The infamous finals week is no longer a faraway thought; it can’t be avoided any longer. For some Cougars on campus, this is the last week of spring finals ever, but for others, this is the first to date. While the exams can seem like an all-consuming dark cloud and never-ending to-do list, when they’re approached with the correct mindset, they can be manageable.
College students have an affinity for pulling all-nighters. Dr. Philip Alapat of Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center suggests that this could be detrimental to a student’s performance on an important exam.
“Memory recall and ability to maintain concentration are much improved when an individual is rested,” Alapat said. “By preparing early and being able to better recall what you have studied, your ability to perform well on exams is increased.”
With that said, cancel your all-night cram sessions the night before your first final. Dr. Alapat hit the nail on the head when he encouraged “preparing early.” Waiting until the last minute to crack open your notes does not have your best interests in mind. When you allow yourself to take in little chunks of information at a time, you won’t feel swamped the night before your exam, leading you to an all-night study session. Dr. Alapat recommends eight or nine hours of sleep the night before a test.
“Utilize taking naps. They will definitely help you have more energy,” said senior Christian ministry major Crystal Reed. If getting 8-9 hours of sleep just isn’t fitting into your schedule, short naps will give you the midday energy boost you need. A nap is a far better solution than coffee because you won’t have a crash a few hours later.
It’s the morning of test day, and you can’t bear to look over your notes anymore. Success then often extends past studying. According to Livestrong, eating a protein-rich breakfast can help boost brain activity. Suggested foods are eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, cheese, nuts and fish.
Livestrong suggests students not drink coffee on the day of an important test, as it can “cause nervousness and interfere with the ability to focus.” Other foods to avoid are those with a high carbohydrate count. While these foods provide energy, the energy boost is very short-lived, leaving you with a crash.
Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard psychologist, suggests that students spend the time just before their exam at the gym, taking 10-40 minutes, to be exact.
“A short, sweaty session of jumping rope, running in place [or] squat bends can quickly improve blood flow to the brain, helping to improve the transmission of signals through the nerve cells,” Ratey said.
Although doctors are not sure how long these effects last, Ratey recommends that students exercise within one hour of beginning the exam. This doesn’t have to be done at the gym or on the track, either. Take a bit of time to do some crunches, pushups or jumping jacks in your dorm room before you pack up your backpack and head for your test. Try your best to get blood flowing and your heart pumping within an hour before the start of your exam.
Finals week is stressful for everyone, but with substantial studying, enough sleep, a protein-rich diet and a bit of exercise, you may perform better on your final exams than you expected.