As semester exams near, it is only natural for students to start panicking. The workload seems to be getting harder, the amount of time that you have to review is lessening, and the motivation to actually do work has mysteriously vanished. Along with a pandemic raging around us, all the negatives seemed to be heightened. However, this routine that so many of us (including myself) have become accustomed to does not have to be. Here are a few tips for making what seems to be the most hectic time of the year, just a little easier.
1. Make yourself a study plan.
When it comes to exams, the main reason that everyone is so stressed out about them can be simplified into the following: it can either make or break your semester grade. For those who may have done well throughout the 1st and 2nd quarters, exams make up a big percentage of your semester grade. A low enough exam grade could do some damage. However, if you did not do as well during the 1st semester, then this is your last chance. A high enough exam grade could make all the difference. To really try and do your best, a study plan is key.
Every school year, on the first school day back from Thanksgiving Break, I take the time to plan out the month of December according to how I will study. From that first day, I have approximately two weeks to prepare for exams. In the classes that I tend to struggle in, I carve out at least an hour of study time three days a week, while I only use an hour on two days a week. This method gives you at least ten hours of studying spread out over a course of two weeks.
2. Talk to your teachers about their exams.
If anyone would know about what is on the exam, it’s your teachers. After all, they are the ones who made the exam. To prepare for exams, speaking with your teachers about what is on the exam could be beneficial, but there is a way of doing so. Typically, asking questions like “Do you know what is going to be on the exam?” can frustrate teachers. Instead, ask them if they are willing to tell you what material and information will be on the exam. Even asking how the exam will be formated can go a long way.
From talking to your teachers and asking them questions, you can better understand how to study for the exam. Also, teachers often respect students who go out of their way to prepare for class (especially exams) and may even give you extra help if you are in need of it.
3. Gather materials to use for studying.
If you have created a study plan and talked to your teachers, you are set up for an easy studying process. Now would be the time to actually start studying. For some exams, teachers are gracious enough to give you a study guide or review packet. However, for others, you are going to have to rely on your materials from over the 1st semester.
Any materials, like old notes, homework, quizzes, and tests, are great for studying. Besides, there is a good chance that the questions on past tests and quizzes will be on the exam (sometimes word-for-word). But, if you are not really sure how to study, here a few ways:
Rewrite your notes, homework, quizzes, tests, etc. can help you to memorize the information. If you choose to rewrite, I highly suggest that you do so by hand as studies have shown that those who handwrite information tend to memorize it better than those who typed it. I have seen some people type their notes, and then handwrite those notes, essentially taking the notes an extra time. However, if you decide to only type those notes, maybe try printing them out and highlighting information that you feel is important and might be on the exam. Notecards are great as well for handwriting your materials for studying.
Make your own study guide using the information from the materials. Even if you already have a study guide from your teacher, recreate it. This is also a great way to memorize information and customize it to your needs. If your teacher shared how the exam will be formatted, I would make a study guide that is formatted the same so that you can become accustomed to it. One website I would suggest is Quizlet. You have probably heard of this website before, but I remain a strong crusader of it. It is essentially a website that allows you to make online study guides and practice tests. It has helped me numerous times throughout my school years.
Forming a study group is always a great way of having fun while studying. By simply meeting up at a coffee shop or library, you and your friends can go over materials from class in a discussion type. Have one friend read questions aloud as you try to answer or “play teacher” and reteach an entire section to a group. These will allow you to make sure that you truly understand the information. And, if you do not understand it? Then, you have friends around you who might be able to clear up some of that confusion. Just make sure to wear your mask and stay six feet apart.
4. Carve out time for self-care and relaxation.
While it is a good thing to do, studying too much can be detrimental. It is important to stay healthy and not overwork yourself while preparing for exams. Taking the time between each study session to relax can improve how much information you retain. If taking a bath and self-pampering is what put you at ease, then go do it for 30 minutes. If playing with your pets makes you happy, then go because a healthy mind means a healthy body.
For me, every December I mysteriously get sick. Not in a fatal, end-of-the-world way, but I start getting tired easier, start sniffling and coughing, and overall do not feel my best. It was not until my sophomore year of high school that I realized what was happening. My body was responding to me stressing out over exams. It would start off small and snowball into barely wanting to move on the week of exams. However, strangely enough, as soon as exam week ended my health improved. I had to realize that studying is great, but taking care of myself is most important.
5. Get a good night’s rest and eat breakfast.
The best way to prepare for an exam is to get a good night’s sleep. Being well-rested allows you to use the most of your brain and really remember what you have studied. Also, a good breakfast keeps you from worrying about being hungry during the exam. You can really focus on what you have been preparing for.
Exams are a stressful time, but that is not a requirement. By taking these measures, you can feel kind of confident on exam day. Of course, no one truly feels completely sure about how they will do on an exam, but that is just life. We try our best to learn from our mistakes so that we can learn to better next time. Exams are just another one of those things. So from all of us here at The Bear Facts, good luck on exams!