Exam tips: How to relax when stressed to the max

December 13, 2019

Winter break is a time when all exhausted students seize the opportunity to sleep for hours on end. But wait! Before these students can exhale, they have to endure the wait and study for their midterms, held on Dec. 16-18. Exams can come with a lot of stress, and there are ways to lessen it.


Upperclassmen have already endured a few years of exams, so they have experience and advice. There are ways to tackle studying for courses, relax and prepare mentally for the challenges ahead. These tips will help keep stress at bay and even help to prepare for exams in the future.


In terms of preparation, senior Padraig Hurley said that starting sooner is better.


“If you can start studying for a test sooner rather than later, you’ll be much more prepared for the test. Studying ahead gives you time to commit the information you need to know into your memory and work out any issues in your understanding. Your ability to memorize information is largely independent, so it’s up to you to figure out how much preparation time you need,” Hurley said.


When it comes to studying, junior Emma Neff-Friel uses a combination of methods to prepare for tests and quizzes. “I usually write out my review guides which are mostly free response so I can expect the harder questions on the test and be ready for an easier exam than I was prepared for. I only make flash cards for the stuff I don’t know,” Neff-Friel said.


In terms of mental preparation, Neff-Friel has a few tricks on combating nervousness. She also makes sure to eat a healthy breakfast. 


“I do a ‘Superman’ pose which helps give confidence and trick your brain a little. Blowing cold air on your thumb helps trigger a response with the artery below the skin that slows your heart and calms you down,” Neff-Friel said.


Exams can be stressful, but Hurley advises spending time efficiently. “Don’t stress out about it. When did stressing out or worrying ever change the outcome of something? Your actions and how you respond to your stress are what make your grades,” Hurley said. 


With studying, junior Carly Casner recommends taking breaks. “Taking a break after about 30-45 minutes or between subjects will keep you focused and improve your efficiency. You can’t let yourself have too long of a break though because then you will obviously lose time and won’t be as focused,” Casner said.


Hurley also recommends spending more time on answerable questions to ensure the maximum points earned. 


“When it comes to test-taking, knowing the material is the first and foremost important part. In my opinion, knowing where you earn points is the second most important part. Spend more time on the questions you can answer and earn points on,” Hurley said. 


Neff-Friel makes sure to treat herself post-exam. “After my last exam I treat myself for a job well done. Even if you don’t do 100 percent amazing, you worked really hard and it’s important to realize that,” Neff-Friel said.


For any unfamiliar material on a test, Hurley suggests reviewing it soon afterwards. “If you missed something because of a gap in knowledge, it is crucial that you fill that gap before your next test. If you don’t know something now, then later down the road that might prevent you from understanding new material,” Hurley said. 


Casner advises putting unnecessary electronic devices away for optimum study performance. She also recommends getting enough sleep to retain more information. “Put your device in a different room. You won’t be as tempted to check it every time you hear a buzz, because you won’t hear the buzz in the first place. If you really need music to help you stay focused, at least put your phone or device on silent and flip it over so the screen is facing down.”


Overall, midterm exams may seem like an obstacle in the way of winter break, but with following these studying tips provided by these upperclassmen, a lot of the stress that comes with it will be reduced. Remember to work hard before getting a chance to relax, because the results that come from hard work will pay off. Good luck with exams and make sure to relax afterwards!



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