It’s the end of the year, the weather is getting warmer, pools are opening, ice cream runs are becoming a regular Friday night event, summer is almost here . . . oh, wait. Before the mental rest and relaxation of summer can begin, students need to kick it into high gear one last time for finals. These tests assess at least half of the year of learning in each class and altogether account for 1/9th of your class average. While this isn’t enough of an impact to affect your performance too seriously, the time to drop the ball definitely is not on finals. It’s easy as a freshman to stress yourself out over these assessments, picturing the tests as the end-all,be-all, but let me tell you, finals are nothing like the standardized monsters made infamous in movies. Most teachers understand that with freedom in such close reach, it can be difficult to do one page of homework, let alone review (and sometimes relearn) the entire year. With the right preparation and mental attitude, the dreaded final week of school will be over before you know it.
Necessity #1: Study Guides
The best way to study for any test is to know exactly what to expect. If your teachers don’t hand out study guides, ask them which chapters or units will be covered on the final and make your own. Studying too much can sometimes be just as harmful as not studying enough, and an overload of information will just cause you to forget things and feel even more stressed. Sticking to what the teacher says will be on the final will help ensure that you will be fully prepared to ace the test. Also, going through the process of looking up information from old notes and compiling it into your own personal study guide is studying in itself!
Necessity #2: A Distraction-Free Zone
Setting aside a certain area for studying is more important than you think. You brain will actually become more focused if you surround yourself with people hard at work. Taking your books to the town library or a coffee shop eliminates any chance of getting sidetracked at home. Try your best to avoid the TV and “before bed study sessions.” As I’m sure we all know, studying on the couch with the TV on for background noise can quickly turn into learning more about America’s Top Model than the biology chapter sitting at your feet. I’ve found that I usually study the best in the late afternoon or evening. Once I get into bed I always somehow find that I start reading the notes I have so carefully written and wake up the next morning with ink on my face . . . Wherever you decide to prepare, make sure that it is quiet and organized, and it’s hard to make excuses for getting distracted.
Necessity #3: Music
I don’t care how motivated you are, sitting all alone in a silent room trying to study is not fun by any standard. Plugging your speakers into your phone can make a huge difference in your attitude toward studying. Whether it is putting on hardcore pump-up music to get you amped for your good grade or classical piano solos for concentration, music can never be a bad idea. If music is more of a distraction for you, try putting on white noise. There are lots of free apps that offer sounds ranging from waves to rain to waterfalls that can really help to block out noises from your surroundings.
Necessity #4: A Schedule
High school is a procrastinator’s natural habitat: walk into the library on any given day and you will find students rushing to type a paper the period before it is due, and the pods in the morning are filled with kids comparing answers on homework. The study-everything-you-can-in-five-minutes-and-hope-for-the-best approach may work for you sometimes, but I wouldn’t necessarily go into finals with this mentality. Instead, plan out when you will have your tests and study accordingly. It is much easier to study for 30 minutes a day for three days in advance than an hour and a half the night before. Also, focusing on each class at a time and breaking what you need to know down into more manageable sections will help to make the tests seem less overwhelming.
Necessity #5: Snacks
We can’t have fatigue or hunger taking away from our studies! Stock up on some snacks to eat while you are working. Try to choose foods that are healthy but still filling so both your brain and body are ready to go. Some suggestions are grapes, crackers with peanut butter, berries, popcorn, or apple slices. And hey, don’t be afraid to reward yourself with a cookie or two . . . you deserve it after all the hard work you have been putting in. I also just found out that mints or minty gum have been proven to lead to faster brain activity and higher test scores, I don’t know about you but I’m definitely going to take advantage of this . . . I need all the help I can get!
Necessity #6: Positive Reinforcement
This last tip is probably the most important. Having an incentive or reward to get you through finals is sometimes key to pushing yourself further than you thought you could go. Pick something you really like but don’t get to do often, maybe it’s getting your nails done or going in for a facial. Maybe it’s that new pair of headphones you have had you eyes on for weeks, or a double cheeseburger with bacon. Whatever it is, promise yourself that it will be yours if you get above a 90 on all of your finals or some other goal you are trying to achieve (like not dying from all the studying). With this goal in mind, it will give you a purpose to try your hardest even when the easy thing to do would be to lay out by the pool and hope for the best.
Good luck to everyone on finals this year!