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How to prepare your mind and body for a successful exam season

From thoughtful prep to fun-filled breaks — top tips from a Concordia Welcome Crew mentor

Kavya Patel an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering and a Concordia Welcome Crew mentor with the Student Success Centre
Kavya Patel is an undergraduate student in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Aerospace Engineering and a Concordia Welcome Crew mentor with the Student Success Centre.

Finals are upon us! As a student and mentor, I’ve learned a thing or two about exam season — some obvious and some you wouldn’t think of. First, don’t forget to check your personalised exam schedule in My Student Centre. Next, follow these tips to get organized and ready for your upcoming exams:

Take time to reflect and make smart decisions on studying efforts

Make sure you understand how your professors will administer the final exams. This will not only define the ideal study plan, but also the exam method you should become familiar with, whether you should prepare for an open- or closed-book exam and what equipment you will require.

Check your course’s outline and consider how much each component is worth to help you divide your studying efforts. Studying for an exam worth 50 per cent of your final grade may be more crucial than studying for one worth 30 per cent. I make a list of grades I have already achieved from assignments, quizzes, midterms or projects and rank which course’s final exam needs more studying and attention.

Plan out your study time 

If you don't know where to begin, studying might be intimidating. Make a list of your final exam dates, times, as well as any end-of-term assignments. If you haven’t already, make use of the end-of-term planner to help manage your time.

You can take it a step further and plan each hour of your day. Using this study grid, you can set aside time for work, other commitments and use the remainder of your day to develop a study routine ahead of your exam. For example, I even try to determine what I know and don't know for each course and then prioritize what I need to review first. You can reserve a study room at either the Webster or Vanier, carve out a study spot in the renovated basement of the Faubourg Building (FB), or attend on-the-spot study help with learning specialists in person or online.

Include fun and sleep

When the term becomes hectic, it may be tempting to put our interests on hold and spend less time doing the things that make us happy. However, most of us will feel a lot better if we have something to look forward to each week. Setting aside time for yourself may significantly enhance your attitude and assist you to be more productive in the long term. Plan a movie night, bake a special treat, work on a creative project or attend one of the Zen Den social and wellness events. 

Taking naps at a regular interval to compensate for when you may be short on sleep (like when you have to work or study late into the night) has been super helpful for me. On days you can’t take a nap, getting out in bright sunlight can also help restore energy. 

In-person exam? Get ready for the big day

Prepare the night before: Preparing certain things the night before an exam can help to de-stress and slow down your morning. Gather up your stationery and other things you may need in advance, like your department-approved calculator, student ID and water bottle. Set your alarms, lay out a comfortable outfit for exam day and map out your travel route to Concordia. 

Wake up your mind and body: Do your mind and body a favour and eat a healthy breakfast before you head out. Warm up your brain by briefly reviewing your notes. Fun fact: Reading lightly before an exam has the same effect as stretching before working out. If you’re feeling on edge, pause and take a deep breath, then refocus!

Don’t forget your snacks: Bring a water bottle that you can refill — keeping yourself hydrated is key. Bring healthy snacks such as fruit or granola bars. If your exam is in the afternoon, you want snacks that are portable, easy and quick to eat beforehand. Grab foods with natural, unprocessed carbs and sugars for quick energy. 

Focus and calm yourself on arrival: When you enter your exam room, you’ll have some time to spare before the final begins. During that time, get comfortable with your surroundings, turn off your cellphone, stretch out your arms and legs and be ready to ace your exam.

Move on and get ready for what’s next: Most finals are scheduled at a specific time, and you may have more than one in a day or even a few hours apart. Give your brain a break, even if it's only for 10 or 15 minutes, so you're ready to tackle the next one. If you have a day in between two exams, do not try to solve the one that you already completed; it might demotivate you and can affect your upcoming exams. Keeping a positive attitude and believing in your skills can work miracles. Remember that university is a learning experience, and it's perfectly fine to make errors. 

Find out more about final exams by visiting Concordia’s Exams web page on the Student Hub.

Check out Concordia’s Welcome Crew and Student Learning Services at the Student Success Centre.


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