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Finals week arrives, and with it brings apprehension, stress and possibility.

How to De-Stress and Prepare for Mid-Term Exams

The Autumn leaves have fallen, and the winter chill has begun to fill the air, meaning that the time for midterm finals has arrived. Final exams are large accumulative tests that occur at least twice a school year, which require an avid amount of studying and processing information, not only just receiving information through assignments or in oral lectures during class. As a result, the mind and body of one participating in final exams is likely to grow tense and become anxious due to the apprehension and anticipation of both of these demands and the results they will bring. Even though stress is inevitable during the week of finals, simple steps and practices can be enacted, in order to lessen the stress that occurs.

In a study conducted in 2016 by MentalHelp, Thirty-one percent of students surveyed said that finals were the biggest source of their stress for the entire duration of the year. During the time that finals occur, it is highly probable that the stress level of students will increase heavily, but with certain practices that can be implemented into routine, this stress can be effectively decreased to a rate at which one is able to function properly. 

Effective ways of lessening stress during this time include not only taking care of ourselves, but also others that surround us. Someone can check in with their own mental health, as well as their friends and others that they have a deep regard for, during this time. By doing so, stress may be sufficiently reduced, as someone is aware of their current mental state, or is aware that they are surrounded by others who care about them and support them. 

You can practice self care. As trite as this may seem, it can play a key role in the vital importance of managing one’s health. Taking breaks between studying, prioritizing academics whilst also ourselves, getting enough nutrition and fueling our bodies and brain through the food we consume, and getting enough sleep are all ways of practicing self care that manage our physical health, but also can be beneficial to someone’s mental and emotional health.

Stress and the lack of sleep, which both occur often throughout the time of testing, can affect concentration, focus, and the ability, potential, and personal achievement of the individual affected. In order for the brain to process information and keep that information stored for longer durations of time, it requires rest. This rest period, or sleep, actually takes up a third of our lifetimes. This time of rest is inherently crucial for an individual. This is inherently important for any individual, especially a student, in order for the human body to balance and regulate all of its vital systems, affecting respiration to the growth, development and performance of our physical bodies. When sleep occurs, the brain must restructure, which is crucial for the functioning of our memory. 

The forgetting curve, in which we normally forget 40% of the information of new material that we learn within the first twenty minutes, can be prevented through memory consolidation. Memory consolidation is the process in which information is transferred from our short term memory, stored in the prefrontal cortex, to our long term memory storage located in the hippocampus found in the brain. To strengthen the duration and effectiveness of memory retention, certain factors such as a full night’s sleep can be implemented. Going to sleep around three hours after studying material such as formulas or memorizing data within any of the major subjects, is highly recommended and instructed, in order to improve the memory retention and performance of the given individual. 

By getting enough sleep, and practicing other forms of self care and maintenance, concentration, focus and performance can all be improved. With the stress of personal lives throughout most students, as well as the added stress of preparing for finals, stress levels can increase, while energy levels decrease heavily. Not getting enough sleep consistently, and especially throughout the duration of finals week can adversely affect the results and outcome of any student or individual. With the added benefit of sleep, even if studying after 10 pm may seem more beneficial, the brain is then able to optimally function and concentrate, especially within remembering specific topics, making taking these exams less difficult. 

Managing time and effectively studying also plays a key role in the results of these exams. Several ways to manage time and study the most efficient way possible includes setting timers for studying and taking breaks to ensure optimum productivity, creating, if possible, a workspace without distractions or an abundance of noise, and you can also compose an accurate schedule of finals in order to organize when specific tests are and when to actively prepare for each one. It is also extremely vital that someone makes sure to create time in order to prioritize eating and hygiene, even though the week may be especially busy, and keep track of both assignments due within the weeks of preparation for exams and the time that will be spent studying are all ways that can help someone destress and keep organized throughout this chaotic period. 

The method you use to study can also adversely or beneficially affect the outcome of these tests. Reviewing study guides, testing friends or peers over material, asking for help from teachers and meeting during times such as WIN Time to review material, and the use of tools such as quizlet, which can be made by teachers and students to review for testing are all ways that this can be implemented. You can also re-read through certain chapters or given handouts to review. The use of repetitive comprehension techniques can be incredibly beneficial, such as kahoot and physical flashcards, if writing something physically works best for you personally in order to review and prepare fully. 

Studying, if done, can be time consuming and especially difficult, but with some simple steps its process can be made much easier, and the benefits will be reaped. In order to review and obtain the knowledge fully from the material studied, someone can organize the way in which they study by setting timers to allot for specific timed increments of studying and by taking set 5-7 minutes breaks every 30-40 minutes of studying to improve efficiency and not overload their thoughts or mind. Making sure to review all material included within a test, and utilizing study guides and other handouts are also especially crucial in completing this step.

Being sure to get enough sleep, as to refuel the body and the mind during this time is also especially important. 

The foods we consume affect not only our memory, but also performance, energy levels, and mood. By eating foods that will give you energy and the nutrients it needs, our bodies are able to be fully supported. It is also inherently important that someone does not forget to eat and takes a break to eat while studying or eat while processing information through reviewing. Our bodies need to absorb macromolecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids and certain nutrients in foods in order to function both properly and optimally for our performance.

The second semester of the school year, students are also able to start with a clean slate, and implement some of these practices to both make finals at the end of the year, and the next years of their learning more durable and to have more ease. By adding some, or all, of these exercises and practices, grades and comprehension are likely to improve, as well as test results from the finals occurring before the end of the year. 

As well as the immense effort from students, finals week can also be made easier by other classmates, as well as understanding teachers and parents. Friends can group study together, productively, and test one another to mimic the algorithms of a test, as well as check in on one another during this time to help one another. Students can also be 

attentive and quiet in class to better help others absorb material and concentrate, and as a result higher test scores may accumulate amongst classrooms. 

Teachers who provide the materials and patience to work with students through material and provide reviewing time, in order to achieve best test results, and not assigning an abundance  of added homework, allows for students to study at home, especially with people who have tight-filled schedules. Parents can also encourage their children to do their best, whilst also setting realistic expectations, in which they recognize and acknowledge their achievement. 

As finals week can be very stressful, especially this year due to the absence of finals before break, being surrounded by others who understand the stress and anxiety, can lessen the amount of pressure surrounding this chaotic time. Supporting others, checking in with ourselves, taking breaks, studying efficiently and putting in the required effort, as well as taking care of our bodies and providing them with the support they need, can all subsequently help students endure this finals week, successfully. 


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