Beat your ECA, Finals and Projects

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By: Rachel Haywood
Managing Editor

As the school year comes to a close, everyone knows that the last month of classes is the most stressful.  Senior projects and Junior research papers are due and sophomores have to worry about passing their ECA’s.  On top of those standardized tests, final exams cover material from eighteen weeks of instruction.  Here are my top eight golden rules to leave school with a smiley face on your report card.

1. Relax.

During finals week your brain starts to buzz with everything you have to remember for the test and your nerves skyrocket.  Just take a moment and breathe.  Deep breathing delivers more oxygen to your brain, which helps you process information more effectively.  These tests are important, but they can make up less than 20 percent of your final grade.

2. Ask your teachers what format your finals will be in.

Studying for tests is different for every subject.  Some teachers give multiple choice tests, and others give essay questions.  Knowing how the test is structured can be a useful tool in your studying plan.  Multiple choice or true/false questions tend to cover smaller bits of information while essay questions generally inquire about larger sections of material covered during the semester.  If you ask, the worse your teacher can say is “no, I can’t tell you how the test will be made.”

3. Start studying early.

No one likes to stay up until the wee hours of the morning trying to cram for exams.  It is almost guaranteed that you will not perform as well. Start studying at least two weeks in advance To make sure you have enough time to break the material up into groups.

4. Prioritize.

Prioritizing goes hand in hand with preparing early for exams.  Once you have broken your studying materials into smaller, more manageable sections, figure out when each test is and how important it actually is.  Some finals are simple enough that you may not need to study for hours on end, but others may take a few days.  This can be a challenge when studying for finals is not your only obligation to finish the school year.  Towards finals week, daily homework may need to take a back seat until you can get your studying under control.

5. Don’t study too long.

Just like a last minute cram is bad for an exam, so is too much studying. You can only retain so much information before your brain stops processing the material. It might be a good idea to stop studying at least 12 hours before your test because you aren’t going to effectively learn any new subject matter. Give your mind some time to grasp what you’ve already put into it.

6. Take small, frequent breaks when studying.

This is a good study tip not just for finals, but for normal days too. Consider taking a five to ten minute break every hour that you’re studying. Take a walk, grab a healthy snack or just stand and stretch. If you get tired, chances are your brain will, too.

7. Read all the questions fully, and develop your answers carefully.

The bottom line is: Some teachers like to give students trick questions just to see how well they’ve been paying attention in class. For true/false questions, if one part is false, it’s all false. When dealing with multiple choice questions, eliminate the obviously wrong answers first; cross them out. If you cannot eliminate at least one answer choice, skip it and come back later. Final exams are time sensitive. Essay questions all depend on the writing ability of the student. If you cannot find the right words to put on the page, focus your attention on the accuracy of your information.

8. Take care of your body.

The rest you give your body and mind is just as important as the food you put into your body as fuel. Both are essential to a successful performance on test day, or any regular day of school, for that matter. Getting plenty of sleep at night recharges your mind, and the nutrients from healthy foods keeps that charge in your brain going. The day before a big test, plan to get at least 8 hours of sleep. On test day, eat a good breakfast with a decent serving of protein.

If you can only take away one thing from reading this article, think about this. Do not stress yourself out! Yes, finals are an important part of your education, but if you get too worked up, you won’t do well. High school is just one part of your life. Learning out to cope with stress now will better prepare you for college later.

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