Note from Robin: Perhaps you’re better at hashtags than I am (it took me a minute to figure out this one). In case you’re in the same boat, it means “Finals Season.” 🙂

We just got back from spring break. There’s still a few midterms left to be taken. Only a weeks separate us from finals season. This last month of school is going to be packed with schoolwork. The thing about exams is that they are somewhat unpredictable and can feel like a huge portion of your grade. If your class actually bases grades solely on exam scores like some of mine do, this exam technically could make or break your grade. Most of the time, however, that’s just a feeling when you have a large exam.

As we get closer to said exams, I’ve got a few thoughts on ways to prepare. Some may seem silly or really obvious, but sometimes those ways are most useful.

First: Start off with knowing what dates and times your exams are at. Don’t laugh at me, I’m serious. Knowing this will help you better plan your schedule and show up at the right place/time. At the beginning of each semester, I copy and paste all exam information onto a document together and highlight the date, time, and location. Obviously make sure that the information you have is up to date as the semester goes on, but I find it helps me to keep track of which are my next three soonest exams.

Following the last note, my second thought: Don’t look at the big lump of exams you have ahead all at once. The only thing that will do is stress you out more and when you spend your time stressing, you aren’t optimizing the time you could be studying (plus the studying you are doing will be less useful when done in stressed out mode). Instead, look at your next two exams, maybe three if they are close together.

Prioritize either your most difficult or the earliest exam of the two or three. Focus on studying for that one and when you either feel comfortable with the content or worn out from studying, take a break for a while. Eat something, watch a short episode on Netflix, take a walk, or whatever clears your head. If you have a few days until your next exam, study a bit to help make sure you are solid on that subject, and then leave it there for the time being. You don’t want to overwhelm yourself with different information right before the prior exam.

Third: In my Cognitive Psychology class, we learned about some different ways knowledge and memory work. One of the ways is through state-dependent learning, which ties into the state of consciousness a person is in when they are learning something. Say, for example, you are relaxed and dressed comfortably while studying for your exam in your room, you may do better in your exam if you go in relaxed (as much as possible) and dressed comfortably for the actual exam. Another way is context-dependent learning, which may be what the idea of chewing gum during an exam ties into. The idea is to chew a certain flavor of gum while studying and then chew that same flavor during the exam, with the idea being that you will have an easier time recalling the information you studied if you chew the same gum both times. (Will it work? I can’t guarantee that. But if it feels like it may help you relax a little, it could be worth a try.)

All in all, exams won’t decide your success in life. You and your choices will. Some people are better test-takers; others are better at different things. Exams aren’t a complete reflection of you as a student or as a person. If you fail one exam, life will not end. Your grade will drop, sure, but you can try your best on other assignments and ask about extra credit. If worse comes to worst, you won’t remember that one exam in that one class forty years from now. And if that doesn’t help, remember this: finals season means we’re that much closer to summer. Keep on going — we’ll be enjoying the sun and warm weather before we know it.

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