Do Your Best Without the Added Stress: How to Prepare Well for Final Exams and Projects

StudyingThe end of the semester can be stressful trying to meet project deadlines and studying for final exams. While some stress can motivate us, too much stress can be counterproductive and even harmful. However, you can reduce your anxiety and increase your odds of performing well by arming yourself with information and planning ahead. Here are some tips:

  1. Organize your time and prioritize your tasks. Log your exam times on your calendar, then calculate how many hours per day you need to prepare for each exam. Decide what those hours and days will be and stick to your schedule.
  2. Don’t procrastinate, so that you won’t cram. Give yourself plenty of time to start studying; set up your schedule a few weeks out. Studies show that cramming is not an effective way to study because it often involves all-nighters, and sleep deprivation impedes learning.
  3. Exercise and eat healthy. In your schedule, be sure to make time to take care of your body. Try to exercise a half-hour each day or for an hour every other day; you’ll feel better and sleep better. The Healthy Campus website’s nutrition page provides information on healthy eating, including a helpful video that explains How the Food You Eat Affects Your Brain.
  4. Get enough sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, and get the amount of sleep that’s optimal for you. The average requirement for college students is “well over eight hours,” according to one study. Avoid drinking too much caffeine: one study showed that consuming it up to six hours before bedtime can cause diminish sleep quality and quantity.
  5. Don’t misuse prescription drugs. Some students think that using ADHD medications without a prescription will enhance their academic performance. While these medications do help people with ADHD, research shows that students who misuse them do worse over time than those who don’t take “study drugs.” In addition, they are addictive, and symptoms of withdrawal are similar to those of cocaine.
  6. Avoid alcohol, which among other things can cause memory and learning problems.
  7. Get help with studying. Clemson’s Academic Success Center was created to enhance student learning and development; to meet the needs of students; and to promote student success, continued enrollment and graduation. The center offers tutoring, study groups, online problem-solving sessions and more.
  8. Manage/avoid stress. The Healthy Campus website’s stress page describes the signs of stress, as well as ways to cope. If you get overwhelmed, contact the Counseling and Psychological Services at 864-656-2451; after hours 864-656-2222 for campus police, who can put you in touch with the counselor on call.

Remember, the best way to do well on exams (or in an endeavor, for that matter) is to avoid too much stress, which is easier to do if you plan ahead and take care of yourself. Why not start now? 

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