How to survive finals week

Studies show that getting enough sleep and eating a high-protein diet will help one's ability to do well on final exams. (Mackenzie Quinn)

Studies show that getting enough sleep and eating a high-protein diet will help one’s ability to do well on final exams. (Mackenzie Quinn)

As finals week approaches, many students are beginning to experience the panic that comes when they realize they may not be totally prepared for finals, and realize trying to cram an entire semester’s worth of learning into one night is a daunting and nearly impossible task.  

Here are some tips and tricks to help students succeed or at least survive finals week.

Plan ahead. Talk to your boss as soon as you know your test dates about scheduling you for less hours, or not at all, during finals week.  If you are fortunate enough to not have to work, block off the week before finals week so that you allow yourself plenty of time to study and rest.  Inform your family, loved ones, pets  that you will be mentally unavailable, suspend your Netflix account, and stop mindlessly swiping through Tinder, at least until after finals are finished.

Sleep. Get enough rest in weeks preceding finals. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may not only feel sleepy, but you may not be able to stay awake. It will be difficult to concentrate and focus and you’ll be more easily distracted. Your recollection will be slow, meaning you’re more likely to make mistakes. Frustration and stress levels will raise.  

On the other hand, a good night’s sleep helps you be energetic, alert and it is easier to concentrate. 

“Many researchers even think that sleep can help improve your memory. Getting a full night of sleep after studying may help your brain “consolidate” new information. This may help you recall the information as you take the exam,” reports the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Studies have shown that a brief nap can help prevent burnout.”

Getting enough rest will help your body fight off any germs that be circulating.  No one wants to be that student who is constantly sniffling, snotting, and coughing while everyone else who stayed healthy is trying to concentrate on their exam.  So do yourself and your fellow classmates a favor and get sleep, don’t spend the weekend before partying and staying up late, be a responsible adult and get some good quality sleep.

Eat Right:  In addition to getting enough sleep, nutrition plays a big part in your mental and physical health. It is very simple; if you eat better, you feel better, if you feel better, you will study better. Meal prepping is a great way to organize your meals with healthy and nutrient rich options. Once they are prepped, all you have to do is reheat them, or prepare meals that do not need to be heated, and you can just grab a perfectly nutritious and ready to eat meal.  

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you can load up on those quick-fix energy foods  like junk food and chocolate or energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull. These are not only harmful to your health, but they can be detrimental to your exam performance, according to a blog post on the Top Universities website.

You should eat high protein foods like salmon, eggs, peanut butter, as well as leafy greens and fresh fruits. For a beverage, stick to green tea. 

Relax:  Find some peace and quiet. Create an environment that promotes learning and keeps out distractions. If you have roommates, invest in some high quality noise cancelling headphones. Make sure you have good lighting and a comfortable place to study, but not too comfortable that you fall asleep. If music helps you study, download a playlist that will help you concentrate. Meditation may help to calm down and focus if you are having trouble staying on task.

So now you are well rested, you are eating healthy food, you have cleared up your calendar and put up the “Do not disturb” sign, now it’s time to actually study.  Determining where to begin is always the biggest challenge.  Organize your classes by difficulty, and start with the hardest task first. If you are a wiz at math, but slept through your entire biology class this semester, start with biology.  If your teacher had enough decency to provide you with a study guide, get it out, and learn it, learn all of it, use the book, use Google, phone a friend, use whatever tool it takes for you to get every answer to the study guide questions, and rewrite them all down.  Writing them yourself will help you commit the answers to memory, and when that question comes up on the test, your brain will remember writing it. 

So how long should you study for each class? The Saddleback College Student Handbook recommends dedicating two to three hours of studying per unit, so if you are taking 12 units, you should budget 36 hours per week to hit the books so you will ace your finals.

The key to doing well on finals is preparation and avoiding procrastination. Set yourself up for success and you will succeed.  Best of luck!