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Stressing Over Final Exams? You Won’t Be After Reading This

Stressing Over Final Exams? You Won’t Be After Reading This

Ahh, finals, the doomsday of every student! Chances are you’re currently reading this while hoping for the best but preparing (hopefully by studying) for the worst. It doesn’t have to be that way. Finals aren’t the end of the world; they mark the end of the semester — the final push before a well-deserved vacation. It’s indeed a stressful time, as you must go through a lot of material. However, you may also feel anxious if you don’t have the right tools to tackle your exams. Here are three studying habits and techniques you must adopt to nail your final exams.

Study properly according to your class

There are two type of classes in university: technical classes and non-technical classes. You must recognize the category in which each of your classes fall and adopt the appropriate study methods.

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Non-Technical Classes

Largely reading-based, these are classes that involve little or no mathematics. They’re heavy on essays and discussions about theories or concepts. English literature, psychology, and political science are few examples. If one of your classes falls in this category, here’s how you should prepare for your final:

  • Create a bank of questions that are most likely on your exam and challenge yourself to answer them with flashcards.
  • Make a quick summary of the readings that are on your exam and compare them with your class notes.
  • Have a discussion about the various concepts and theories you need to know with classmates and people unfamiliar with the subject.

Technical Classes

Math-based, these classes involve the application of theories and concepts through exercises. On a weekly basis, you most likely get exercises from your professor, online, or through assignments. Economics, applied mathematics, and finance fall under this category. If this sounds like one of the classes you’ve had this semester, here’s how to study properly for the final:

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  • Ditch note-reading and focus on doing exercises.
  • Collect every assignment and piece of homework given by your teacher that is relevant to your exam and complete them all. Make sure you can do them without your notes.
  • Have conversations with friends to test if you understand the concepts and theories and can interpret the results you get in your exercises.

Choose the appropriate study location

The environment you’re studying in makes a big difference to how well you study and ultimately perform on your final. Chances are your main location is your school library or a coffee shop, but these might not be optimal spots for you. Here are a few pointers on how to choose the right study spot:

  • Study in the library in the silent section if you’re sensitive to noise and if you’re easily distracted. This works well if you have a short attention span.
  • Have your study sessions in the area of the library where talking is allowed if you can study well despite ambient noise. This allows you to work in teams and consult classmates if you need help. It works well if you have a long attention span and can control urges to procrastinate.
  • Study in a coffee shop with a lot of natural light and beautiful scenery. This can positively affect your mood and increase your motivation to study. This works well if you’re sensitive to your environment and if the amount of lighting is important for you.
  • Study outside! A beautiful landscape is a great motivation booster. This works well if you don’t mind the ambient noise, regardless of your attention span.

How to study efficiently for a long period of time

Finals mean crunch time. Whether you’ve been up-to-date or behind during the semester, you still have the feeling that you need to put in more hours in order to nail your finals — and you’re right. It is necessary to dedicate more time to reviewing your course materials and ensuring that you understand them completely.

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If you’re a student, just like me, you know that there are two ways of doing this. You can either put in an insane amount of hours that are inefficient, or you can adopt smart studying techniques to make the best of your time. If you feel like the former applies to you and you’re about to step into the library with the goal of spending the next 12 hours studying, follow these few steps:

  • For every 60 minutes of study, take a 15-minute break. This allows you to recover and increase your long-term concentration.
  • Frequently change tasks; don’t study the same material for hours. Boredom is a killer, so make sure to stimulate your brain by covering various classes on the same day.
  • Tag along with classmates to have some assistance when needed. They will also give you some extra motivation!
  • Bring only the essential materials you need. Leave any electronic devices at home if you know they frequently distract you.

The end of the semester always requires more energy, and it’s not easy — no one said that it would be. But you can make it easier by adopting the right attitude, habits, and techniques. Allow yourself to make mistakes and always push yourself further. Like anything worth learning in this world, this is a process that you must go through to attain the grades that you deserve!

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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