How To Make It Through High School Finals (Here’s The Secret)

High school exams are the gateway to college for many students. So for most, doing well in such exams is important. To keep stress levels low and concentration high, this is how I dealt with my final high school exams.

How do I make it through my final High School exams? If you are prepared for your exams this should ease some of the pressure. A small amount of anxiety is good but here’s how to keep pressure under control.

  1. Study guide
  2. Talking to someone
  3. Prepare early
  4. Consider group study
  5. Regular breaks
  6. Practice questions
  7. Make it fun

I have just completed my final exams and got through them. Mid final year I thought the end would never come. With the workload I was facing, it just seemed like a mountain too high. But I made a plan, and here’s how I stuck to it.

Study Plan

If you are committed to doing well in your final exams, then you must be prepared. In order to be prepared you must have a routine / study plan in place.

Where do you start? How much time needs to be set aside for actually studying, and still have enough time for homework and me time? The answers to these questions all depend on you.
The amount of study is all relevant. Obviously, the bigger the exams the more work and effort have to go in.

How to make a study plan that actually works is another one of my posts that goes more in depth into how to make a good study plan and stick to it!

If a Study Plan is put in place early on, then it becomes normal and less daunting.
At the start of the year, we organized plans that focused around completing homework and assignments, and small blocks of study on the weekend. As the year progressed, the study plan became more centered on every second or third night, doing an extra hour.

And then approximately 3 months to exams, the study plan was in use every evening except one. It’s best to have an actual physical study plan printed out. This will change every week.
Some subjects will have weekly tests, like math or English. But other subjects might be once a month or not at all, but these are still as important, and sometimes the ones that need to be studied more.

If you are not being tested all the time, how do you know how you are doing? If you find this to be the case, go and visit the teacher, and ask them why they are not doing class tests. Or reports and assignments… sometimes teachers can get a little complacent, and need a gentle shove…

And so, if the study plan is in place and you are 90% committed to it, then they should be good for their exams.

Talk to someone

There are times in everyone’s life when we need a shoulder to lean on. It doesn’t matter what age you are. People handle stress in all different ways. And sometimes just having a chat with someone may alleviate some of the pressure.

It’s hard when you’re listening to your classmates and they are talking about all the work they are doing, and that they are totally on top of their coursework. But in reality, this is generally not the case.

They like you are gasping for air, just trying to get by from day to day. Probably the hardest part is choosing who to talk to. All schools have some sort of counselor. If you get on with a particular teacher that’s sometimes a good place to start.

Maybe you have a good enough relationship with your parents that they can guide you in the right direction. Or maybe just bringing it up with friends might ease the burden.
They possibly are thinking the same thing and will be relieved to have someone to chat with about it.

Nothing is ever as bad as it seems but if you let a little worry snowball, then suddenly it consumes you and you can think of little else, so the best advice is to have a chat with someone you trust.

Prepare Early

Preparation is key in any run-up to exams. Everyone can pull an all nighter but at the end of the day, the amount of knowledge just won’t be there. Your end-of-high school exams are not a surprise.

You may also like to read my post, taking the SAT’s first time senior year.

You have been working towards them your whole school life, so be prepared. Start organising your study time at the beginning of final year.

Routine is the best policy. If you get yourself into a proper routine then it won’t seem at all daunting when you are into the last few final weeks. You will feel calm and in control.
But with exams a whole school year away, it’s hard to get motivated. Going out with friends seems much more appealing. So, you need to organize even a loose study plan to begin with.
As the year goes on it will become more intensive. But by the time exams do roll around if you have had a plan in place since the beginning of the year, the stress and anxiety should hopefully not be so intense.

Consider group study

There are pros and cons to group study. Some people like to study on their own while others benefit more from a group. By studying in a group you may find that it becomes less of a chore.
You can test each other with quick quizzes and also can reassure each other that you are on the right path. Studying alone can sometimes become somewhat boring and thus leads to not enough work being completed.

In relation to this, my post should I study at home or the library? touches on the pros and cons of studying in these places.

Group study is good for an active learner (rather than just memorizing actually understanding the text) as you can bounce ideas or theories around your group and decipher difficult parts of the course together.

