Surviving Final Exams with Minimal Stress

Final exams — it’s a phrase that can strike fear in the hearts of even the most confident students.

Let’s face it, finals can be a source of anxiety no matter how well you know the material or how prepared you may feel. Fortunately, there are many strategies and tips that can help you survive this end-of-semester phase with a minimal amount of stress.

Preparation to avoid last-minute panic

  • Don’t wait to review your notes — instead, make a habit of constantly reviewing them, especially right after learning new information.
  • Review every day. Spending 15–20 minutes reading over your notes daily for each class will make a difference!
  • Ask instructors to clarify what you still don’t understand. This will demonstrate that you are taking your studies seriously and want to know the correct information for the exam.
  • Ask a classmate to share notes. What did you get that he/she missed and vice versa? You will both benefit from this study technique.
  • Review these resources to help you take better notes, prepare for exams, and more

Stay focused while studying

  • Establish the right environment. Create a controlled, quiet study space where you can concentrate without distractions.
  • Take responsibility for yourself. Don’t stress over trying to schedule study times with friends who will not commit.
  • Be aware of the power of positive thinking and confidence. Tell yourself this: I am going to do well on my exam.
  • Check out these studying tips from other Penn State World Campus students.

Eat a brain-boosting diet

Certain foods are said to improve mental function, while others can make you feel sluggish and lead to mental fog. These tips from a Penn State sports nutritionist can help you prepare a menu for optimal brain power.

Deal with stress in the right way

Some amount of stress may be inevitable during finals time. However, if you start to feel overly anxious or stress is making it difficult to focus, take action right away. These stress-fighting strategies and resources can help. You can also review the mental health resources available to World Campus students. 

Go with the flow of your natural learning style

There are different individual learning styles. If you are not sure what type of learner you are, read up on the various styles.

If you are an auditory learner:

  • Read aloud.
  • Record yourself reading your notes and listen to it when you can.

If you are a visual learner:

  • Color code your notes by topic or chapter.
  • Graphically organize your notes.

If you are a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner:

  • Teach someone else (a friend, your pet, etc.).
  • Rewrite your notes — neatly.

Ensure you perform at your best on exam day

  • Arrive early to your proctor site or log in to the exam as early as possible.
  • Make sure all technology is working properly.
  • Make sure you have everything you need. Does your instructor allow books or notes?
  • Look over the entire test so you can plan your time wisely.
  • Read the directions carefully!
  • Do what you know first.
  • Take your time so you do not make careless mistakes.

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