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By Mae Mastin, Joliet West

Joliet West students are starting to prepare for final exams, and while everyone is excited for winter break, the stress of the end of the semester is increasing. Here are some ways to prepare (and de-stress) in the next few weeks.

1. Consider the reality: how much will this test really impact your grade?

If you’re in high school, your final probably isn’t worth too much of your grade. (At West, it’s typically 20%.) There’s a good chance that your final won’t really affect you, especially if you aren’t at a tipping point between two letter grades. To take away some of the nerves, try calculating what you actually need on the final to get the grade you want. I like to use RogerHub, which lets you calculate your grade in a number of scenarios (a point system, final counts as a test grade, etc.). Don’t stress! Consider how you’ve done on your past finals and how they’ve impacted your grade—with all of the fear and stress associated with finals, we often forget the reality.  

2. Start studying NOW.

In my Psychology class this year, we just learned about this concept—it’s called the spacing effect. It’s a fact that if you study across more time instead of cramming, you will be more likely to retain the information. In addition, take breaks as you study. According to Shaniese Alston at The State University of New York blog in “Scientifically, The Best Ways To Prepare For Final Exams,” “Studying in 20-50 minute increments and giving yourself 5-10 minutes in between is more beneficial than cramming. Distributing learning over time typically benefits long-term retention more than a short period.” Plus, you don’t want to spend the just the day (or night) before a final cramming—that’s only going to lead to sleep loss, extra stress, and bad study habits.

3. Find resources that will help you prepare.

Test prep books, videos, and review sites—I’ve talked about them all before, but here are a couple of my favorites for quick, free review right before finals:

Khan Academy—For any topic you need help with, Khan Academy probably has several GREAT articles and videos! I find this one especially good for math help because their explanations are so clear. I will absolutely be using this to prepare for my finals.   

Crash Course—These are my all-time favorite review videos! They are especially good for AP courses (they seem to be geared towards the AP curriculums), but certainly don’t have to be used for AP. I like them for all of my classes, and they’ve added onto their range of topics a lot recently.

I find that talking to my teachers and going over any study guides I have really helps me a lot at finals time, too. Your teachers want to help you, and they don’t want you to be stressed!   

Do you have any tips for final exam takers? Please comment! And to everyone taking exams soon—good luck!!  

(Click here for my post on finals from last December.)  

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