How to Thrive During Finals

The end of the fall semester ends just as the holiday season enters full swing. Depending on your class and professor, your final can be worth anywhere between 10 to 35 percent of your final grade. This can turn the most wonderful time of the year into the most stressful time of the year for many students. There are some ways to mitigate all of this stress though, and many of them are proven by science, as well. Here are five tips to not only survive but thrive this time of year.

It’s been scientifically proven that cramming doesn’t work. Your brain cannot retain all of the information you learned through the entire semester in just a few days. It takes time to actually learn and create the valuable connections you need to perform well on tests. This is compounded when students disrupt their sleep schedule or lose sleep to study. A study done by Pamela Thacherar,  associate professor of psychology at St. Lawrence University, found that pulling an all-nighter can impair your memory for up to four days. Additionally, professor Andrew Fuligni at UCLA did really fascinating research about how bad cramming is for you academically. You can read more about it here. It’s best to write down each day you have a final and create a study schedule that extends at least one week out.

So, you shouldn’t cram, but how early should you start studying for an exam? The answer is about two to three weeks out, according to the Princeton Review. If you start studying this far out, you can actually study less and be more efficient. If you create flashcards with a smaller amount of information, it will be easier to retain. Physically writing important pieces of material will help it stick in your head more easily.

Talk to your professors. This tip doesn’t have scientific evidence, but we see so much value here. Your professors can help break down a complex subject or piece of information that you have been struggling to understand, which can cut down on how much you need to study. They can teach you different ways approach the subject that they might not have had time for in class, and if you have been a good student, they might even give you some helpful hints as to what might be on the final exam. Read more about visiting with professors on our office hours blog.

Exercising might be the last thing on your mind as we approach this time of the year, but it’s very helpful. has a really great article on how cardio can help improve your brain function/memory, be more productive and relieve much of the stress you might have accumulated over the past couple of weeks. It really only takes 20 minutes to reap these benefits and relieve stress.

Finally, relax. You should take some time to enjoy your friends and the festivities around you. You will only have a few holiday seasons during your college career, and it’s so important to enjoy those. Your friends are probably just as stressed as you are and would appreciate an invite to play video games, go on a walk or just hang out and listen to music. You might even grab a friend to go exercise with, too.

Whatever you do this season, make sure to breathe. If you feel stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath. Studying is of the utmost importance, especially this time of year, but make sure you enjoy the little things and make memories with your friends. Feel free to leave your own study tips and stress relieving strategies below, and have a stress-free end of the year!

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