How to Survive Exam Season

It’s that time of year again when university libraries are packed, study spaces on campuses are sparse, and students find every excuse in the book to’s exam season! Although these stressful days have passed for me, I thought I’d share a couple of helpful tips that got me through exam season when I was an undergraduate student at Laurier.

1. Make a study plan.

Trust me, it helps. Determine what chapters/units/lessons you need to get through each day so that you’re not swamped with unbearable amounts of readings 24 hours before your exam. The plan will help you stay on track to make sure you cover all of your course material. Even if you stray a bit, you’ll feel more accomplished by checking it off your list.

Set timelines for yourself. Plan to study for an hour and then take a study break. Breaking up your study sessions will ensure your brain doesn’t go through information overload. Taking a break to get out to the gym for an hour or grab a coffee with a friend is important to your mental and physical health, and will help your brain retain information better.

2. Don’t waste time.

If there are no study spaces on campus or at the library, don’t waste time walking around endlessly. I spent my fair share of time walking around with my friends to try and find study spaces next to each other. As much as you want to spend time with your friends while you study (thumbs up for study buddies!)  it’s also important to find a balance and dedicate quiet time so that you can limit distractions, focus in, and prepare for your exams.

In addition to the time I wasted roaming packed libraries, I also found myself calculating my grades and trying to figure out what the lowest grade I could get on the exam was in order to pass the course, what my average will be, and so on. Although useful information, I found that calculating this multiple times a week stressed me out more than calming my nerves and instead of spending that time preparing, I was wasting my time creating additional stress. If you’re stressing about your grades going into the exams, be pro-active and chat with your professors or T.As. They can help you find the additional study resources you might need or help ease your stresses.

3. Don’t forget to eat.

You also need to feed your stomach while you’re feeding your mind! Eat healthy and nutritious meals (and of course, study snacks), this will help with things like brain fog or sugar crashes. If I planned to be on campus all day, I would pack a lunch box (a sweet Star Wars one I might add) with healthy snacks like veggies and dip.

4. Look for unique study places.

If you’re the type of student who doesn’t do well studying at home I suggest checking out your local city! Spending all day in the same place can make you feel more anxious and isolated. There are tons of coffee shops off campus that will have the Wi-Fi, food, and the caffeine that you need to improve your study experience.  (If you’re in Waterloo feel free to email me if you want to know where the best study spots are hidden).

5. Make an exam check-list.

Pro-tip: do not forget a calculator when you have a financial accounting exam. To avoid the mistakes that I've made, make a check-list ahead of time so you have everything you need to succeed on exam day. 

6. Remember to practice self-care.

Take time for yourself. Don’t forget to relax. Don’t forget to sleep. And most importantly, if you need extra support, don’t be ashamed to find the help you need. Good2Talk is a free, confidential 24/7 helpline for post-secondary students in Ontario that offers professional counselling and information and referrals for mental health, addictions, and well-being. For more information visit their website here. There are also many supports available on your campus at your health and wellness centres (resources are listed below).

Brock University - Student Wellness and Accessibility Services

Laurentian University - Health Services

McMaster University - Student Wellness Centre

Queen’s University - Student Wellness Services

Trent University Durham - Student Support & Services

University of Waterloo - Campus Wellness

Western University - Wellness Education Centre

Wilfrid Laurier University - Student Wellness Centre

All of these tips are the things I found useful during my undergraduate years. It took me a while (3 years) to figure out what worked best for me. Remember that everyone studies at their own pace in their own way, don’t forget to do what’s right for you.