Setting up a study group requires a little organization; a set time needs to be agreed, a place with no distraction needs to be found, goals need to be set, you may decide as a group that one person is in charge or this may alternate from session to session.

Make sure you are getting your voice heard, if it’s all about what other people need to study then you may as well not be there. So have some kind of agenda, and also some house rules.

Regular Breaks

Studying is exhausting. You need your study to be productive. So studying for hours and hours on end is not productive. The optimum timescale is 40 minutes, followed by a 10-minute break.

This gives you time, and your brain to absorb what you have taken in. You need to process the information in order to retain it. So what do you do in your 10-minute break? Your brain needs to know that you are actually on a break.

So don’t just reach for your phone, and start checking your social media. This one, involves a certain level of concentration, which we want to switch off for 10 minutes but also can lead to longer timescale breaks as it’s hard to put the phone away.

So try and get up from your desk, and possibly walk around the house, go and get a healthy snack, play some music, meditation or yoga. Whatever it is that helps you to relax for the 10 minutes so you are good to go again for another 40 minutes.

Maybe make your own list of things that you like to do and alternate between the breaks. They are an important part of your study routine.

They are a way of rewarding your study progress and give you something to look forward to, especially when you are studying a topic you don’t necessarily enjoy.

Practice Questions

It’s all very well knowing your subjects, but can you actually answer an exam question? You need to know the way questions are asked, and what are they actually asking, and the only way to do this is by practicing past papers. It is important to understand what type of exam you are going to have.

What is going to be included and where the most marks are going to be allocated? There’s no point in aceing the short questions and then not writing enough in an essay question. There may be oral or aural parts of your exam, or practical and project work included. These are good ways of getting marks early.

If you have a project to do there won’t be as much pressure as actually sitting in an exam hall, so give it your all and get the most amount of marks you can. But in order to get high marks in your formal exams, you need to be prepared. Previous exam papers will give you an idea of structure. How much time you should spend on each question?

Do previous exam questions as if you were in the exam hall. This is the only way you will be able to manage your time. It’s easy to write an essay question if you have all weekend to do it, but if you set your timer and give yourself 25 minutes to write a 6-8 page essay, it certainly will focus the mind.

Starting off, this will not go well, but every time you practice a question the time will become more manageable. You should ideally be practicing past papers by early spring. By the time your exams arrive you should be sitting whole exam papers, not just individual questions.
But start initially with one-off questions. Try and figure out whether they are asking for purely factual answers or are they asking your opinion.

Every answer must be backed up with relative reference points. Waffle I’m afraid gets little or no marks.

Make It Fun

Trawling through notes and textbooks can make studying boring and uninteresting. Final exams are very important. They will decide on what the next step in your educational career will be.

The date for final exams may seem to be so far off in the future that it’s something that needs no attention now. But you must try and focus early. Introducing a fun element to your study regime is a really good idea.

If you are studying an English literary play for example try and go see it as a live production. If that’s not possible then search the internet for a DVD copy of a live production, or a film adaptation.

It may give you a different insight into the characters or the plot and certainly will help on the day of the exam as you will remember it visually.

If you are studying Science, then try and research some simple experiments you could try at home (always do this safely, and ask permission), or get outside to the park and search for some real life biology.

Hobbies can also be used to trigger your memory. The names of the people on your team could be associated with characters in a play or book, or different maths theorems.

Try and find your own connections and keep them in a notebook. Refer to them often and they will become part of your study routine and something that you will enjoy adding to.
Final exams are difficult for a reason. They are testing everything on your course curriculum. Because you don’t know what is to come up in your exam, you need to have a good grasp of all topics.

In order to do this, you must be prepared and start early. They will eventually come to an end and you will get through them. But the most important thing is to give it your absolute best shot and have no regrets when the time comes to collect your results.

You can hold your head high and know that you worked hard and can reap the reward.

Holly Cunningham

Holly Cunningham is a college student. She is studying a Bioscience degree. She has a great work ethic and very driven and self motivated. I hope that some of my insights in to study and college life will help with any issues you might have.

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