Final exams tips and tricks


Sarah Pretsky

Staff Writer

Finals can be a very stressful time of year. Gathering energy to study and do well can be hard, especially when there is a whole year’s worth of material to review. Tests, projects, and papers are crammed into the last few weeks of school. While it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, there are things that can be done to reduce stress and be successful. Dr. Nick Holton gave The Roar a few tips on how to approach end-of-the-year studying: “The trick for us is to adopt strategies that reserve as much cognitive capacity as possible for our most essential and complex tasks, such as your final exams.” As studied in Positive Psychology, taking steps to conserve your energy on exam day can improve your score. Although it may not seem like it, these small steps can help you succeed.

The night before – sleep, sleep, sleep!

It can be tempting to stay up until 2 am studying the night before a test. Though cramming last minute information may seem productive, sleep is ultimately more important. The brain needs a full night of sleep in order to function effectively. Memory recall and concentration are improved when an individual is completely rested. “[Sleep] refuels our cognitive capacity, making it easy for us to both think, focus and self-regulate,” explains Dr. Holton. “If you’re stressed and trying to decide between going to bed or cramming for another hour or two, go to bed!” Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep the night before; the more the better. Additionally, avoid drinking caffeinated drinks during the late afternoon because it may prevent you from being able to fall asleep earlier.

The morning of:

Make the mornings of your finals as easy and brainless as possible… Conserve your capacity for your exams, not what you’re wearing, eating or might be distracted by that day,” said Dr. Holton. Reducing the number of choices you need to make before the test conserves your brain energy. The night before finals, pick out your clothes, pack your bag, and decide what you will have for breakfast. While these decisions are trivial, minimizing the choice, length, and difficulty of decisions saves your energy. The choices require cognitive energy. Your brain has a limited amount of cognitive energy so it is important to save as much brain power as possible for stressful times like tests.  

In between exams:

Finally, having multiple exams on one day is challenging. By the time you reach your second test, your hand might hurt and you’ll feel drained and tired. In order to rejuvenate between tests, it is important to take breaks. However, some types of breaks are better than others. A bad break would entail sitting on your phone or cramming last minute for your next test. A good break would be a quick meditation or a walk around campus. “Our ability to focus fades after 60-90 minutes,” says Dr. Holton. When that ability fades, it takes 10-20 minutes to revive your brain and get back into the testing mindset.

During your studying periods, it is important to continue self-care and concentrate on emotional stability. Do what it takes for you to feel good about yourself and feel accomplished about all your work this year. Remember to take these small steps in order to set yourself up for success. Muster up your last energy because when finals are finally over, it is summer time!