The name of the game is to work smarter, not harder. Dominating your finals isn’t just about knowing the material, it’s about having a few tricks up your sleeve. Coming from a student that spent 6 years in undergrad and graduate school, I learned my fair share of what to do and what not to do. I had a social life, played college baseball, and still graduated with honors, so I promise this isn’t a list for the super nerds. Here goes:
1. Don’t Ever Pull an All-Nighter
In theory, an all-nighter makes sense. More hours to study equals more information in your brain to use on the exam. However, this typically kills your ability to think clearly, jumbling up every tid-bit of knowledge that you do actually have. I’m not going to be the person that tells you to get 8 full hours of sleep the night before a final, because let’s be realistic here, that won’t happen. But at the very least, if you find yourself even asking the question of whether to get some sleep or to keep studying, chances are you need the sleep. Worst case scenario, go to bed ASAP and wake up super early. I used to always do this. I would go to sleep at 10pm and wake up at 4:45am and cram till my 8am final. I’d kill the exam but forget everything by noon.
I’m sure you’ve heard all there is to hear about exercising, endorphins, blood flow to the brain, blah blah blah. Science isn’t my thing, but I will tell you that exercise does help you think more clearly, and that’s why everyone talks about it. Here is what I think works best. Hit the gym, go for a run, or put in one of those exercise videos that you pray to God nobody ever sees you doing. Work out hard for about 20-30 minutes, take a shower, grab something HEALTHY to eat, and then study. Your brain will be shooting on all cylinders (sleep and diet have an effect as well)!
3. Eat Brain Food
Ever wonder why you can’t think straight sometimes? How your brain just stops, your thoughts get twist turned upside down (I know you just fresh prince rapped that), and you’re checking your calculator during the exam to make sure 2*1 equals 2? Well, most times it’s because of your diet. Things like gluten, corn, sugar, and dairy can cause a foggy mind. These are things like bread, milk, yogurt, cheese, candy, corn chips, taco bell… Instead, grab some fresh veggies, fruit, or healthy nuts for a snack. For a meal, try some chicken breast with steamed broccoli and a sweet potato. Or grab some recipes from here.
4. Put Your Phone Away
Distraction is the thief of efficient studying. Want to waste as much of your precious time as possible? Try memorizing your calculus study guide right after you posted a new pic to instagram. Every 2 seconds, you see those likes popping up on your phone, and all you want to do is check to see your like count. Instead, put your phone in your backpack, or straight up turn it off, and get to studying. All those notifications will be there when you get done. I knew of a few friends that would literally shut their phones off for 3 days while they were taking finals.
5. Make a Schedule
Believe me, I know what you’re thinking… This sounds like something a super type A organized person would do. But hear me out. Finals can be overwhelming. Trying to think about every class, every final, and every way you’re not ready for them can be a huge load on your shoulders. So sit down, make an outlined checklist of everything that needs to be done, and organize it by day/hour. This will allow you to start checking things off the list, giving you an awesome sense of accomplishment. It will also help you to visually see everything that needs to happen, and even though it may be a lot, it’ll relieve a substantial amount of stress.
At the end of the day, finals week is all about managing your time as efficiently as possible. Distractions will kill you, and a foggy brain will derail everything. Eat well, sleep well, exercise, put the distractions away, and organize your week into an easy to navigate schedule.