Updated: May 11, 2021
| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 5/11/2021|
Summer is almost here. Beautiful sunshine and the shining blue sea are waiting for you. But before you can dip your toes into the blue ocean during summer break, you have final exams to divide and conquer. In fact, a little hard work before a break makes it all the more rewarding. After all, variety is life. The four strategies below will give you the energy you need and the academic caliber to survive finals week.
1. A Bird's-eye View of Your Exam Dates
Consolidate all your exam dates into a master schedule or better yet plug them all into Google calendar next to other pre-committed obligations, so you can accurately see which will be your lighter and heavier days. Then, you can begin to spread all tasks out a bit to evenly distribute your workload. If you do not proactively forecast and re-distribute your tasks, then it will be overwhelming when papers, projects, and exams all are due at the same time along with other personal plans that you may have for yourself. Chunk everything out in advance with extra cushion time and make it work for you. Stress management is also about self-management.
2. The Power of Rehearsing Knowledge
Spaced repetition is all about reviewing the same concepts repeatedly over a short period of time until you have achieved a perfect memory and understanding of major concepts in a class. The potency here lies in repetition. The more you rehearse and practice a familiar knowledge, the deeper it is seared into your memory. For example, if you are learning the quadratic equation, you may do 15 practice problems every two days. After the first week, you discovered some steps you don't quite understand. You asked for the professor's help. Now, your understanding is close to being perfect. Then, you up the game to doing 30 problems every two days and you do that for an entire week. Consistency is victory. If you get a 100% correct with your 30 practice problems every two days and can solve them correctly and swiftly, then you will do great on the real test, of course. Even computers need time to download data, so the human brain needs time and repetition to soak in knowledge.
3. Deep Handwriting Creates Deep Working Memory
How you take in information affect the speed of your memory and the quality of your mental assimilation to the learning content. Research has proven that handwriting notes during and after class improve retention of knowledge. So if taking notes during class by hand significantly deepen your memory of what you are learning, then you should also use the same process to commit concepts to your memory for tests and exams. The active motor movement of the hand somehow deeply affects the cognitive memory of the brain thereby helping you actively take in knowledge and reserve those cognitive imprints for later retrieval. Some people have survived examinations that last three to four hours (like myself) simply due to the potency of recalling and rehearsing information by handwriting everything out until their memory is perfect before a test. Tried and true, experience the power for yourself.
4. Protect Your Sleep
Sleep does miracles for the brain. "Studies have demonstrated that sleep deprivation leads to a continuous decline in attention. Sleep deprivation has a more adverse effect on cognitive functions." Findings from research support that the quality of information that is stored in memory is reduced when the individual is sleep deprived. This poses a significant, academic setback for students since memory of prior knowledge is a major vehicle that helps students pass exams. Therefore, protecting your sleep is the best way to arm yourself with an abundance of mental energy to fuel your cognitive processes, which you will be doing a lot of during exams week. It is recommended that students should get at least 8 hours of sleep nightly and make a point to limit your bedtime well before midnight. Also, do not neglect a healthy diet. This goes a long way too. The life of the mind entirely depends on the healthy vigor of the body. This is simply science.
Now you are well armed with the best repertoire to survive finals week. If you can see behind all the chaos of close deadlines and strings of endless tasks, finals week, in a strange way, is a time to claim your badge of honor in learning all that you should learn. Finals week is a time to demonstrate your knowledge and shine your scholarly prowess as a student. There is beauty in this; it is a matter of us seeing it. Hopefully, if you see it this way, if you see it with love, and with love everything is lighter. Good luck with your final exams!
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Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed.
I am a licensed professional educator, executive function expert, former tenured high school teacher and college instructor with 15 years experience. I am also a student success designer. I enjoy recognizing the missing puzzle in the student's learning and personalizing that solution in a language that is unique to that student. I love the creative challenge of inventing a new language for every child.