Please Do These 3 Things For Finals Week
We can’t know we’re resilient until we encounter stress and move through it. Read on for three strategic and resilient ways to take on your finals-prep stress.
Resilience and stress coexist in a healthy person. We can’t know we’re resilient until we encounter stress and move through it. Read on for three strategic and resilient ways to take on your finals-prep stress.
1) Manage Your Stress; Don’t Let It Manage You
“I will not be eaten by a wild animal today.”
This is what I told myself recently when I made a mistake and felt the kind of stress students sometimes talk about in relation classes. It’s often called fight or flight. When we encounter threatening circumstances, the brain and body respond by releasing adrenaline that prompts us to either tackle the situation or flee. The tricky thing is, the body and the hardware in our brains don’t distinguish between a hungry wild animal that just jumped in my path and a mistake– or a final exam for that matter.
Also, and unfortunately, the brain can’t take in information during fight or flight stress as well as it can otherwise. The brain is flooded with adrenaline. Imagine what it’s like to ‘flood’ a glass; there’s not much room left for anything else. Similarly, the capacity of the brain is occupied with responding to stress, so higher level functions like committing knowledge to long term memory is less of a priority biologically.
So letting your stress take over and set the agenda for your finals week is actually worse for your learning. For example, if you go through all the flashcards for your multiple choice test five times but in a state of stress, it may have been better for you to catch up on sleep or meditate.
Instead of letting stress set the agenda for your finals-prep learning, use it. Accept that some stress (sometimes called performance anxiety) is helpful when it’s time to demonstrate ability. It helps us focus. It’s a kind of energy that’s easy to use. And the wildest thing about it is that we simply need to recognize it and its source in order to manage it.
2) Clarification is Your Secret Weapon
When you feel inclined to avoid studying or to procrastinate, consider whether you know exactly what your next step will be. Stress is a reasonable human response to feeling like a task is high stakes but that the parameters for success are undefined. (High stakes + no idea what success looks like = a recipe for stress.) Whereas if we know what needs to be done, we can break ‘success’ down into smaller parts. Taking on smaller parts becomes doable and can actually build our confidence, ironically.
So if you’re avoiding finals-prep, do you know what will be covered on the exam? Do you know the format of the test? If not, chances are you could get this information, especially if you’re getting started a few days before the exam.
3) Finals Are Unique; Treat Them Accordingly
You probably won’t take final exams in the same exact format for any two classes at King’s. Why? Because the learning goals for each class are different, and therefore the methods for evaluating your learning need to be different as well.
So one of the most strategic ways you can prep for a final is to start by thinking about what you’ll be asked to do on the final and work back from there. For example, prepping for a multiple choice exam requires memorization and possibly association of knowledge-points, whereas prepping for a long-form written exam may involve designing an outline for possible essay questions and then collecting relevant information for easy recall.
If you need help figuring out what method fits your final, reach out to your professor or FA, or check out College Info Geek, which is a great resource for academic tips and strategies.