Stress exists in academia; there is no real way around that. But stress can be managed: it is best to harness its motivating potential so that it can encourage, rather than overwhelm, you. There are many steps that you can take to protect yourself from that drowning feeling that always creeps up during finals.
- Plan ahead.
The registrar and respective departments develop the exam calendar and any other important deadlines well in advance. These dates are very visible and are crucial to developing your own personal exam procedure.
- Then, set your own deadlines.
The dates of exams and deadlines for papers are not up for discussion. However, you can set your own deadlines for work in the weeks and days leading up to its submission. Put pressure on yourself, but in increments. You can break up a long paper into digestible parts, and hold yourself accountable to the schedule you set: two pages per day over ten days is far less intimidating than having to marathon through twenty pages in two days. In a similar manner, for an in-class exam, compile notes throughout the semester and synthesize them into a review guide before the reading days even begin. Having a final project or exam isn’t a surprise; it is simply best practice to manage the time you have leading up to the inevitable.
- Because if you don’t, you may find yourself having to cram.
And cramming doesn’t work. You can’t learn a subject as nuanced as law in a single overnight; even separating studying sessions into short, but dense, bursts over a period of time is preferable. Cramming not only prevents you from learning information, but it invites high doses of caffeine and junk food, and too little sleep, all of which spike stress levels. Cutting yourself a break and getting some exercise or extra sleep releases stress and can make it easier to continue to absorb information.
It is also important to note that exams do not exist to trick you or confuse you. They challenge you to develop critical thinking and writing skills, because these talents are necessary for your chosen profession. Be sure to give yourself the time and the space, along with plenty of breaks, so that you can perform to the best of your abilities on exams.