Nutrition Sciences Major, Charger Blogger Gears Up for Finals
As she prepares for finals, Beatrice Glaviano ’26 discusses how she prepares for exams and offers study and self-care tips to her fellow Chargers.
December 06, 2023
By Beatrice Glaviano ’26
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to Finals Prep 101: A Sophomore’s Guide to Not Failing Finals. So, buckle up, grab a notebook and pen, and let's dive into it.
Given that final exams are on the horizon, it’s safe to say that the stress is starting to kick in a little bit. For me, I have three main finals (EMT I, Anatomy & Physiology, & Organic Chemistry), with a few final projects scattered here and there. While this isn’t exactly horrible, reviewing all of the information for these exams will be a slightly daunting task – these are very application - and memorization-heavy topics, and they will require a slightly absurd amount of time to study and prepare for.
When it comes to studying for any exam, I believe there are three components to take into consideration:
What is your study style?
What units or chapters did you struggle with? Which were you successful with?
How does your energy fluctuate throughout the day?
Starting with the first point, understanding the method in which you study best as well as the environment in which you do so is so, so important. When I want to really lock in and get material down, you can usually find me in the upper level of the library, where it’s completely silent. In high school, I’d listen to music while studying, but now, it’s a horrible distraction, and I cannot get anything done unless it’s dead quiet. When it comes to studying methods, here are the ones I would suggest:
Be able to teach someone else about the topic in an easy-to-digest manner
Quizlet (I pay $35 for QuizletPlus every year) is a very good resource for this
25/5 Pomodoro method
Twenty-five minutes of pure studying (no distractions) to five minutes of break
Allows brain to not be overloaded with information (also helps with procrastination as you know you’ll get a break)
After 2-3 rounds, take a fifteen-minute brain-break instead (walk, water, snack, etc)
You will be insanely efficient with your work
On a slightly separate note, I’d definitely pay attention to what foods you’re eating while studying as that may have some effect on your energy levels and ability to retain information. I’d prioritize electrolytes (zinc, magnesium, copper, and iron), as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which can be found in foods such as fatty fish (i.e. salmon), nuts, and seeds. These will help your brain transmit signals to the rest of your body, and the omega-3s will help retain information.
When it comes to the environment, I’d suggest anywhere that’s relatively quiet. This doesn’t mean dead silent, as that can be hard to find in college because of roommates or just people in general, but a volume at which you can focus at. However, it won’t matter how loud or quiet the room is if you are surrounded with distractions. Put your phone down. If you’re distracted by stuff outside of a window, move away from it. By eliminating distractions, you direct your brain to only focus on what’s in front of you because there is no other option. In all cases, the brain will eventually do something when there is “nothing” to do.
On that note, the 25/5 pomodoro method is extremely, extremely helpful because of this. I believe that this method is useful as your brain recognizes that it will get a break at some point, as well as the fact that it helps you to section your work into manageable chunks. Personally, this has really helped me stop overthinking when it comes to my assignments. Typically, I blow things out of proportion and stress out before realizing, “Oh, that wasn’t too bad after all.” So, to spare myself the potential heart attack, I try my best to plan out my studying.
Actually, before starting to sit down to study, I’d map out what days and times your exams are and go from there. I have organized my finals by complexity, the date of which they’re taking place, and what my past tests were composed of, as well as how well I did on them. For many of my subjects, I’m working backward (meaning that I start with the most recent material, and work my way back to the starting unit). This way, I will refresh relatively new knowledge faster instead of forgetting it later on after studying older material. Of course, this is how I work and not necessarily how you may function.
Speaking of function, I did bring up energy fluctuations, but I never quite elaborated on them. I don’t know about you, but the seasonal depression is hitting pretty hard. With the blast-freezer wind tunnel between Celentano and Bixler, it’s been slightly miserable outside. Around this time of year, I’ve noticed that my circadian rhythm is tied to my productivity, meaning that as the days get shorter my ability to study is irritated. This, in the context of finals season, is not great. So, I have to plan around that.
