It’s final exam time again, and for many students, exam time means cram time. It’s a scenario that Becky Piety, director of the Student Academic Resource Center (SARC) and the University Testing Center, has witnessed many times during her 24 years at UCF.
“We always tell students to prepare consistently in whatever class you’re in,” says Piety. “But some students struggle with time management, some have work or other commitments that eat away at their study time, and some procrastinate. Whatever the reason, knowing an exam is only days away and feeling unprepared can be very stressful. »
Many students in this situation turn to marathon, all-night study sessions to try to make up for lost time. Between 25% and 50% of students prepare for tests, according to Faculty Focus, a publication focused on teaching. But the unhealthy aspects that often accompany cramming actually make it harder to learn.
“When you’re overloaded with coffee, stressed, and tired, those are the worst conditions for trying to assimilate and retain information,” says Piety. “Cramming only causes burnout, stress and a lot of anxiety.”
Instead of cramming, Piety recommends taking action as soon as you realize you may not be prepared for an upcoming exam.
“If you haven’t prepared all semester, you need to start studying now,” says Piety. “Don’t wait until the last minute, don’t wait until the day before (an exam).”
Here are some tips and resources that Piety recommends to help make last-minute studying a little less stressful and a whole lot more efficient.
Tip 1: enter the zone
Find the study environment where you feel most comfortable and most productive. It won’t always be sitting at your desk at home. Some students seek a quiet place, such as the library, Student Academic Resource Center, or All-Knight study locations at Ferrell Commons and Knights Plaza. Others prefer a livelier atmosphere, like a cafe or outdoors.
“The important thing is to settle in and get comfortable,” says Piety.
Tip 2: Break it
People tend to put off tasks that seem too daunting, so Piety suggests breaking course content into chunks that can then be tackled one by one. Take the same approach for the blocks of time you devote to study. Rather than trying to study nonstop for hours at a time, divide that time into 25-minute intervals separated by five- or 10-minute breaks.
“You have to break down the material, take it in, and then give your brain time to process that information,” she says. “That’s how it becomes long-term learning.”
Tip 3: You don’t have to go it alone
Whether you do it in person or remotely, studying in a group can be helpful, especially if you struggle with specific class concepts. One approach recommended by Piety for study groups is for each student in the group to choose a topic from the course and then teach that topic to the rest of the group.
“It benefits you because you have to have a good understanding of this material in order to explain it to someone else,” says Piety, “and it benefits the rest of the group because they learn what you teach them.”
Tip 4: Be careful with food, sleep and exercise
Trying to fit study time into already busy schedules leads many students to throw good eating, sleeping, and exercise habits out the window. But the time of final exams is when students should pay more attention to their health, not less.
“They have to take care of themselves when preparing for final exams,” says Piety.
Plan and be intentional about your meals, and eat a balanced diet to keep your energy levels high and stay focused. Stay active – rather than reaching for the game controller or your phone during those five or 10 minute breaks, get up and walk around. And finally, make sure you get enough sleep.
“Sleeping seven to nine hours a night will help fight fatigue, but it goes beyond that,” says Piety. “A good night’s sleep gives a student’s brain time to transfer everything it has studied from its short-term memory to its long-term memory so it can remember what it has learned. for this next final.”
Campus and other resources:
From Saturday, April 23 through Saturday, April 30, SARC is partnering with the student union to host Study Union, a series of 80 final exam review sessions available to students in-person and online. A schedule of sessions is available on the SARC website, where students can also join live sessions remotely and view video recordings of completed sessions.
Piety also recommends a variety of apps that students may find useful as they prepare for finals, including Headspace, Buddhify, Insight Timer, Simple Habit, and Unplug. Forest and Flora are apps that help students disconnect from their phones and build habits to help them be more productive and present.
Piety points out that this can be a time of high stress and anxiety, even for students who have been preparing for the finals since the first day of class. On Tuesday, April 26 at 11 a.m., the Listening and Psychology Services (CAPS) office is offering a workshop on stress management. Students can find more information about the workshop on the CAPS website. CAPS also offers a 24/7 crisis hotline (407-823-2811) for students in distress.
“We see a higher incidence of this around the endgame,” says Piety. “We always recommend that students call this hotline if they feel they need help.”
Finally, students should feel free to contact their instructor.
“A lot of students are afraid or hesitant to contact their instructors, but that’s why they post their office hours,” says Piety. “So if they don’t understand something or need help, one of the first places they