do and allot an ‘x’ number of hours for studying each day.” 

When all else fails, call Mom.

5. Take care of the basics: take breaks and keep calm.
“Don’t just study non-stop.  It’s important to balance between work and play,” Wolf said. 

A good amount of sleep, eating well, frequent exercise and limited partying are additional suggestions Wolf has for students to avoid too much stress. 

Happiness and staying in control of your stress level are basics that student can easily forget about during exams. Wolf encourages that they use supports such as professors, the Academic Skills center, Counseling Services, friends, and family when students feel they are under too much pressure. 

“Utilize the people around you,” Wolf recommends.  “That is the advantage of a small school—your professors want you to do well and seek them out for help.”

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