As the end of fall quarter draws close, so too does finals week, and with it a storm of studying, coffee and stress. Multiple statistics and studies show that students are far more stressed than is healthy, especially when large tests are on the horizon. As we approach finals, many students on campus find themselves grappling with the issues that arise from large tests.
One resource to help students prepare for their tests is the Academic Success Center. “We offer tutoring in almost every subject,” said ASC Director Jonathan Molinaro. Located on the second floor of the D Building in room D204, the ASC offers free walk-in and appointment tutoring, as well as a space for independent studying. “You can come and utilize it as a study space, and when you run into an issue, you just hop over and see a tutor,” Molinaro explained. The ASC also lends textbooks, graphing calculators, and other things like phone chargers for students.
“Outside of tutoring, we also have workshops,” he added. “We have workshops on English language skills, study skills, writing skills and then reading skills.” The ASC also offers specific workshops for the upcoming finals. “There’s going to be math final exam review sessions … we’re also doing an MCS Study Jam here.” Both events will be held on Dec. 3, with the math review sessions occurring roughly from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with breaks in between, and the MCS Study Jam will be from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
For independent studying, there are a variety of techniques to apply to make the experience more efficient. Firstly, the most important thing is just to start—it’s not as important to pin down the most optimal settings, the best techniques or the best material to start with. If you want to tear up your current study methods and start from scratch, do it after finals, especially if you’re on a time crunch. If you’re not sure what to do, visit the ASC or just start reviewing the class material by rewriting your or your friend’s notes or researching the parts you don’t understand. Then, explain or pretend to explain the concepts to another person, trying to make the explanations as straightforward and concise as possible.
There are a multitude of little tricks to make facts stick in your head until the test, like attaching mental connections to the facts you’re supposed to remember. Mnemonic devices such as singing the concept, like the quadratic equation song and acronyms, like PEMDAS, help memorization. If you can’t find any pre-made mnemonic devices online, you can make one. Another method is to split your sessions into 30 minutes, with 10-15 minutes of break. This spacing is scientifically proven to boost memory. There are countless other tips that might assist memorization scattered across the internet, but consuming strings of sensationalized articles can just turn into another form of procrastination. Sometimes such tips can be hard or even distracting to try to apply if you’re not used to them.
For many, though, the problem lies not with the pursuit of knowledge—the problem is starting in the first place. A 2007 study found that 80-95 percent of college students procrastinate on a regular basis. A good trick to hold yourself accountable is to recruit the help of someone else—have them check up to make sure you’re studying or give you a small reward when you’ve made progress. On a daily basis, just tell yourself to do the smallest possible thing—open your notes and read a sentence, for example—to potentially start yourself off on a larger study session. If not, it builds the habit, which is still better than nothing.
However far along you are in studying, a constant among students seems to be the ever-present stress and dread. One method to reduce stress is to use a breathing pattern—try breathing in for a count of eight, holding it for a count of seven, and exhaling for a count of four, before repeating. Remember, there is little use in worrying—no amount of stress will get you a better score. While a little stress can be productive and motivate you to work, there is no point in excessive or even any stress if you’re already being productive, or if you can’t do anything at the moment. Try to take a couple seconds off to slow down, remind yourself what could go right, or distract yourself from any negative trains of thought.
Finally, the actual day of finals. Just like with anything else, there are a variety of things you can do to boost your grade, whether you’re already an expert or if you’ve devoted all of two seconds to reviewing. First, get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast and stay hydrated. Next, the tests you’re taking are all mostly confined to the same subject—there may be hints or outright answers from question to question. If you have time, examine the questions that cover the same topic, and see if there is any information among them that can be used, or cross-reference the possible answers for inconsistencies. If the answer isn’t immediately clear, use process of elimination to narrow it down. Next, try not to leave any questions blank—they have a chance of being right if you guess. Finally, test anxiety can be a big problem when you’re trying to concentrate. A couple seconds for yourself, using the tips above, can save a lot of time on your tests by helping you focus.
Finals week and the time surrounding it can be brutal. As we enter the last weeks before the end of the quarter, keep a cool head, don’t neglect your own health and good luck.