It's that time of the year again... final exams are looming, the gate through which you must pass to reach summer vacation.
But don't worry. I've got your back.
Here are five steps to follow to finish out your school year with style and grace, instead of blood, sweat, and tears.
1. Don’t cram
Research says cramming isn’t effective, even though a lot of people keep trying. It’s far better to study for 10-15 minutes each day for a week than a bunch all at once. Think of it like taking sips of a slushie instead of gulping it—and getting a brain freeze. Cramming may let you feel like you’ll succeed because the material will look familiar and it’s easy to think, “Yeah, yeah, I know this, I know that,” but recognition is not the same as recalling it. Instead, dedicate a little bit of time every day to study for each final exam. Depending on how much material your test covers, a chapter per day for a week might work.
2. Write out Your Notes
The science is in: writing things by hand helps us remember things much better than typing them out. You may not be able to write down every word the teacher says—but that’s precisely what will help you discern what is actually important to know and summarize as you listen, so you can write down only the critical stuff. Or even if you take notes in class on a laptop, go home and make notecards the old-fashioned way to help lock in the information you’ll need.
Sleep is critical to our health, but also to our learning. Sleep consolidates our new knowledge and organizes memories. Getting a good night of shut-eye is your best tool for making sure you remember what you studied the night before. Logically, this means that pulling “an all-nighter” is a really bad idea. Not only are you cramming (see point 1) but you aren’t giving your brain any time to absorb the material.
4. Eat well.
We all know that eating well is a priority, but sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Breakfast in particular can be tough to maneuver on a busy school morning. But on test days, it’s critical that you eat a solid breakfast with protein so your brain has the energy to carry you through the day. As a bonus, eggs contain a nutrient that is thought to help improve memory and cognitive performance. And don’t forget to stay hydrated! Fast and easy ideas: Yogurt parfait, breakfast burrito, fruit smoothie with protein powder, oatmeal made with soy or dairy milk for a protein boost.
5. Decide your goal and go for it.
Writing down your goals or stating them in public helps people reach their goals. Goals help us stay more accountable. So write down your test goal and post it in your room. Tell your friends, parents or teacher that your goal is to make whatever grade you need—an A, a B…even if it's just to pass! You are much more likely to do so once you’ve officially committed to doing it. Goals transform people from wishers to doers.
So there you go—five steps for taking charge of your academic success during final exams. This all assumes, of course, that you’ve been paying in class (because you have, right??) and listening with intention. You’ll save yourself a lot of heartache if you learn as you go, with the understanding that you might as well do it right the first time. Don’t find yourself sitting in summer school while your friends are heading out to the pool.
With a little planning and dedication, you can ace all your finals and soar off into summer with victory. Decide to rock your finals and end your school year strong.
You’ve got this.
To those of you in 4th-8th grade and older, I hope I can offer a smidgen of help & encouragement as you traverse the waters of intermediate school, middle school, and high school.