I had a wrestling coach who used to scream, “tough time!” when there was 10-15 seconds left in a match. His warning let me know the end of the match was coming and that I needed to work to win and/or defend my progress. With exams and end of term essays so heavily weighted, this time of year in the academic calendar could be considered “tough time.”
When I would hear that call, it was no surprise. I was pretty sure we were at the end of the match, but to have that information gave me more motivation and clarity about the work ahead. Likewise, Finals means bearing down, intentional sustained focus and the potential for an all-nighter or two. Your hard work will be rewarded! This is the culmination of your learning where you are integrating new knowledge with previous studies. In a sense, the effort that you pour into your studies will help you come out of a winner.
WORK TO WIN:
And it is important to win! So much can change in the final tics of the clock. I saw it happen time and time again in my own experience and through watching others wrestle. I remember joking with a fellow teammate during the state tournament, “wouldn’t it be funny if Michael got pinned here? He has been dominating the entire time.” Sure enough, the ref stopped the match a moment later and Michael had been pinned. During Finals, I’ve seen the same effects. An extra hour of studying can raise a grade suffering from late homework assignments or a difficult midterm.
DEFEND YOUR PROGRESS:
Alternatively, mailing in your work effort during this time can subvert the hard work that you’ve been putting into classes all semester. As a wrestler, I was not the best technically. What I was best at every day was conditioning. So when I came across someone better than me, I would just wear them out until they were tired. I would capitalize on someone trying to mail in the final seconds. With an arduous academic schedule, it takes conditioning to complete your courses, but this is what you’ve been waiting for all semester! You’ve taken the small incremental steps – going to class, doing as much of the reading as you can, being on top of the many due dates – and now is time to defend that progress by putting in your best effort.
PRACTICAL STUDY TIPS:
1) The brain requires a ton of glucose and water to perform. Eat Right & drink lots of water!
2) Breathe – Your brain also need oxygen to operate at a high capacity. Try taking a few deep breaths before starting an exam or when you get stuck. It will act to supply your brain with fuel and it can calm possible test anxiety. Remember to push your stomach out instead of lifting your chest when you inhale.
3) Sleep well! – It sounds counter intuitive, but the more sleep you can fit into your schedule the better. 20 minute cat naps can give you 3-4 more hours of sustained attention.
4) Put off emotional tasks until after finals unless it is absolutely necessary. As a therapist, I don’t usually suggest avoidance, but sometimes later can be better when your main goal is studying.
5) Watch, Do, Teach – This is how many medical schools teach and I think it is a great way to gain mastery. If you think you have a concept down, try teaching it to a classmate or even to yourself.
Good luck during this exam time and finish strong!
-Logan Williamson, LPC