A Nightmare Before Christmas, But We Can Call It Finals

Finals week is just around the corner.

This is the dark side of Christmas time. While younger siblings and parents get into the holiday spirit, the students of Oak Hills High School all join together in the stressful final atmosphere. Most of the pressure comes from the thought that the grade we get on this final test will most likely determine our final semester grade.

As Paola Gonzalez, a senior at Oak Hills High School, says, “Finals are the most important part of your semester grade. That’s what makes them so scary.”

Being scared of finals is completely understandable; however, there is a way to prepared to ace all finals. Shaniese Alston, a 2013 student assistant in the Office of New Media of the State University of New York, narrowed down the 8 scientifically best ways to prepare for final exams in her article for SUNY.com.

“Finals make me feel really stressed and scared at the same time. They are stressful because they can determine a grade for the entire semester,” said senior Joseph Avalos.

All students are genuinely stressing out.  It’s okay if you feel scared and stressed. If you follow these eight steps to help you through these few rough days.

Finals make me feel stressed out and anxious about my final grade. I think finals are stressful because in many classes, finals are worth a big chunk of your grade so if you don’t do well on your final then your grade goes down. In a way, your final grade depends on what you get on your final.”

— Roset Halwadjian

Absolutely NO Cramming. Try to study in intervals. Studying for 20-50 minutes and taking 5-10 minute breaks in between is more rewarding than just cramming. Distributing the amount of information you learn over time, “typically benefits long-term retention more than a short period.” If you make a study plan, then you’ll have time for other activities, like cardio.


“Finals make me feel so stressed out! They get me so worried and it gets me thinking about them all day and night, whether it is during the month of December or May,” stated sophomore Stephanie Vazquez.


Cardio. Exercise improves your brainpower! According with a science study, just 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory. You can either dance, jog, run, or walk. Exercise not only increases your energy level, but it reduces the effects of stress too.


Eat. Seriously. You should eat a good breakfast the day of your final. Researchers say that “high-carb, high-fiber, slow-digesting foods like oatmeal are best.” However, what you eat a week in advance can help as well. Taking five-minute breaks every hour and eating healthy snacks is very beneficial and can make a huge difference.


Study in different places. Switching the places you study will help. The New York Times explained that by alternating just the room a person studies in will improve retention. Psychologists who experimented upon this found that students who studied 40 vocab words in two separate rooms did far better on the test, rather than the students who also studied twice, but in the same room. “What we think is happening here is that, when the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting,” explained Dr. Bjork, senior author of the two-room experiment.


Time Management. It turns out that, cramming actually causes more anxiety, “which lowers your ability to retain information.” Create a balanced study plan and schedule. Study each subject individually and in its entirety to boost your test performance.


“Finals make me feel very overwhelmed and stressed and just very exhausted. I think they’re stressful because everyone wants to do their very best and pass with good grades,” says senior Melanie Barajas.


Don’t Pull an All-nighter. In a 2008 study from Pamela Thacher, who is an associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University, she claims that all-nighters weaken reasoning and memory for up to four days, resulting in lower grades. Pulling all-nighters compromises your sleep overall. You can’t reach your full academic potential if you haven’t slept well. The effects of sleep deprivation include delayed reactions and tendencies to make mistakes.


Minimize distractions. Listening to music, texting friends or watching television while ‘studying’ won’t help you at all, for it makes you less likely to retain information. However, if you must listen to music while studying, try listening to instrumental music, because it helps you keep focused!


“Finals stress me out. I think I stress out because of me not preparing well enough or studying. I’m also worried I’m going to fail,” explained freshman Ethan Burkel.


Maximize Practice Tests. Using flashcards and taking practice exams are highly more effective than re-reading or summarization. Here’s a table used in the 2013 article “Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning Techniques” written by John Dunlosky, Katherine A. Rawson, Elizabeth J. Marsh, Mitchell J. Nathan, and Daniel T. Willingham.

Image from SAGE Journalism.

Of course, there are other things you can do to prepare you for finals. “I have been going to tutoring and studying at home with students that are in the same classes as me,” says Erika Ontiveros, a junior at Oak Hills High School.

Forming study groups with your peers is another good way to get the help you need to ace all your finals. Make sure you take advantage of all your notes, study guides, and review sheets that your teachers offer to help you improve your chances of passing.

“I’ve been studying like crazy so I won’t mess up in the final,” said junior Jesus Smith. The good thing about finals is that once they’re over we can all enjoy ourselves during winter break.

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