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By Kate Willson
One of the many things that people forget before heading back to school is the stress of exams. The final test of the year can drastically raise or lower your overall score, and preparing for your exams can test not only your knowledge, but your ability to stay calm during stressful situations. Stress naturally makes you more forgetful, something that doesn't help when you have to be at your best for your final way of proving yourself in your subject matter expertise. The first step to doing well is to figure out how you deal with stress. Some people shut down, and become reserved, quiet, and sometimes even lethargic. Others, become angry, agitated, and frustrated. If you've ever thrown your text book or binder after a long cramming session, you'll probably be closer to the later than the former. I have always been more of the "shut down" type myself, while my wife is the polar opposite. Once you've realized how you are when stressed, you can start putting things in place to help combat it. Of course, the best remedy is to study early and often. Most stress comes from a feeling of being unprepared or rushed. If you study early and often, you'll alleviate such problems when it comes to exam time. Of course, for many people, exam time is now, and this advice comes too late, so what else can you do?
Set a Schedule
All of your exams hopefully won't be on the same day, so set a study schedule that gives the most amount of time to the first exam, and your hardest exam. If they are one and the same, you will want to give it nearly all of the time, and study for the others more and more as their test taking dates come up.
There are classes you enjoy, and are probably good at, but don't get sucked into giving them all of your time. You may enjoy certain classes less, but if you are doing poorly in a class, it needs to get more of your attention, as your exams can usually help raise your mark substantially if you do well.
Condense Your Notes
On a weekly basis, your professors might have given you or assigned you five or ten pages of information to be digested, but not all of that is important come exam time. You'll want to go through and remove things that you are confident won't be on the exam. It will make it easier to focus, and help with the overwhelming feeling that people get when looking at what feels like an insurmountable task to accomplish.
Take a Break
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to take a break. Even when it feels like you only have minutes left to digest huge swaths of information, making yourself more stressed can lead to detrimental effects lowering your test score, also concentration and information retention is lowered during times of extreme stress. Exercise, reading for entertainment, going to see a movie, or playing with your pet are all great ways to instantly relieve your stress. The only caveat is that you can't stay in this state, and should set some sort of a time limit before starting to make sure you get back to studying. Procrastination is your worst enemy. While I know it is hard to focus during the last stretch of any program, it is when you need to give it your all. After your final exams, you have all summer to recover from the hard work and effort you put into your final test, and remember to relax, be organized, and deal with your stress before it becomes a problem.