I hope you’ll find the following advice helpful as we enter these last weeks of academic work. Remember that you can always check in with me if you have questions about your classes, your exams, or anything else.
ON CONQUERING YOUR EXAMS
(1) Maintain perspective. Finals will be over in just over two weeks, and many of you will be off to enjoy the winter recess very soon. You have all taken exams before, and you have all succeeded before. While it’s true that Yale can be awfully challenging at times, you’ve made it this far and the end is in sight. For those of you who feel a bit nervous, try this meditation strategy: Repeat to yourself often, “I can do it. I am a good test taker.” It really works!
(2) Get the details. Find out in advance the format of the exam (IDs, essay questions, etc). Don’t be shy about asking instructors questions prior to the test date. If you missed your review session, talk with a classmate to get that information.
(3) Check the exam schedule DAILY. Changes happen, so go to this site to confirm where and when your exam will take place: http://registrar.yale.edu/general-information/final-exams
(4) SLEEP. Want your brain to work faster? Want that cute Morsel to find you more attractive? Then get your sleep. You know that we all handle stress better when we’ve gotten sufficient sleep. But you’ll also have more energy and get more out of your studying – and you’ll be more likely to remember what you studied a few months from now.
(5) Study with a purpose. Exams provide you with the opportunity to pull together what you have learned in a coherent way. Remind yourself, then, why you’re reviewing a particular book or lecture notes. Look again at the syllabus to get a sense of the larger purposes and goals of the course. Forming a study group can help you do so, and taking short breaks together can help keep you all sane.
(6) Kick Axe on the day of the exam:
*Put your alarm clock out of reach of your bed. Get up an hour or more before the exam starts. That should give you enough time to ensure that you’re sufficiently awake, get some nourishment, and gather your thoughts.
*Take some treats with you to the exam (Lifesavers, mints). Bring extra pencils or pens.
*Read the exam all the way through before you start it. Look on the back of each page. Try to follow the time suggestions for each question or part. Pass over questions that are too difficult or stump you; first answer the ones you can readily answer; return to the others later.
*Read the directions carefully. Make an outline for long essay questions. Give long essay questions a title to remind you of your focus. Write legibly; it matters. And try to remember that thinking can be fun, including the kind of coherent thinking required for exams.
ON MAKING FINALS MORE HUMANE
► Try to do something nice for your fellow Morsels each day. A simple, brief, handwritten note of encouragement on an exam day can do wonders for morale (and performance).
► Be courteous and thoughtful of the stress of others and their study needs.
► Post a schedule of all suite members’ exams in the suite’s common room or hallway.
► Remember and observe quiet hours (after 11 PM during the reading and exam periods). If you’re easily distracted, try studying earlier: mornings are always a quiet time to get work done.
► Suggested “awakeners” while studying: drinking water (dehydration is a major cause of fatigue), chewing gum, going for a walk, taking short breaks, changing chairs, splashing cold water on your face, and dancing to Betty Who (though not all at once). Or leave the room. Stretch. Do Zumba. If you see us outside with our cute pup, Lulu, come play with her! But beware caffeine, which can backfire and inhibit much-needed sleep.
► Be nice to yourself! Exams and grades do not measure you as a person. Each course is only about 1/36 of your entire Yale career. If things didn’t go as well as you’d hoped this term, talk with me at the beginning of next term, so that we can discuss strategies to help you do better next term.
Finally: If you find yourself in any kind of trouble relative to the submission of work or the taking of exams, let me know right away. Doing so is evidence of your attentiveness to basic proprieties, and is sometimes a crucial factor in determining an equitable remedy.
My very best wishes for a successful end-of-term and a relaxing and fun winter recess. Good luck to you all!!