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Five simple tips for navigating the end of the semester

A student studies in Snell Library on Nov. 3, 2016. Photo by Adam Glanzman/Northeastern University.

Final exams for the spring semester are less than one month away. Here are some tips for maximizing your study time and achieving your academic goals, with insight from Lydia Young, interim associate dean of the College of Professional Studies’ Graduate School of Education, and Eric Winter, academic advisor and coordinator of undergraduate student engagement in the College of Social Sciences and Humanities.

Create a checklist

Young and Winter advise students to create a checklist of their remaining assignments, particularly when trying to manage several high-priority papers, projects, and upcoming exams.

Winter says it’s important to note the weight and deadline of each assignment, explaining that you should depend on these two factors to “help you plan the time and energy you’ll spend on each priority.”

Have a plan

Determine what you need to maximize your study time, with a particular focus on where, when, and with whom you will work.

Do you prefer to study in a quiet space like the library, or do you need the background buzz of a coffee shop to keep you focused? Do you like to break open your books upon rising, or would you rather review your notes before bed?

“Have a plan,” says Winter, “and set realistic goals for what you want to achieve.” As Young puts it, “Knowing yourself and trusting this knowledge makes it easier to accomplish your goals—even when the tasks seem overwhelming.”

Find a study buddy

Young and Winter believe less in study apps than old-fashioned exam prep, like rewriting notes and reviewing past assignments. “This allows students to review how they were evaluated before the final exam and identify what their professors believe is important,” says Young.

Winter touts the importance of a study buddy, noting that research shows that we retain more knowledge through teaching than solitary reading or memorization. “I’m a little old fashioned here, but the best piece of technology I can recommend for studying is another human being,” he says. “Try to find a partner from class with whom you can trade off teaching each other course concepts.”

Relax, take a few deep breaths, and reassure yourself

Some students prepare diligently for their final exams but nevertheless encounter test anxiety on the big day. “When feeling overwhelmed,” says Young, “take a break to breathe deeply and calm your mind. If you have done the work throughout the semester, engaged in the lectures, read the material, and reviewed what you’ve learned, then your test results will reflect that effort.”

Winter advises students to take a small personal item to their exams, with the intent of touching it or looking at it during particularly stressful times. While focusing on the item, invite positivity into your mind. “Tell yourself, ‘I’ve got this’ or ‘Almost there,’” he says. “Slow the moment down and try to trust yourself and the efforts you’ve put into preparing for the test.”

Take care of your body

Don’t forget to eat, sleep, and exercise, or, as Young puts it, “do all the things you need to do to feel your best.” When you’re feeling particularly taxed from a long study session, take a break, go for a walk, and let some of your thoughts “simmer and then soak in.”

For Winter, it’s during the most stressful times that self-care is the most important. “Caring for your whole body allows you to sustain energy and keeps your mind sharp so you can demonstrate your knowledge and achieve your academic goals,” he says.