It’s that time of year again—final exams are drawing near, and many students are filled with the feeling of impending doom. Most students feel compelled to ace their exams. They cram, they Google, they reread the entire textbook, they study in the shower. Do these study methods sound familiar? If this sounds like you, you’ve been doing it all wrong. Luckily, the Devils Advocate is here to help.
Step One: Lower Your Anxiety
The first secret, according to successful upperclassmen, is to simply not allow yourself to feel stressed by exams. NHS senior Jack Petrides, who rates his finals stress as a 1 out of 10, advises other students to “just calm down.” Students who are feeling exceptionally stressed should try meditation, yoga, or copious amounts of chocolate to aid in easing their anxiety.
“When the finals stress is really getting to me, I take a one-pound chocolate bar into my Mongolian yurt, and I feel completely zen,” said Petrides. He also suggests securing your grades before the final exam, so a student can completely fail her exam with little detrimental effect to her overall grade.
If you’re taking a full-year course and are taking a midterm, NHS junior Charley Western says you have even less to worry about. “You only know half (the curriculum), so the exam can only be half as hard,” he said, “most teachers tend to go pretty easy anyway, so I don’t bother with being stressed at all.”
Step Two: Only Look at Your Notes if Absolutely Essential
Many students lack confidence in their ability to recall information from the beginning of the semester, and therefore spend hours going through all of their notes. But that simply isn’t necessary. The next step to doing well on final exams is to greatly cut down the amount of time spent looking at notes, handouts, and textbooks.
“I look at my notes for 5 minutes maximum in the days leading up to my exams,” said Western. He also said the amount of time he spends reading notes is directly proportional to his stress level. “If I’m beyond stressed, I won’t look at my notes at all.”
Still can’t pull your eyes away from those notes? Petrides recommends keeping your entire backpack in your car. “It’ll be cold and (you) won’t want to go outside and get (your) backpack,” Petrides said.
Step Three: Open Netflix
After you’ve spent some time calming down and glancing at your notes, you’re ready for a well-deserved study break. Grab your laptop or smartphone and log in to Netflix. Don’t have Netflix? Beg your best friend, next door neighbor, or a random passerby on the street for their login information, because nothing is better than Netflix.
“Websites and YouTube don’t engage me like Netflix does,” said Western. With Netflix, he said, he can become “sucked in” and watch many episodes, “killing many hours.”
If you’re swimming in the sea of movies and shows available to you, Western and NHS junior Lihuan Meyer have some recommendations. While Meyer suggests comedies, Western prefers high-action shows.
Petrides, on the other hand likes to shake things up. He doesn’t watch a specific show, but instead, watches “hours of stand-up comedy specials,” he said.
Step Four: Shower
As your raging night of studying begins to draw to a close, the next step to acing your tests is to take a shower. Showering may seem like mundane step of basic hygiene, but the shower is often neglected when students are hyper-focused on their final exams.
How long you should spend in the shower can be determined by the expected difficulty of the exam and time of night . A tougher class or a late night calls for a “good 25 minutes to half an hour” spent in the shower, said Petrides. Meyer, on the other hand, said she will spend “as much time as possible” in the shower.
However much time you spend in the shower, absolutely do not use your precious time studying. Instead, focus on scrubbing away the negative thoughts and unnecessary information that’s weighing you down on your pursuit of an A. Though if you must feel productive while showering, Petrides recommends a “lifeproof” case for your smartphone, so you can watch Netflix in the shower.
Step Five: Eat
Make sure to get in many well-balanced meals in the time leading up to final exams, being sure to hit all major food groups: salty, cheese, chocolate, carbohydrates, and sweet. Not only is it key to eat three large meals, it’s important to also break up study sessions with snacks. However, these snacks should not consist of small amounts of food. They should be consumed constantly from the end of one meal to the start of another.
The best way to ensure your eating habits encompass all of this is to “binge eat the thing that is most unhealthy” in your home, said Meyer. A surefire sign of proper nutrition is “being surrounded by mountains of empty cans of Pringles at 1 AM,” said Western.
Additional snacks can include “classics” such as pretzels or chips, said Western, though Petrides prefers the Stop and Shop brand of cheddar Chex mix.
Step Six: Sleep
Last but certainly not least, the most important step in preparing for your final exams is to get enough sleep. Many recent scientific studies have shown that teenagers who get more sleep perform better in school.
“I will go to bed by 10:30 (at the latest) during finals week,” said Petrides.
Western reminisced on his freshman days, saying he recalled falling asleep once during a final. Getting eight to 10 hours of sleep before final exams will prevent you from falling asleep during the exam, keeping teachers from knowing “how little you actually care,” said Western.
And if you’re torn between sleeping and studying, you’re better off not studying at all, added Meyer.
To ensure your finals prep is as stress-free as possible, begin following these steps at least three days before your first exam. This will help cement the steps as habits, and then studying for all future exams will become much more natural. Nevertheless, if all else fails, Meyer says: “Wing it. Who needs finals anyway?”