Wellness coach Elizabeth Scott said studying for finals, midterms and other tests is inherently linked with stress. She said many students make tests more stressful than necessary.
Scott said when students pull all-nighters, eat or drink certain foods for energy, have study parties with friends or study on adrenaline, they make studying more stressful and negatively affect their final grades.
BYU psychology student Sara Callister said she keeps a study schedule to stay organized and prioritize. She said she has benefited from this routine mentally, socially and physically — and her grades prove it as well.
“I like knowing my plan for the day and having an idea of when I am going to be done studying … so I don’t have a chaotic frame of mind or am scrambling to figure out when things are due,” Callister said. “I like to write in all exam dates and major project due dates on my calendar at the beginning of the semester so I know when I have something major to work on, and I can plan head.”
Scott said the solution to waiting until the last minute to study is planning ahead. She said students who procrastinate run the risk of being unprepared, using cramming methods and cheating themselves out of a true education because they are only barely memorizing information.
“A wiser choice for those who work best with deadlines is to give yourself a deadline that’s really a week or so before your ‘real’ deadline,” Scott said. “This gives you a burst of motivation, but also some wiggle room.”
Scott said drinking caffeine or using sugar to stay awake while studying also has its drawbacks. She said these substances stay in one’s system for many hours longer than expected, interfering with sleep and causing a stressful cycle.
“Finding natural ways to get energy such as a healthy diet and exercise as well as quality sleep on a regular basis is the best way to maintain enough energy to tackle finals,” Scott said.
Callister said she finds time in her schedule to go to the gym because it keeps her mind focused and gives her natural energy to stay motivated to study. She said her routine helps her maintain a healthy diet, which allows her to think more clearly, sleep better and not be as distracted.
Thomas Christensen, a student majoring in information systems, said studying with classmates can be very effective. He said he focuses better by studying somewhere other than his apartment.
“I have a group that I study with for most tests,” Christensen said. “Getting insights from others and teaching others different principles of the material is super helpful. However, I have to get out of the apartment to study. I go somewhere to be alone in the library or get study rooms when I study with groups.”
Scott said choosing people for study groups who are responsible and committed to studying is important.
“While it seems like a great idea to get together and study with your friends, if you’re not careful you may find yourself wasting valuable study time accomplishing nothing but some muted fun,” Scott said.
Christensen said he likes to focus on understanding the material throughout the semester so it makes studying for finals week and tests much easier.
“For me, the focus is on understanding the material during the semester,” Christensen said. “I feel that when it is finals time, assuming I’ve done everything I can during the semester, it is time to just focus on doing well on the actual test. Hopefully everything I’ve done prior to prepare will help with it.”
Scott said students should care about the outcome of a test, but constantly thinking about what’s at stake can cause test anxiety. She said positive affirmations and visualizations may help avoid low test scores.
Christensen said he found value in figuring out his learning style.
“I’m a visual learner, so for me, finding a room with a whiteboard and just drawing things out is really helpful for me,” Christensen said.
Callister said she has managed her stress and increased her focus by sticking to her study schedule and avoiding noisy places when studying. She said her success is all about balance.
“The way I manage stress is by sticking to a study schedule, getting enough sleep, exercising daily and also making time for a social life daily even if it’s only for an hour,” Callister said. “I think it’s important to stay balanced during finals week and school in general so your brain has time to relax between study sessions.”