Does the thought of final exams make you nervous? Perhaps you blank out when the test lies in front of you. Maybe everything rests on this grade, and the pressure feels immense. And if this semester is your first in college, you might have no idea what to expect.
Followed by Christmas, it's all too easy to get caught up in the rush and grind: cramming for tests, shopping for gifts, worrying over things, putting up the tree, visiting with all who demand our time. The next thing we know, we feel overwhelmed. Anxious. Perhaps fearful or depressed.
There’s methods for coping with things though – both preparing for and taking the exams and handling the pressure of the holiday season on top of it. And there’s ways to just plain make life a little easier… if you want to know the secrets.
Following is the closest thing to a final exam cheat sheet you can find. You can’t carry it in with you – but then, you really wouldn’t want to.
And I have gleaned the mind of Laura Hughes, director of Counseling, Testing and Career Services, to learn the secrets of staying focused and preparing for the test, without panicking and surviving the stress of the month.
The rest of this, especially any grievous errors made (except if they lead to lawsuits, claims of mass suicide or involve chainsaws) unless otherwise noted, contains my own ideas.
“Test anxiety is a general uneasiness or dread” and the “perceived helplessness that frequently leads to diminished performance on tests," according to J. Scott Harr and Karen M. Hess in "Careers in Criminal Justice and Related Fields, from Internship to Promotion." "Test anxiety is a reality for most people. Recognize it’s existence and take control of it.”
Preparation is essential. The first key to being prepared consists of having things organized, especially your time. A personal trick that will allow you to prioritize and add to your feeling of control is simple: schedule what you need to do.
The thing is, when you have it on paper in front of you, you can visualize what needs to be done, prioritize and see where there is room to play with also. You also will not lose track of things or feel as overwhelmed. It's an excellent trick - try it.
When it comes to final exams, “the fewer surprises a test-taker encounters, the less anxiety” they will feel, notes Harr and Hess. “Test performance can be improved through practice and repetition … The more practice you have … The better you are likely to do.”
The night before the exam, get plenty of sleep. Don’t dismiss this – a rested mind will perform better in testing. Besides, if you studied consistently in preparation, last minute cramming is not necessary; a quick review of the material should help cement it in a well-rested and prepared mind.
Make sure to eat. When your body has the proper fuel and rest, it can work at performance level. And a noisy stomach can distract everyone.
It’s also important, Laura Hughes said, for you to keep things in perspective with final exams, Christmas and everything else you deal with.
“Do not let the stresses of school seem so overwhelming that you can’t recover,” she said.
Always remember, things are temporary. Situations change. In the end, a bad grade, a fight with a loved one, a bill that’s high or any other event will work itself out – it’s not the end of the world. Refer to Stress Busters or Surviving Christmas for more information on this.
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Of course, hopefully as you attended the classes and participated, you developed a feel for the instructor and their way of testing. You should have an idea if that professor likes long, well-developed answers on essays or short and concise. You should have noticed if they throw trick questions at you, or if you can use some questions to answer others.
All of these observations are among the tricks of the trade of students who test well. However, there are strategies for each of the types of tests that you may not know.
Study Guides and Strategies offers more:
If you read the question and are not sure of the answer, next try reading the stem of the question with each choice. Then,
Negatives can be confusing. If the sentence contains words like “no,” “not” and “cannot,” drop the negative and read what you have left. If the sentence is true without the negative word, it’s opposite is usually false.
Absolutes are the opposite of Qualifiers. While qualifiers like “sometimes," "frequently" and "maybe” make the statement more likely true, absolutes like “no," "never," "none," "always," "absolutely," "entirely" and "only," imply it must be true 100 percent of the time. These usually indicate false answers.
Long sentences often include groups of words set off by punctuation. Pay attention to each part; if one part is false, it usually indicates a false answer.
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“It’s such an emotional time,” as Hughes said.
Surviving final exams, making it through college, dealing with changes at home, now that you are grown up – so many circumstances make it more difficult. But knowing how to handle things and preparation can make it easier.
