Finals Before Break: A Holiday Blessing! (& Finals Tips Too!)

Jennifer Kim '21, Staff Writer

For the first time this year, Marymount has scheduled finals before winter break. This decision has caused mixed reactions in many students: from anxiety over the diminished time for studying to excitement for the subsequent relaxation over the break. 

These varied reactions truly reflect the conflicting nature of the new schedule for finals. 

However, the decision to schedule finals before winter break ultimately benefits classrooms and the students. On the topic of efficiency, with finals after break, time spent reviewing after break created a two week period that could have been spent learning new material and advancing in classrooms. And though the argument of the benefit of having a break to study stands, this argument can only be applied to the certain demographic that chooses to study over this time. Those who do not have a choice in traveling with family over the break are at a disadvantage with the old system, as they take a significant psychological gap from the school year to relax, and are thrown immediately back into the academic period, which might be hard to adjust to. Additionally, this system creates a somewhat paradoxical meaning of a “break”– students might spend the break from school worrying about the exams when they should be relaxing and spending time with family. With finals week placed before break rather than after, every student can enjoy reduced stress during the holidays and truly take a break.

So, with finals coming up so soon and less time to study than before, how are you going to handle the workload? Don’t fret– I’m here to tell you some tips that will help you with finals and studying in general that is backed up by science!

I’ll start with advice you might hear frequently, but is nonetheless important. To attack the stress-filled week of finals, make a game plan and start early: it is essential for your performance on exams, especially due to their abundance of material. You don’t have an infinite amount of time. The easiest way to start early is to make a schedule: this will allow yourself to see how much time you need to study for finals and when you can make time, and it will also encourage you to start studying.

So, what are some tips on how to actually study effectively when you get to it? You can actually start studying the moment you get out of class! The “curve of forgetting” is a scientific concept that states, when you learn something, you immediately retain up to 80% of what you have just learned if you review within 24 hours. However, when there is no attempt to relearn this information, like a curve, the durability of the memory decreases. When you study the day you learn the information, and continue to review throughout the week, even if briefly, you can retain significant amounts of information. Study after class so that you do not have to spend more time relearning material before the day of the exam. Active recall is a method of studying that involves reciting learned information instead of reading and rereading resources. This can aid long-term memorization, in contrast to rereading material, which might lead students to believe they know material that they might not. If you are still not sure how to study, you can research the Leitner system, Feynman notebook, or the myriads of methods available online. Integral to studying is choosing a method that is right for you. If you have found that although you study extensively for exams, you do not receive the results you expect, you should try changing your study habits and seeing what works well.

What are some don’ts for studying? Do not multitask! This is a bad study habit. It can significantly reduce the ability to recall information and prevents you from completely focusing on one subject, increasing the amount of time needed to study. Also, do not choose music that distracts you from work being done. Don’t study near objects that can distract you, such as your phone, or the TV.

Now, how do you make sure your brain is working at the utmost performance when you want it to? Your brain and exercise are one of the greatest love stories. Exercise can improve the performance of your brain by releasing hormones that can improve your concentration, attention, or awareness, or a brain-derived neurotrophic factor that helps the growth of brain cells and learning. Additionally, brain foods exist! Eat foods that are good for your brain–such as nuts, oily fish, or blueberries– so that your brain can function with utmost efficiency. Also, if you’re feeling tired while studying a certain subject, try to move on to another one. This will rejuvenate your brain. Lastly, do NOT pull all-nighters. This will adversely impact your ability to remember and process information and cut your capacity to learn new things by 40%. That’s not all– it can take up to 4 days for your brain to recover from the all-nighter.

A last-minute activity you can do to help your performance during the exam is holding a power pose. This can reduce the amount of stress hormones secreted, allowing for better performance. 

Good luck everyone! I hope to see you well-prepared for finals.