A guide to finals
Published: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Updated: Friday, April 8, 2011 12:04
Spring is here, and we all know what that means... Finals are looming.
Last semester, when finals came, the study body seemed to be extremely tired. "I was up all night studying," is a phrase that could be heard from nearly half of students anticipating their exams. It must be asked: Is staying up all night really beneficial when it comes to taking a couple hour exam? Most experts on the topic, such as psychologist Dr. Wilse, will say no. A lack a sleep "leads to an inability to concentrate, make wise decisions, and drive safely." This means, that being so tired could render the 8 hours of studying useless.
This semester, however, has the potential to be substantially more efficient. Finals week is exactly one month away. This gives all students the opportunity to split their course material into 4 sections and review and study a small section each week. Psychologists all over the world have studied a phenomenon called the spacing effect. According to their studies, humans have an easier time recalling items learned a few at a time over a long period of time, than if they study a mass of items repeatedly in a short period of time.
Studying over a longer period of time will engrave the material deeper into one's memory. He/she will be able to get a full night's sleep the night before the exam and will have a greater ability to concentrate.
Many classes at Parkland have final projects and papers instead of exams. While this takes the pressure off of having to memorize a lot of material, it by no means signifies that one should have to devote less time to get a good grade. In fact, writing can take just as much, if not more time than studying. Creative Writing Now, an online writing and teaching organization, provides many great tips for improving research papers and essays.
Some ideas stressed by writing professors were that a first draft is not supposed to be perfect; the purpose is to get the main idea and concept out. While it seems obvious that a first draft should be improved upon, reality is that many students stop once they have the first draft written. "Honestly, once I have my first draft written, I'm tired with it. I know I'll get an acceptable grade with what is done, so I don't bother to do any more," said one Parkland student who wished to remain anonymous.
Also, according to the professors of Creative Writing Now, taking time away from a paper can be the best way to improve it. When one focuses too much on a paper, it becomes more difficult to see the "bigger picture" of what has been written. Taking a day or two away from the paper and coming back to it allows a fresh perspective. Where writer's block once occurred, ideas may become obvious. If a student waits until the last day to write a paper, the information is likely to be of lower quality, because it is rushed. Starting the writing process a couple weeks before the paper is due allows one to not only spend time finding quality information, but also look over and improve the paper after taking a break from it.
A good resource to keep in mind is the Writing Lab. Located within D-120, the Writing Lab carries teachers who are there to look over students' writing and give constructive criticism. The teachers point out ways to improve papers, and when advice is taken, student's grades are often raised.
While a month may sound like a lot of time, it really isn't. All students who have final exams at the end of the semester should begin reviewing material now if they haven't already. Be prepared ahead of time, because knowing the material doesn't matter if you can't concentrate due to a lack of sleep. The students who have projects to put together or write papers instead of exams to take, should be working on their first drafts so that they can set it down for a day and then look at it with a fresh mind. Preparing for finals is much less daunting when ample time is allotted. Buckle down, and start now. Best of luck!