How to prepare for exams in a few easy steps — and stay calm in the moment

- December 10, 2021

It helps to have study tips when preparing for exams, so we asked some Dal students what they do.  (Kyle Gregory Devaras photo/Unsplash)
It helps to have study tips when preparing for exams, so we asked some Dal students what they do. (Kyle Gregory Devaras photo/Unsplash)

With Dalhousie’s exam period getting underway this week (delayed by a day, thanks to all that white stuff outside your window), many students are ratcheting into high gear to finish the term strong.

For some students, study anxiety depends on familiarization with the material. This is the case for Yanisa Artornturasuk, a third-year Psychology major at Dal.

“My stress level for exams depends on the course. Some of them require a lot of remembering, but there’s other classes where I’m comfortable with the material and it doesn’t stress me out as much,” she explains.

To help students familiarize themselves with class material, Dal offers support through the Bissett Student Success Centre and Writing Centre. Through the success centre, students can schedule one-on-one mentoring, tutoring and workshops to overcome academic hurdles. The writing centre supports students who are writing assignments and essays.

There are also personal tactics students can implement to stay calm during finals.

Pace yourself while studying

Cramming is a common term used by university students, but Yanisa doesn’t suggest it as an exam strategy.

“To reduce stress during finals, I’d recommend not leaving everything to the last minute. Don’t try to watch five lectures on the day before the exam. Try to study every day for an hour or so, so it’s not so exhausting,” she says.

Yanisa creates a study plan when she prepares for exams. The plan outlines what to study each day, so she doesn’t overwhelm herself at the last minute.

Maintain organization for final projects

Not all classes end in exams. For Jonah Kurylowich, finals mean presenting an in-depth case study. Jonah is in his third year of a Bachelor of Environmental Design program at Dal.

“It's pretty stressful. There’s a lot to do but it's also par for the course,” he explains.

To prepare for a final project, he suggests an open line of communication between professors and students.

“The biggest thing is communication. I think in our program, especially, there’s a very heavy workload and to have the communication between prof and students to set expectations, it's a really big help.”

Jonah manages his stress by balancing his workload with relaxing activities, and by staying organized.

“For me, it's really organizational. I'm constantly making lists and thinking, ‘Okay, I'm going to get these four things done today’, and then reorganizing myself. Personally, I tend to get distracted really easily, or focus too hard on one thing. So, stopping and reframing really helps me.”

Start with the tough stuff and use every resource

For some students, individual class resources can be just as helpful as school resources. For first-year Bachelor of Science student, Darby Curtis, recorded lectures help reduce exam stress.

“I’ve found it to be helpful to take advantage of the digital resources I have access to in my classes. I start with the topic I’m least confident in and rewatch or relisten to lectures and videos, before moving onto another topic that I'm more confident about,” says Darby.

She also recommends taking breaks without shutting down.

“When I have breaks, I’m doing something that keeps my mind turning but isn’t really focused on school. Anything that keeps the gears turning and keeps me busy instead of just sitting down and watching tv and turning my mind off. I find when I keep my mind active, it’s easier for me to get back into it”.


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus