SURVIVOR: EXAM EDITION
By Jocelyn McLean
It’s that special time of year: all of the men on campus have shaved off their Movember ‘staches, Starbucks has changed over their cups, and holiday music is playing everywhere you go.
In the meantime, you’re bent over a textbook and substituting food for caffeine.
If you’re like me, the winter exam period is particularly hard. The days are short, with what feels like 6 hours of sunlight – even less, if you live in Vancouver, where December brings mostly rainy days and a blanket of fog. While Christmas is my favourite time of year, memorizing facts and figures really puts a damper on my holiday spirit. More importantly, because Christmas break is so much shorter than summer break, I am that much more eager to be finished with finals so that I can fly back home and stuff myself with holiday treats. That being said, we do have to get through it – so here are some things I’ve learned over the course of my degree.
KEEP A SCHEDULE
When my brother was studying for his CA, he treated studying like it was a full-time job. I have always tried to adopt this strategy during exam period. At the time, it may seem like a good idea to stay up until 4AM studying – but this will either cause you to sleep in until noon the next day, or to wake up early after having slept poorly. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is key to being on top of your studying-game.
My health is usually the first thing to slip during exam period. I find myself making excuses. I don’t have time to go to the gym; I don’t have time to cook healthy meals. I slowly turn to a life of pizza and Red Bull. While I think it’s fair for anyone to succumb to a meal like this once in awhile, it should be an exception – not a rule. If you know you won’t be home to make yourself lunch or dinner, make a trip to the grocery store and stock up on healthy, portable snacks and meals. If you can’t make time for your regular workout routine, make sure to fit in half an hour of exercise into your day – this can be taking a walk on a study break, or riding your bike to campus.
One of the first things I do at the beginning of exam period is write out a detailed list of all the things that need to get done, in no order of time or importance. While this list can appear overwhelming at the beginning, it also gives you tangible rather than abstract goals that can easily be prioritized and scheduled. It also enables you to create a study schedule that caters to your own habits. For example, some people have trouble studying one subject for 8 hours straight. If this is the case, break up your day into sections so that you never lose focus on what you’re reading. Which brings me to my next point…
This can often be the biggest challenge, and everyone has a different way to deal with it. Some people cannot study alone, and others can’t study with friends. Know your habits, and optimize them. Ideally, I like to study with friends who are excellent at maintaining focus. What we do is give ourselves periods of time where we not only have to stay focused ourselves, but we have to enforce focus in others. We schedule breaks where we take 5-10 minutes to chat, watch stupid videos, or grab a snack. Then it’s back to the grind. If you don’t need your laptop – don’t bring it. If you do need your laptop, and cannot keep yourself away from All Things Social Media, try downloading an app like Self Control (http://selfcontrolapp.com/), which allows you to block certain websites for a specified period of time.
TREAT YO SELF
Last, but certainly not least – reward yourself for your accomplishments. This can be anything: watching an episode of your favourite show after a long day of studying, treating yourself to an Eggnog Latte after three hours of reading, or buying yourself a nice dinner after writing an exam. Exam period can be stressful, and looking forward to the little things can be just the thing to get through it.
Good luck, everyone, and happy holidays!