What NOT to do This Exam Season

Final Exams

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Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanza and New Years are approaching rapidly, and with them comes the dreaded December Finals. With the plethora of exam advice on the web, I thought I’d take a different spin and write about what people should NOT do during this exam season.

1. Do not grind

This isn’t the dancing type of grind. No, an exam grind is when you leave your house at an ungodly hour, park yourself in a library, study for 12 hours, go home and sleep, and repeat this process until all your exams are done. Not only is this physically and mentally draining, but is also inefficient and ineffective. If you’re pushing yourself like this, your motivation – arguably one of the most important things during an exam season – will be lost. More importantly, most people doing the grind end up being distracted by something or take much longer to get through material. Your grade on an exam has nothing to do with how long you studied for it – only how effectively you’ve studied it. Set aside specific time and goals for what you’re studying and leave a least an hour or two a day for fun activities. This is NOT an argument for not studying, but rather an argument for studying smartly. Don’t grind, it’s a waste of time.

2. Do not give up all social events

Holing yourself up or ignoring all of your friends and family is a quick way of going insane. No matter how freaked out your are by the amount of work you have to get done, leave some time to go out and have fun. Watching a movie with friends, playing some sports, or even just having a quick conversation with someone will reenergize you. However, not all activities are created equal…

3. Do not take drugs or alcohol (or smoke if possible)

Avoid binge drinking after feeling like you’ve bombed an exam and stay away from the illegal stuff! At the risk of making myself sound prudish, addling your brain is the worst thing you could do. Hangovers and the morning afters aside, the brain is an extremely sensitive organ that regenerates slowly. One especially brutal drinking session will affect you for days. That’s not taking into the long term effects of drinking, smoking, and drugs; your brain could take up to 40 YEARS to undo the damage you do onto it today.

4. Do not burn out

With the pressure of exams and the holiday season, it can be easy to overburden yourself and burnout. Follow steps 1 and 2, and if you feel really close to the edge, talk to someone you trust. I’ll leave the psychological stuff out of this discussion, but find some ways to unload. Don’t forget that there are 2 weeks of oblivion holiday after!

5. Do not freak

Around exam time, perfectly sane students start running around like headless chickens. People freak out because they are disorganized. people freak out because they are afraid of being disorganized. People freak out because they can’t get through all the material in time. People freak out because they have gotten through all of the material they can and are at a loss as to what else they can study. It’s a time for paradoxes and potentially high emotions. Take a breath. Chill. Organize and study the best you can. Don’t worry if you’ve left the laundry undone, the dishes in the sink, or forgot to do one of the critical readings for an exam. Focus on what’s important to you and sweat the small stuff later. If you feel terrible because your exams have been tough, take comfort in the knowledge that you are not alone and that it will get better if you keep on trying!

6. Do not miss an exam!

This is obvious, but worth reiteration. Triple and quadruple check your exam schedule. Write it out or print it out and double check with friends. The day before a schedule exam, check your time and location again. This may be a bit over the top, but it’s better than showing up for an exam only to realize you’re not at the right place at the right time! Not writing the final can mean you literally fail in some courses, so it pays to be overzealous.

7. Do not let this list worry you

Some people – like myself – feel tense around exam time because of the pressure. If you are not one of those people, kudos! Keep on doing whatever you’ve been doing and you’ll sail through this exam season without issues. If you are feeling stressed out, do your best to relax (hopefully the above advice will help you somewhat) and you WILL get through it!

Good luck on your exams!