For students going home, things can be confusing and uncertain. Perhaps you are treated differently now that you have moved out and are attending school.
In other families, the student now feels independent, but coming home for the holidays means entering an environment where they are still treated like, “the baby of the family.”
It’s important, Hughes said, to continue being who you are, regardless of how the family perceives you. Use your manners, and be patient; in time, they will come around.
While you might always be the baby or they may expect you to not be as dependent as you once were, in the end, you can only change or control yourself. But if you stay true to who you are, they will eventually acknowledge this, and your relationship will grow.
Make realistic expectations. Expectations, it might be said, are premeditated resentments. That is, expectations usually disappoint us. Be prepared to be flexible.
Remember that you are changing and growing. Things change too. This can be difficult – but so rewarding.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by comparing this Christmas with others in the past, Hughes said. Instead, always try to find the positive and focus on it. This helps with so many other things in life, too.
For those who have cannot go home for whatever reason - remember Christmas is in the heart. You simply must make the most of it.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am firmly convinced that most people are about as happy as they decide to be.” He said this and believed this, in spite of having a depression disorder.
Remember, if you are displaced, someone else is too. So find something to do - visit friends, volunteer somewhere or share a meal with someone else. You might find you receive as much from the experience as you give.
Finances can also cause concern this time of year. Don’t feel like you have to go broke to show your love – you don’t.
As Hughes said, “Your family and friends know that you don’t have a lot of money to spend. They understand.”
Instead, consider making gifts or giving a one-for-all present, like a blanket for the whole family. Candles and items from the dollar store also make excellent presents. But in the end, just being together is enough.
Family activities help make memories. And isn’t that what you remember most from your childhood – not what you got, but where you went or what you did?
Single parents in college especially struggle with financial concerns at Christmas. Consider inventive ways to make memories.
It’s important to pace yourself; don’t spread yourself too thin. Likely you will have a million and one things to do and people to see. Find ways to include what’s important without draining yourself.
Perhaps suggest everyone meet at one house so you can see everyone at once. Schedule your demands so you can deal with them better.
And most of all, renew yourself – Christmas is not about what you spent or how much you accomplished. It’s about sharing love.
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What if you feel let-down during or after the holidays? Stress, fatigue, unrealistic expectations and bitter disappointments can lead to depression. So can the over-commercialization of Christmas, loneliness or poor grades.
Seasonal Affective Disorder can also contribute to problems at this time of the year. Simply, with SAD, the body doesn’t get as much sunlight, the clocks adjusted, and we get “out of whack.”
Hughes identified the signs of depression as headaches, excessive drinking/using drugs, over or under eating and insomnia. But again, there is hope – and help.
First of all, do anything that makes you feel good to ward off sadness and renew your batteries. Get up and moving or slow down and relax. Listen to some music, read that book you never find time for or take a long hot bath. Go shopping, go work out or go for a massage. Anything that makes you happy is what you need.
If you notice someone close to you who doesn’t seem quite like their self, or if that someone is you, then talk. Talking can do wonders; sometimes, just talking to someone – anyone – can make all the difference.
“Most of all, be good to yourself,” Hughes said. “In the end, you must please yourself.”
So, “look at all things as a growing experience – and forgive yourself” for the mistakes you have made or the ways you think you fell short.
Each person is different. But we all struggle, with exams, families, expectations, needs - any number of things. We have all been there. You can, and will, survive. Just keep a positive attitude and remember to see the good. It’s so important.
If you, or someone you know, is experiencing depression, struggling with issues or feeling overwhelmed, talk to someone. Get help.
Here at UAM, you can always contact Laura Hughes in Harris Hall Room 201. You can get a depression screening, talk to a counselor or get more information or ideas.
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ŠThe Voice 2007
Revised 01/13/2008 03:12:24 PM — http://www.uamont.edu/Organizations/TheVoice/5_12/cheat.htm