The number one cause of stress during the final exam grind is procrastination. We are all guilty of it at some point. No worries though, procrastination is not necessarily a bad thing; it certainly means your human. Taking a break and prolonging the conclusion of a task is an understated form of self care that is extremely integral to not only your academic success but also your grip on sanity. TOO MUCH procrastination, however, is no bueno. Luckily, there’s a solution: spatial repetition. Spatial repetition is a highly effective and efficient way to combat procrastination and ensure less stress in the long term during “crunch time” of dead/finals week.
Here’s the what and how-to:
Spatial repetition means spreading out your responsibilities and tasks evenly amongst the available days before a deadline. For instance, say you have an organic chemistry final exam in 3 weeks. Here’s how to practice spatial repetition for this example (this does applies to any other class):
Week 1 of 3: Studying for O-Chem Final
You should peruse the whole 3 weeks worth of content of O-Chem (take note of the amount of readings, homework, practice problems, and practice exams). Take out your calendar, planner, or whatever you use for time-management (see Shaan’s FAHC Blog if you want time-management tips!) and assign an equal workload for each day of the week. Of course, everyone’s free time varies each day so be prepared to plan and adjust according to your availability. Say, you have 6 free hours to dedicate to studying each day from Monday-Wednesday and 8 free hours from Thursday-Sunday. You want divide your work equally and assign to work on 2 hours on O-Chem practice problems, 2 hours of drafting and editing your English essay, and 2 hours on Physics work from Monday-Wednesday. The same logic will be applied to Thursday-Sunday but for a longer period of time.
Week 1 of 3: O-Chem Studying Schedule
Repeating this schedule for each week leading up to the exam will not only help with memory and retention of course material but also reduce stress during “crunch time.” By the week of the final, you will be totally prepared to take it and only need to do light review since you spaced out all practice equally beforehand. Time to ace that final (:
*Remember, the point of spatial repetition is to work and study in small, continuous chunks instead of procrastinating and pulling 3 all-nighters in a row a couple days before your exam.
*Some additional tips when spacing out workload:
Here’s how it works:
Step 1: Decide on a task (writing essay, practice problem, lengthy readings, etc.)
Step 2: Set timer for 25 minutes (ideally, turn off notifications on phone or any other distractions)
Step 3: Work hard on that task for 25 minutes
Step 4: After 25 minutes and your timer sounds off, take a quick 5 minute break
Step 5: Repeat steps 3-4 two more times
Step 6: Set timer for 25 minutes, work hard for 25 minutes
Step 7: After timer is up, take a longer 15 minute break
Step 8: Set timer for 25 minutes, work hard for 25 minutes
Step 9: Once timer is up, take a longer 30 minute break
Step 10: Either repeat Pomodoro cycle immediately again, repeat the cycle later on in the day, or finish studying for the day and TREAT YO SELF!
(*NOTE: Breaks are designed to be totally irrelevant to the task your doing, so use breaks to mentally get away from the task by doing something you love! Also, the break times are just ideally what works best; however, if you feel you need more lengthy breaks between tasks that is totally fine! The point is to alternate working diligently with taking breaks in a time-efficient manner).
Here’s a link to a website that you can use to set your Pomodoro timers (you can of course use your phone or alarm clock, too): https://tomato-timer.com/
Incorporating the Pomodoro Technique along with the spatial repetition method we discussed above will increase your chances at acing your final! Plus, you will be forming some rad study habits that correlate to great academic success!
These are just a few examples. In general, the idea is to reflect on how much time you are putting into idle tasks throughout the day and realizing that you can capitalize on those moments to put towards academic success!
While this blog is mostly about tips and strategies to prepare for final exams, I would be remiss not to mention the importance of self care. SELF CARE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STUDY TIP. As students, we are not perfect but we try to be and it is unfortunate that there’s a societal expectation to be perfect. These study tips/strategies are not to make you a “perfect student.” At its core, these study tips are a form of self-care. It exists as tools to use to prevent overwhelming stress and fatigue during finals week and distributing the stress across the weeks instead of it accumulating at one eventual breaking point.
Practicing self care means to DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. This means doing something that you are passionate about. Here’s some things to consider when practicing self care during finals preparation:
At the end, it is not all about grades (read Vince’s Blog on more of this topic!). Know that you are not defined by a single number or letter. You way are more than that. As long as you tried your best when studying for finals, the outcome really doesn’t matter; the accomplishment is truly in the process of individual growth and development. In the end, taking care of yourself throughout your journey through college is what makes you a perfect student.
Good luck on finals and stay healthy! Study smarter not harder (: