| by Thuy Truong, M.A. Ed., TPT Teaching and Coaching, 12/2/2020|
Nothing feels so delicious as acing a few exams right before the holidays because it makes the time off feel like such a sweet treat and that you’ve earned it. Most of all, there’s nothing sweeter than doing the things that will be building your future while making the process more enjoyable. It is the best of both worlds. Furthermore, it is a total adrenaline rush to be completely present in the moment. That is, when it is time to work hard, you work hard. When it is time to play, you play hard. Personal victories have never tasted so sweet. Here are three fool-proof strategies on how to have a productive final exam week.
Consolidate to Uncomplicate
We live in a world streaming with constant influx of information 24/7. We get dates, data, and information from a wide array of online sources. Things can get confusing very fast. To make things easier for ourselves, we should value simplicity. That is, we should make a conscious effort to make the complicated simple. But why, it’s already in an online calendar? But that is someone else’s calendar, you need your own that meets your specific academic needs and organizational style. Also, why go through five clicks and three websites just to get to a few scattered deadlines and information when you can re-organize all the information you need on a sleek, consolidated, self-designed sheet (Excel, Google calendar, planner etc.) that will give you concise information in 60 seconds every time? Most importantly, if you put all your exam dates into a single sheet (your sheet), you automatically get a bird’s eye view of your exam week. Then, you can easily come up with a game plan to survive exam week stress-free. At a glance, you immediately see your heavier and lighter days (e.g., I see 2 days where I have 3 exams back to back? Game plan?) Design your schedule, design your life.
Consistency is Victory
The first step is always difficult. But if you took the first step, you know the second step is almost guaranteed to be easier. It’s a universal law that starting something is always daunting; however, you might miss the opportunity to discover how good you really are at something unless you took a leap of faith and trust the process. Start reviewing and studying for your exams today. You don’t have to study weeks worth of notes all in one day. You just need to set mini goals and meet them every day. It could be reviewing 4 pages of notes each day consistently for the next two weeks. The point is you do it. Half of the battle is being completely present to the task and follow through without exceptions. The secret is doing a little each day over a consistent period of time. Consistency is victory.
Because there are so many tempting distractions at our disposal, the time thief has the uncanny ability to persuade us to pick a more attractive option that deceptively deter us from our initial goals and plans. I remember my parents always reminded me as a young child not to eat so much junk food closer to dinner time because if I filled my stomach with all kinds of junk before dinner, then I won’t have room for a nutritional meal. The reality was I needed organic nutrients more than pure sugar, so I better opted for something that would benefit me for a long time not just a short while. The same logic applies to study time. The logic is, the majority of your time investment should be targeted towards priorities not the non-essentials. When it comes to academic activities, complete them earlier in the day as much as possible while your mental energy is at its highest. Then, line up all other activities right behind studying. Sequence absolutely matters. When it comes to the life of the mind, sequence dictates consequence. If you do low-priority activities first before studying, you risk the realistic danger of mental and physical energy depletion before your study time even begins, then it's much harder to process the materials fully. Some people describe this phenomenon as 'you're not reading the book; the book is reading you.' My simple analogy is, it’s kind of like the car runs out of gas before you even get there. That’s why studying earlier in the day works best when you are made of pure energy from restful sleep and a good breakfast. In this optimal condition, the brain absorbs information accurately and efficiently. Our energy level completely governs our brain's performance.
Exams can be daunting, but I have always loved what my sixth grade teacher once said: “Relax and just show what you know.” I don’t know why but remembering what she said always made sense to me when it was assessment time and it made me feel more comfortable tackling whatever challenges that came my way. I hope you can find your own inspiration to finish your semester on a high note. Whether you’re studying in your favorite corner in the house filled with twinkle lights or putting a nice wreath above your study desk, find your own way to inspire yourself this season to finish strong. Make studying fun for yourself (do it for you) and enjoy showing what you know!