You’ve been working hard all term, you’re highly anticipating summer, and you’ve only got one more thing standing in your way: exams. Let’s face it, no one enjoys exams, and this is often a time where hours spent getting stressed increase, and hours spent sleeping decrease. But what if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Here are a few simple tips to help decrease stress, increase productivity, and get you taking on those exams like a pro.
Find the Exam Location Early
Oftentimes, you find yourself writing your exam in a completely different place from where you attended the classes. Research has shown that our recall for information is actually much better in the environment where we originally took in that information. This familiar setting helps us call to mind memories of learning that new material. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to study for your exam in the same room you’ll be writing it in. Once the exam schedule is posted, I like to find out what classroom I’ll be writing an exam in, take advantage of the lack of classes over the exam period, and study in that exact same location. That way, by the time the exam rolls around, I’m comfortable in this setting and I’m used to recalling the same information over and over again in that place. If you’re writing your exam in a gym or occupied room where this isn’t possible, simply locating the room prior to your exam date can help relieve a lot of anxieties about getting there on time the day of the exam.
Lean on Others
Teaching assistants and professors know how stressful exams are, and often will hold extended office hours to help clear up any last-minute questions for students. Starting to study early, establishing what content you may be confused about and taking advantage of that time to ask questions can be crucial to your success. Not only do your TAs understand, but so do your peers! Attend every study session that is held by your faculty or even just with a few peers; talking through content and even teaching others a concept can be very beneficial to your own understanding of the exam content.
Since classes are no longer in session, take advantage of your days that are now left wide open! While it might feel like you need to spend eight consecutive hours in a library, you’ll find yourself getting drained and not doing the best studying you are capable of. When you feel yourself growing restless, remember to accept that your brain needs a break before you can keep plugging away at your studies. Use these much-needed breaks to keep healthy and active! Whether that is hitting the gym, taking a quick walk around campus, or tossing a ball around with some friends, make sure to give your brain a break and keep moving!
There’s no denying that exams can be overwhelming. My best recommendation for keeping these anxieties at bay is by practicing mindfulness meditation. There’s a huge selection of websites, workshops, classes, and apps out there that help guide you through the practice of controlling your breathing, shifting your focus to your body and what it needs, and easing any stresses you might be experiencing. My personal favourite is the app Headspace. When I’m feeling stressed, I open up this app on my phone, sit back in my chair, and follow along with the free audio guides available. If you do this once or twice a day, you will find yourself feeling more relaxed and in control during these busy weeks!
Of course, these are only a few ways to take on the exam season like a pro. For more tips, checkout more of these exam how-to posts like how to master multiple choice questions. At the end of the day, make sure you take care of yourself this exam period, study hard, and GOOD LUCK!