The final showdown: survive your exams

Anne Shaffer
Assistant Features Editor

Millersville University provides free stress-relief activities in the Student Memorial Center during finals.

Six more days.
Surely everyone knows by now that we have only six more days of classes until the holiday break. While this is definitely cause for celebration, there is one major obstacle standing in the way of a month of freedom.
Finals week.
It’s a daunting prospect. Projects and papers have started piling up, and teachers are handing out review packets and going over the last few chapters of the textbook. At this point, everything could be looking a little bleak.
The first step to finals week success is to start preparing now, and not just by digging out your notes from the first week of classes. Check the finals schedule on the Millersville website to make sure you know exactly when your tests will be. Nothing could be worse than showing up for a major exam two hours late.
Second, do dig out those old notes. If you have note cards or study guides from previous exams, pull them out, as well as any old tests or quizzes. You never know when a professor might pull an exact question directly from an old exam.
If your finals aren’t cumulative—meaning they do not cover the entire semester’s work—it is possible that you won’t have any old material to look over. In that case, start by making flash cards with vocabulary terms and key points to help you remember the facts. Break studying up into small chunks. You will be more likely to remember a large amount of material if you take breaks and don’t attempt to study one thing for four hours straight.
That said, do not cram for a test unless it is absolutely necessary. Studies have proven that students who do not try to stay up into 4 a.m. the morning of the test get better grades than those who try to cram.
A recent study at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that students who stay up late not only do worse in class itself because they are unable to pay attention as well as if they had been well rested, but they also had more difficulty performing on tests and quizzes. In fact, the study said that cramming is “counterproductive.”
Some professors assign projects instead of final exams. While this might seem like a blessing at first, it can turn out to be a curse if you leave all the work until the night before it is due. Like studying for an exam, it’s best not to leave projects and papers until the night before. Researching and synthesizing takes time. Make sure you leave yourself a few days to research, write, and proofread.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure that you get enough sleep before exams. Cramming for tests can cause a lack of sleep, but it’s important to get enough rest so that you can perform well on the test for which you’ve been studying. Dr. Daniel Lewin, from the Children’s National Medical Center at the George Washington University School of Medicine, said in an interview with Medical News Today that “there is a good probability that the loss of sleep will erode your performance, and last-minute bits of information will not help much.”
No matter how bleak your last two weeks of the semester might look, survival is possible. With the amount of material piling up, it’s important to schedule your time wisely and to put yourself in as solid a position as you can to make your last exams a success. Sleep, study, and breathe. Break is coming.