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  • Stacey

Final Exams - overwhelmed or organized?

I may be the only one but the time leading up to final exams is very exciting for me.  Kids get the chance to prove themselves, and more often than not they impress us.  Obviously the most important factor in succeeding on final exams is how you work throughout the semester. 

Final exams are one of the greatest opportunities students have to practice valuable executive function skills like long term planning, time management, and organization.  Ideally, students start planning and studying for finals at least three to four weeks before their exams start. 

There are some essential pieces of information to start gathering at this time:

-format of the tests

-content of the tests

-dates and times of the tests

-what needs to be done to prepare for the tests

All of the information above will help a student decide how much time they need to devote to studying for each exam.  Then, this time needs to be worked into the student’s calendar for the month.  I like to use a monthly calendar to do this part: enter all non-school obligations and then start splitting up and finding time for studying for each test.  Start penciling in the details of what you will cover each time you put down a time to study for a test: these may include making flash cards, creating a flow chart of ideas, organizing materials, reviewing notes, study group, meeting with a teacher, etc.

I’m realizing that this sounds outrageous to many people!  I know most people do not plan this meticulously, but bear with me… it pays off in the end I promise!  Having a roadmap to follow is very important when you are going on a road trip.  Driving from Chicago to Memphis is a long journey with many twists, turns, and stops along the way.  Likewise, navigating a semester of high school is difficult and can be overwhelming - or even worse, a semester of high school can cause students to disengage and lose motivation. 

One important way to achieve success is not letting anything slip through the cracks.  Many of us have learned the hard way that when we slack off on one little thing, it snowballs into the next, and all of the sudden we have a much bigger problem than we ever imagined. 

Having a plan for studying is essential.  It helps students ensure that they will get through everything they possibly can to be prepared.  It helps them see where sacrifices need to be made, where there is room for a break or a movie with a friend.  Knowing what needs to be done and how it can be accomplished takes away a great deal of anxiety.

A lot of students say they rarely can stick to plan even if they take the time to make one.  The best answer to this, and it’s true, is that plans are meant to be adjusted, changed, and broken.  It’s ok to revisit the schedule and knock things off that become unrealistic.  It’s ok not to get to do everything.  It’s especially ok to forego studying one night for your personal health and happiness! 

The best part of this is that even if a student does not accomplish everything he or she set out to do, they will still cover more than they would have without any of this planning.  And they are practicing a valuable life skill! 

Here are some examples of the planning and studying I’ve been doing lately with my students:

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