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During finals week, consider skipping coffee to get a good night's rest.

With finals week approaching, it’s easy for students to become overwhelmed when opening their books to study; This semester is especially difficult due to exams beginning two weeks after Thanksgiving break. Luckily, there are ways to prepare for exams and not feel frantic. Here are some tips to avoid the anxiety of studying for finals.

Space out the studying

Occasionally, students wait until the last minute to start studying, but that’s a recipe for disaster. Processing so much information in a short amount of time requires one’s full attention and concentration. If one has several tests, they should take some time during Thanksgiving break to go over some chapters. Even though it’s a week off, this would be beneficial. According to Qpractice, people who study at the last minute sometimes remember only 20% of the information they studied.

Spacing out the subjects on different days can be easier to maintain than trying to study everything all at once in a limited amount of time. Also, it’s a smart idea to prioritize the classes based on one’s finals schedule or which class needs a better grade boost. If they haven’t looked at when their finals are, they need to look now. If a student has a math exam on Tuesday and an English exam on Thursday, they should focus on math first and just glance at English until later in the week.

Get a good night’s sleep

Many college students decide to stay in the library for multiple hours right before their exam and end up going back to their dorm room or apartment late at night. An article from The National Sleep Foundation explains that staying up all night to study causes sleep deprivation, which can affect a person’s mood, memory, focus and decision-making ability. 

One should get proper rest, because while students may think studying all night is helpful, it’s actually harmful. Going to bed when fatigue begins to set in is healthy and can help one get up at an appropriate time. The body is capable of waking itself up, but it’s important to set an alarm for a small reminder. This even goes for weekends. Students think late-night partying on the weekends will be relaxing, but it affects their sleep pattern, and there’s only one week left to make sure one knows the information.

Start studying as soon as possible

If one decides to study the day before the exam, it’s likely they’re not going to get the grade they want. Create a calendar or planner to know what to study on what day and at what times. This goes hand-in-hand with spacing it out.

For example, instead of studying all 12 chapters at once on the day or two before an exam, it should be divided out over several different days. It’d be more reasonable to study three chapters a night for four days, and one will worry less about not having enough time to go over everything in a single evening. With this method, one can spend more time on each chapter or subject and extra time on the more difficult lessons if needed.

Maintain a healthy diet

When a student enters an on-campus library, one of their concerns might be if Starbucks is open for them to grab a coffee when they need energy. While this is convenient, it may not be as beneficial as one thinks. Instead of going straight for caffeine, one should try a healthier solution. According to Eatright, a person will get long-lasting energy with nutritious snacks like apples while only getting a small energy boost from drinks like coffee and soft drinks. Be sure to eat three balanced meals each day during exam weeks. This will give one the right amount of energy over time.

Start a study group

If one has trouble understanding a certain topic, their peers can help them figure it out or explain a difficult concept. Studying with a group or even just another person who understands the content will reap more benefits than staring at a difficult concept for hours. This can help lower exam anxiety, because friends can be supportive and give each other confidence boosts. Study groups are also a great place to use flashcards because everyone can quiz each other.

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Keep it neat

Before reviewing, one should try to do a small spring cleaning before break. That way, unnecessary papers that might be confused for study tools can be discarded. In addition, students should try to keep their materials organized when unpacking everything from their backpack. Whether papers are separated in folders or in piles, one should sort them by subject and chronological order for studying. If one spreads out their worksheets, notes and study guides all over a table, it creates the illusion that there’s more to study than there actually is, which creates more stress. Having everything in neat, organized piles will make studying easier, and one won’t waste time digging around for certain papers when they can be working.

Take deep breaths or a break

When the workload begins to overwhelm a student, they should stop what they’re doing, close their eyes and take deep breaths. Students should try to block everything out for a short amount of time and focus on the process of inhaling and exhaling. This helps to clear the mind and makes one feel refreshed before they go back to studying. If one still feels stressed, they should spend some time at UREC. Exercising increases positive feelings as well as a way to stay healthy.

Studying for finals can be one of the most stressful parts of college, but it’s easy to decrease the anxiety if one’s prepared. Many students focus more on cramming to get a good grade on their exams than on working smarter over time, which can be better for one’s mental health and may produce better results, too. Following these tips will help people survive the end of the semester both academically and mentally. 

Contact Gracie Brogowski at brogowsx@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.