The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: An Exam Week Survival Guide

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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: An Exam Week Survival Guide

Time to get to work!

Time to get to work!

scui3asteveo

Time to get to work!

scui3asteveo

scui3asteveo

Time to get to work!

Emily Elfelt, Reporter

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Car windows are frosting up, Christmas shopping is in full swing, and, here at the Academy, students are desperately cramming for exams. I found that this last situation was the perfect opportunity for me to create an ‘exam week survival guide’ composed of tips and tricks from staff and students.

Mrs. Jessee Tomchek, the Upper School’s Academic Resource Coordinator presented me with a list of her top three tips for exam preparation: sleep, stick to a study schedule, and turn off or set aside phones.

First, it is a common fact that teenagers need sleep, yet seldom get enough of it. And during exam week, this unfortunate reality becomes even more true. Tomchek stated that “many students go without the necessary 7+ hours of sleep per night,” a detriment to their ability to focus and overall health. Although studying your material and old tests is the most logical way to prepare for an exam, sleeping is necessary for all this information to reach long-term storage. Tomchek claims that “the expression ‘sleep on it’ really works.” Do your brain a favor and plan a study schedule ahead of time so you don’t sacrifice your beauty sleep.

Next, by making sure to plan out this said study schedule, you will save time in the long run. “Cramming is one of the least effective ways to learn information. Get organized early and start studying a little bit each day,” says Tomchek. We’re looking at you, procrastinators. 

Serena Richardson, a junior with several semesters of exams under her belt, is the perfect example of Tomchek’s first two tips. Serena organizes her exam material into an exam review binder a week and a half before exam week, and she begins studying this material at least a week prior to exams. On the night before an exam day, she goes to bed early, and she takes breaks to eat cookies and hang out with her family. Serena suggests students should “take a chill pill” as to not fall asleep feeling stressed. 

During exam season, Serena’s visualizes the whole semester as a sports season and exam week as the championship, a useful tip inspired by Mr. Richardson. This visualization helps her realize that exams are just an opportunity to show off what she knows and the work she has done throughout the semester.

The third and final piece of advice Tomchek gave might be the the hardest for most teenagers to accept, and it directly affects the first two tips. Just hide your phone. Turn off notifications, power it off, give it to your parents… do whatever it takes to keep you focused. Tomchek explains, “Time after time, technology (especially social media) has been proven to be the leading impediment to quality learning and studying.” Practice self-control and discipline so that it is easy by the time the eve of the Micro and Chem exams comes about. 

Tomchek also discussed taking breaks, stress relievers, switching up your workspace, and studying with friends. She stated, “Teenagers typically cannot sustain attention longer than fifty minutes.” Tomchek thus suggests taking a twenty minute break after fifty minutes of studying in order to “eat a healthy snack, go for a walk, [or] talk with a friend.” Basically, find ways to relax even when you feel that you do not need a break.

Some stress relieving activities Tomchek suggests include exercising, changing your work spot, and scheduling your breaks so that they coincide with those of a friend’s. According to Mrs. Tomchek, “exercising will release endorphins, perhaps the best remedy for stress!” She also suggests getting some fresh air and vitamin D.

Switching up the place you study can be a surprisingly effective solution to feeling “confined” and “overwhelmed” says Tomchek, such as a coffee shop, library, or even a friend’s house. But wherever you find yourself studying, make sure to keep your workspace tidy because “a neat working space allows you to think more clearly!”

Mrs. Tomchek always recommends studying in groups because she believes that “talking with and teaching others will strengthen your comprehension.” She explained that studying techniques like reading, listening, rewriting, and talking “will activate different parts of your brain to ensure a deeper understanding of the material being studied.”

Finally, I was curious about our students’ music preferences while studying. I listen to a calming piano music when studying subjects that require language comprehension, but when I am cranking out math problems, songs with lyrics do not bother me. I surveyed twenty students about their preferences, and eight claimed they never listen to music while studying because it is too distracting. The remaining twelve include those who listen to genres ranging from classical to slow jazz and those who mostly listen to their favorite Spotify playlists like “Today’s Hits” or “Chill.” However, many of these students explained that, like me, they refrain from listening to music when studying for certain subjects.

This exam season, it is your choice whether you will board the Procrastination Plane or the Schedule Ship. Either option brings you to Christmas break, but by sticking to a schedule, putting away your phone, and getting plenty of sleep, you can thrive rather than simply survive. Have a happy Christmas break and good luck with exams!

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About the Writer
Emily Elfelt, Reporter

Emily, a junior at BA, looks forward to her first year writing for the newspaper. She loves hiking, playing sports, and being in the musical, and she is...

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