Sep. 2, 2014

Reworking typical advice for final exams

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December 3, 2012

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If you’re anything like me, you’re already terrified at the prospect of finals, and at some point in your life you’ve come across some helpful people who have given you well-meaning advice for how to get through those awful two weeks. The problem is that the advice is always predicated on the notion that you’re Superman, capable of waking up in the morning and diligently setting out to accomplish everything you wanted to, all while maintaining your health, sleep schedule and sanity. Let’s remove the rose-colored glasses for a second and translate some cliched tips into something you can actually manage:

“Try not to stress”: Not a good start — we go to the College of William and Mary. Give up on this idea quickly, or it’ll just wind up depressing you.

“Get a good night’s sleep before your exam; research shows students who sleep do retain the information better than those who spend all night cramming”: I haven’t seen the research on how students who learn the final is cumulative only the night before the exam do, but I’ve got to believe panicking makes sense in certain situations. But if you’re going brain dead because it’s the seventh time you’ve gone over everything, you’re probably done.

“Limit the use of stimulants”: I have yet to meet the student who prepares for an Anatomy test without 17 cups of coffee. Don’t expect me to be alert for anything at 9 a.m., much less a final, without a little help. But finals week is also the time when a lot of students risk felony possession charges on non-prescription “study drugs.” Keep it legal.

“Go talk to your professors”: Particularly useful if it’s going to be the first time your professor has seen your face all semester.

“Deactivate your Facebook”: Actually, they got this one right. I promise you don’t have any new notifications since you last checked five minutes ago. Besides, the same “OMG so stressed” status gets really old the hundredth time you see it.

“Exercise regularly”: If you’re someone who manages to have a regular schedule throughout the year, it’s a good way to keep balance in your life. If you’re not, I mean, c’mon, are you actually going to start now that all of the sudden you have zero free time?

“Find a quiet, distraction-free place to study, like the library”: You should find a quiet place to get your work done, but for the love of God, don’t make it Earl Gregg Swem Library. Everybody seems to forget we have dozens of other buildings that are perfectly fine and don’t look like refugee camps because of the weird people who bring tents. Also, I really don’t want to have to explain to anyone else why there’s a video of some kid getting trampled at the entrance just for trying to get a good spot.

“Practice good time-management skills”: One does not simply manage time well. But, you know, the thought was nice.

“Abstain from alcohol use”: You are, in fact, going to do better on exams for which you’re not wildly hungover. Although realistically, you are probably not going to get anything done the day after Blowout.

“Limit snacks to healthy, low-calorie alternatives”: The finals diet only covers the Domino’s and Wawa food groups, so I think you’re out of luck on this one.

“You’ll wake up more rested if you sleep in your own bed”: Zzzz … No. Too far. This desk will have to do.

“Study in groups”: Always a good idea until you remember you have lazy friends. Try not to have lazy friends.

“Take a deep breath”: Seriously. You’re 18 to 22 years old. Your life is not defined by these tests. Chill out.

Good luck, everybody.

Email Carter Lockwood at crlockwood@email.wm.edu.

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