Simple tips to survive finals

Yun Kwak

It’s Friday. That means it’s the end of dead week.

Every year, tens of millions of students in the United States battle it out in the field of final examinations. It is inevitable that some will lose dearly in the fight, while others may not even show up at all.

Most of us will end up living to see another day, but not without cost. The themes of pulling all-nighters, caffeine over-consumption, living in the library and maybe skipping personal hygiene seem to be common occurrence.

By this time you would think most of us would be experts on handling final exam stress. Personally, I have been taking finals since seventh grade. For me that’s 17 semesters of finals, and as I am going to graduate school, there’s no end in sight.

Before the final battle starts, I believe it would be wise to know the tools to your success and demise before you take your finals.

In this time of dire need, stress can be your best friend as well as worst enemy. There is actually a curve called the Human Performance Curve that shows the relationship between stress received and its relation to performance. Stress actually increases performance up until a certain point, when it reaches a peak, performance begins to decrease.

This is not too hard to imagine if you think about it. If you have too much stress you’ll probably end up worrying constantly to the point where it would interfere with your studying or memorization. Thus, if you find yourself getting too stressed beyond the point of being productive, it is best for you to find ways to relax.

Of course that’s something easier said than done. How can you relax if you have tests on the back of your head? I don’t mean go and play video games for four hours if you get stressed out. Maybe you could go take a walk; maybe even at night if you want to try and brave the cold. Have you ever walked on campus while there’s no one out? It’s very relaxing.

So, it’s important to realize that some stress is a good thing because it motivates you.

Another thing I want to focus on is caffeine.

Before you start drinking coffee or energy drinks as substitute for water, did you know that there is a lethal dose for caffeine? The dosage, of course, varies with weight, but you should mind how much of that stuff you pump into your stream. A good rule of thumb is stopping after you’ve hit 1,000 milligrams — that’s around four energy drinks. Any more can be very dangerous for your body. Remember, you’re jamming this stuff in your system to do well on exams, not to kill yourself.

Another recipe to your success is sleep. I know a lot of students forgo sleep in order to gain time to study, but do you know what you are really doing by depriving yourself of sleep? Studies show that sleep deprivation reduces overall cognitive ability. A 2007 study by Kanov Kahol found that those who were sleep deprived could finish cognitive tasks quickly, but produced more error in recall ability than a group that was not sleep deprived.

However, sleep deprivation seems like one of those things where if it works for you then it works; if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

With three very brief topics covered, I hope this gives you a better understanding of what some aspects of finals are doing to your body.

Stress and caffeine can help you out greatly, but it depends on how much you have and what you do with them. Generally both are positive things, but can be a factor in potentially pulling you down. So keep that in mind.

Sleep deprivation is something that you do not want to do to yourself. Your body and brain need to rest after abundant activity for a given amount of time.

So with that I wish you good luck on your finals; we’re almost halfway done with the school year.