In the coming months, anxiety rates on college campuses will surely be on the rise as students prepare for final exams. And spring exams create even higher stakes for seniors planning to graduate on time.
But there are plenty of strategies to guard against study burnout.
Dr. Blythe Grossberg, author of Test Success: Test-Taking and Study Strategies for All Students, has been a learning specialist for more than a decade. We asked her for some advice when dealing with exam stress.
Is anxiety and fear ever good when it comes to final exams?
Yes. There’s been a lot of research in this area. Stress is somewhat of a bell curve — a little bit of it can make you motivated and function better. We all respond to motivation. But there’s a point where you become overwhelmed, and that’s where you’re on the downward side of the bell curve, and you’ll find it more difficult to concentrate.
What are the most common mistakes in preparing for finals?
Students often use what I call passive study strategies. They’re doing things like reading the textbook or just reading over their notes. They’re not actively approaching the information. You need to ask, “What are the major themes that tie this information together? How can I integrate the information into a narrative? What are the five major lessons my professor has been trying to drive home all semester?”
How do you prevent study burnout?
Sit down two weeks or at least a week before the test and plan your study time. If you just try to cram the night before the test, you won’t be able to integrate it very well. Studies show that you don’t learn a lot studying for long periods of time. You need breaks and lots of them. Studying for about an hour or two at a time is optimal.