Low-Stress Study Tips for Finals Season

Study Tip #1 - Combat Test Anxiety

Test anxiety
Test anxiety is one of the main stressors of school. Creative RF/Izabela Habur/Getty Images

Finals are virtually synonymous with stress. The very idea of being tested on the bulk of material learned over the course of several months, with a score that heavily impacts one’s grade, can bring tension. Fortunately, there are out-of-the-box study tips that can get you through finals with the least amount of stress possible, and enjoy the vacation afterward! The following study tips can help you relieve finals stress and do your best.

Combat Test Anxiety

Remaining aware of the importance of the test can be helpful — just the right amount of stress can be a good motivator and keeps things interesting. However, too much stress and anxiety can affect your concentration and performance in school! Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep test anxiety at bay, such as incorporating visualizations or breathing exercises, both of which have been found to help reduce test anxiety and some of the negative consequences that go with it. Specific stress management techniques, as well as preparation and proper self-care, can go a long way toward helping you maintain your cool and ward off the negative effects of excessive test anxiety. (See this article for more information on combating test anxiety.)

Study Tip #2 - Safeguard Your Sleep

Morning stress and sleep deprivation
A good night's sleep can a big part of your school success plan. Atli Mar Hafsteinsson/Cultura/Getty Images

Most students have more activities available than time to do them all, and finals season usually puts an already-busy schedule into hyper-drive. Such busy schedules tend to affect sleep (both quality and quantity). In addition to this, the measures many students take to combat the sleepiness can actually make things worse! Sleep is important for many reasons, and poor sleep can put students at a serious disadvantage. Therefore, it’s important to avoid sleep-damaging activities, budget time wisely, and manage stress to maintain quality sleep. The following are important strategies to remember:

Avoid Caffeine Binges

One cup of coffee in the morning probably won’t hurt, but powering down caffeine-laden energy drinks can actually make you more tired in the long run because they can affect the quality of sleep you get! (See this article for more on caffeine.)

Budget Time Wisely

Be sure you allow yourself enough time to sleep -— schedule in your 8 hours as you would any other important class, appointment, or shift at work.

Don’t Pull All-Nighters

Contrary to what some students may think, staying up all night to study can actually backfire and result in poorer grades! (See this article for more on what to avoid during finals season.)

Study Tip #3 - Maintain Healthy Habits

Healthy eating can help keep your mind sharp and your stress levels low. Frank P. Wartenberg/ Getty Images

During the hectic craze that is finals season, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and let a few things slide. However, don’t forget the importance of healthy habits —especially during finals season! While you may be tempted to eat junk food for the sake of convenience, skip sleep for the sake of time, and basically "let yourself go" until finals are over, taking care of your body is essential and keeping it and your mind functioning at the peak levels that are required during finals season. The following healthy habits are important for students:

Eat Right

Your diet can give you the energy you need to keep going or cause diet-related stress. Be sure you eat a healthy mix of proteins and carbs and avoid filling on sugar, caffeine, and other junk food. You need good fuel right now!

Get Enough Sleep

If you’re too tired, you may have trouble learning and remembering what you need to know! Be sure to get quality sleep!

Manage Stress

A little stress keeps things vital and exciting; too much stress can make you feel overwhelmed, and even interfere with the learning process. Be sure to keep your stress level healthy. (See this article for more on students and stress relief.)

So be sure to eat right, get enough sleep, manage stress and otherwise take care of yourself during finals week. If you make it a priority, you should find studying to be easier, and the whole process more enjoyable.

Study Tip #4 - Get Organized

It's vital to be organized with your studies and your time.

Organization comes naturally to some, but is also a learned skill that brings great benefits to those who develop it. Being organized with notes can make the difference between easily finding and integrating the information you need, and not knowing where to find those all-important notes. An organized schedule helps you to pace yourself so you have enough time to spend on each subject and avoid pulling all-nighters. Being organized in your living quarters can keep you from being stressed by clutter. You get the idea; putting focus into being organized can save you stress and wasted energy in many areas of academic life, and never is that more obvious than during finals season! The following are specific areas where student organization can really pay off.

Start Studying Early

If you begin studying before you think you need to, you can go at a more relaxed pace, increasing the possibility that you’ll retain what you learn. Because the stress response can make it more difficult to remember certain facts, avoiding the stress of cramming can help you learn more efficiently.

Have a Study Area

If you do most of your studying in the same place, you not only reduce the risk of losing important papers, but you can condition yourself to be more ready for learning when you sit down there. Be sure to pick a place that’s quiet, distraction-free, and clutter-free.

Create Efficient Notes

If you condense the most important pieces of information on a set of note cards that you create for yourself, the act of creating the cards, as well as the ease of using them, can help you to retain the information more easily.

Study Tip #5 - Choose Study Groups Wisely

Wisely chosen study groups can give you a leg up with school. Rana Faure/Getty Images

A study group can provide an enriching experience where everyone shares notes, helping one another to remember important tidbits; it can help you gauge how prepared you are, and adjust your study strategy accordingly; it can push you to remember more, and break up the monotony of hours spent studying. It can also be a muted version of a party where not much gets done and you’re left with less time to get the same amount of work done afterward.

The key to study group success is to choose wisely: Pick the most focused, "together" classmates you have available, and really work at it. You want someone who will know most of the right answers, and push you to reach the same level of preparedness. Quizzing one another while you work out, having snacks on hand, or playing music in the background can keep things interesting and make the session a little more fun, but be careful not to let things slide in to the gray area of gossip, loud music, and other traps that sap the "studying" from the session. Choose a focused, committed group of people to study with will help, but if you find yourself in a study party that has turned into just a party, don’t be afraid to be the one to bring the focus back to academics — or go home and study solo. There will be plenty of time to party after finals — as you celebrate your good grades!


Haskell CF, Kennedy DO, Wesnes KA, Scholey AB. Cognitive and mood improvements of caffeine in habitual consumers and habitual non-consumers of caffeine. Psychopharmacology, June 2005.

Paul G, Elam B, Verhulst SJ. A Longitudinal Study of Students' Perceptions of Using Deep Breathing Meditation to Reduce Testing Stresses. Teaching and Learning in Medicine, Summer 2007.

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