How to manage stress during final exams

Posted on Friday, April 1, 2022

person writing on scantron

 

University students have always found final exams to be somewhat stressful; after all, they need to balance studying efficiently, sleeping, eating, staying active, and much more. But what if you could change that narrative? What if there was a way to reduce stress to have a more productive final exam week? Would you take up the challenge? Here are few tips to help you manage stress so you can perform better during your final exams.

Get the right amount of sleep

During the regular term, it’s easier to keep a sleep routine, with some students even setting up a weekly agenda that includes specific times for sleep. However, as soon as final exams start, all those good habits seem to fly out the window. Studies show that “fewer than 10% of students sleep 8 hours before final exams.” (Scullin, 2018) Many students tend to believe that the more they study during “crunch time”, the better their final exam results will be, but this belief couldn’t be further from the truth. The Eight Hour Sleep Challenge During Final Exams Week study found that students who slept eight or more hours the night before their final exam performed better than students who opted out of sleep or slept 7.9 hours or less, even after controlling for prefinal grades. (Scullin, 2018) So you see: you can still get a good eight-hour sleep without sacrificing your exam results.

Study in a group or use a mentoring centre

During final exam week, students often feel alone and overwhelmed by the course material. Unfortunately, that lonely feeling usually discourages students from adopting one effective approach to studying: group study. In a recently published paper, entitled Voluntary peer-led exam preparation course for international first-year students: Tutees' perceptions, researchers found that “when tutors themselves have a migration background, they can operate as authentic role models; moreover, as they are still students themselves, the tutors facilitate learning through the use of understandable language and the establishment of a permissive learning atmosphere” (Huhn et al, 2015), thereby leading to better results on final exams. Could stress be reduced if students undertook more peer-led exam preparation? Studies have shown that personal relationships and support reduce stress and improve other health factors. (Cohut, 2019) So remember: you don’t need to go it alone! By integrating peer-led exam preparation into your exam routine, you’re more likely to get better results.

Find the right study break

It may seem counter-intuitive to seek out a relaxing activity right before exams, but studies show that spending time disconnected from all study materials is an effective approach to managing stress before final exams. In a study entitled Therapy Dogs on Campus: A Counseling Outreach Activity for College Students Preparing for Final Exams, researchers found that a “total of 694 students completed both pre-and post surveys, with almost all (92.9%) students reporting less stress after the event, supporting the purpose of the activity. An almost identical percentage (94.9%) physically touched at least one of the dogs during the activity, suggesting they were active participants…” (Barker et al., 2017) It’s good to disconnect every now and then when preparing for exams. If you’re looking for ways to disconnect, check out the list of campus activities and wellness breaks available during the final exam period.

 

References

Barker, S. B., Barker, R. T., & Schubert, C. M. (2017). Therapy Dogs on Campus: A Counseling Outreach Activity for College Students Preparing for Final Exams. Wiley Online Library. From https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1002/jocc.12075

Cohut, M. (2019). Simply thinking of your partner can help you manage stress. Medical News Today. From https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324269

Huhn, D., Eckart, W., Karimian-Jazi, K., Amr, A., Herzog, W., & Nikendei, C. (2015). Voluntary peer-led exam preparation course for international first year students: Tutees' perceptions. BMC Medical Education, 15(1). https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/A541445116/AONE?u=otta77973&sid=bookmark-AONE&xid=ae8c032e

Scullin, M. K. (2018). The Eight Hour Sleep Challenge During Final Exams Week. Réseau de bibliothèques - Library Network. From https://journals-sagepub-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doi/full/10.1177/0098628318816142

 

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