My energy typically peaks either mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and tends to re-spike after 7 p.m. or so when it’s now pitch black out. With this, I can plot out my “academic weapon” study or homework sessions so that I’m able to focus and get my work done in an efficient and timely manner. When it comes to picking up your own fluctuations throughout the day, it may take a couple tries and plenty of observation to get a fair idea of how your body and mind work.
I’d also like to note the importance of not getting too stressed during finals. I know, I know – it sounds dumb and impossible. But I’m also dumb and, quite literally, impossible sometimes, so something has to be able to work here. Mitigating stress can be quite challenging, especially given the wide variety of educational and personal backgrounds we’re all coming from. While some of you may be able to navigate the ocean of cortisol with no fear, others may wash upon some rocks – and that’s okay. What has really helped me to remain calm (“Everyone stay calm!” – Michael Scott, The Office) actually came down to some very simple things:
Not only are our bodies designed to move and be active, but they also have a rather fun trick that they release when they are active: dopamine. Dopamine is a “happy” chemical of the brain that helps it to relax, and it’s released during exercise because your body doesn’t want to feel pain and instead buffers it with a chemical. Pretty cool, huh? Other chemicals that may be released would be serotonin or even cortisol, the latter being because when you work out, you do put some degree of stress on your body. However, I do believe that moving one's body is a positive thing if their health history permits it.
Get sleep. All the sleep. As much sleep as you can. Your brain cannot be constantly accepting information as it needs time to process it. As much as we think that we’re computers, we’re not. We cannot just keep downloading and opening files willy-nilly because, eventually, our brain will be overwhelmed with information. With this, there’s also a chance that because you’re giving such stress to the brain, you’ll begin to associate a negative feeling with studying, which will lead you not to do it. I know studying isn’t everyone’s *favorite* thing because, hey man, I want to build some snowmen and watch Midnight at the Museum too, but in the case of finals: we don’t really have a choice. (Well, we do, but I don’t recommend not studying because that’s...that’s just not a good idea, dude. Please study.)
Similar to sleeping, this allows the body time to process information – even if it’s not for a super long time. The brain is like a sponge in the way that it’s constantly soaking up information, but you can also squeeze that information out if enough pressure is applied. Essentially: do not try to brain too hard unless you want burnout. Brain + too much info + too much stuff in general = burnout (bad).
I know some of us like to dedicate certain days to studying certain topics – which is perfectly fine – but I find it very helpful to switch things up and study chapters of different subjects in the same relative time period as my brain gets bored slower. Also, if I’m studying A&P and decide to look at bioethics, there is a slight decrease in the quantity of information I’m taking in as well in how my brain is working. Anatomy requires both attention to detail, memorization, and just relentless repetition whereas bioethics is more analysis and critical thinking. So, by hopping around subjects, you’re able to tap into different parts/functions of your brain while allowing other ones to take a break and still being productive. AKA: work smarter, not harder.
Do what you gotta do, but understand there are limits and that your health takes priority. You’ll get the work done, I’m sure, but you also need to make sure you’re capable of managing that workload. You can’t re-toast toast because it’s already toasted.
Okay, that sounded dumb, but you get the point.
While all of these things apply, I think the most vital thing that people must understand is how important it is to believe in yourself. Finals season is definitely a time where stress, panic, doubt, and serious hopelessness may kick in, but you must remind yourself that you are capable of doing this – you did not make it onto this campus if the school did not think you were up to the task.
Final exams are not meant to be impossible, but instead an evaluation of the growth of your knowledge and the effort you put in to ascertain it. You are able to do hard and difficult things dude, you just need to figure out the best strategy to do so. I really hope this article has given an inkling on how to understand your own studying styles, energy, and how to cope with not-so-fantastic scholastic stress, as I definitely know the feeling of not knowing how to handle college-level finals. If anyone has questions, comments, or just needs to let some stuff out, feel free to email me at BGlav1@unh.newhaven.edu or my personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
I love you all very much, and you got this!!
Peace, love, and all the peanut butter,