For many, they represent a period of several days where one puts forth considerable effort to learn all the material in a course and then forget it all immediately following the end of the exam. Exams also represent several weeks of stress, a reduction in hours slept, and a probably a few late night pizza parties in Irving.
Being in fourth year, I still sometimes struggle to see the value in traditional examinations. At times they are just things that need to be done in order to complete your degree. However, after undergone several finals seasons, I know that there are a few things that can ameliorate the stress of finals and ease the difficulty of your exam season. Furthermore, I will share several insights from a book on exam preparation by two professors named Thomas R. Klassen & John A. Dwyer, “How to Succeed at University”. Here are the actionable items that I invite you to keep in mind as we progress through December.
Reduce Your Anxiety:
Exams typically produce a great deal of anxiety and stress. It can be paralyzing and debilitating, often hindering our ability to study effectively and writing the exam itself. Generic advice regarding stress may include, “relax and destress” and to “study early; use good time management”. Given that you’ve probably heard much of these before, some points to emphasize that may not be what you typically hear include:
- Appreciate the positive aspects of stress. View stress from a new perspective; it adds to your ability to perform. Many do better when placed under a moderate amount of stress, trying to view it as a positive rather than negative allows you to focus more on studying or on your exam
- Put things into perspective. Although many of us may not think so, an exam is not a life or death situation. Take a step back and try to view the bigger picture; does this one exam dictate the path or outcome of your entire life? Unlikely. Think about whether the realistic worst case scenario truly is as bad as you originally thought.
Takeaway: Stress can be a positive rather than a negative.
Takeaway: View exams from a different perspective.
Studying can be painstakingly difficult.
- If you have to cram, cram intelligently. Cramming is clearly not ideal when faced with a difficult, long exam worth a large portion of your grade. However, according to “How to Succeed at University”, the most effective cramming method comprises of packing your short term memory with basic facts, names, and dates. You shouldn’t try to learn the key concepts or ideas at the last minute. Being a finance/real estate major, many of the exams I’ve done in recent years have consisted of quantitative problems. When I only have had limited time, I would only study the practice final and memorize the steps that the professor used to solve each problem. Typically, questions would vary slightly, but the methodology in solving them was the same.
- Figure out what you know the least of. Some people that I’ve come to know throughout my time at UBC study by going through all the course material from the very first lecture all the way to the end. It’s worthwhile to discern what concepts you understand the least of, and spending more time on understanding those immediately, rather than running out of time because you were studying material you knew better.
Takeaway: Don’t try and learn key concepts last minute; study the steps of a problem.
Takeaway: Go straight to the concepts you understand least.
Four actionable steps for you to take away. Good luck.