December 2012 Living Colby Essays


Exam Stuff

No kidding, these are the five best exam tips you'll ever get.


  1. Sleep.  Seriously. Every night. Go to bed at something approaching a reasonable hour. I know your idea of a reasonable hour is different from those of us who occupy the post-college world and that's fine. So maybe what I should say is go to bed for a reasonable number of hours every night. Eight is ideal. But hey, six or seven will do. The point is that to do your best you need sleep.

  2. Keep it simple. There's always somebody down the hall who has concocted some goofy scheme for how s/he is going to study for exams that will totally give you a leg up on everyone else in the class. So it's like this, you get up at 5:15 a.m. and drink 7 cups of coffee - not 6; not 8; 7! - and wear a wool sock on your left foot and a cotton sock on your right foot (of course it's the other way around if you're left-handed) and study for 4 hours before you eat and the caffeine totally boosts your retention because it is undiluted by food and your feet are warm…

    When you see that person, offer her/him a sympathetic smile and run the other way. Whatever s/he is pitching, avoid it.

    Review the syllabus. Go to any study groups or sessions that are being offered. Study your notes and the readings. The work itself is the hard part. But the how you go about doing it is easy.

  3. Use your time wisely. It's easy to fall into the trap of believing that exam period is different from every other time during the academic year. Really all that is different is the schedule. And while on the one hand you have these papers and tests to prepare for and complete that add a lot of stress, it is also the case that almost all of the other commitments and distractions in your life are put on hold so you also have a lot more time to get everything done. The key is to develop an exam week routine and schedule and stick to it. Make your own normal for exams and then go with it.

  4. Study a little bit for all your classes every day. Students frequently focus all of their energy on whatever exam is coming next. That seems logical enough until you realize that you have just spent four days preparing for one exam and then you have three more in successive days right after the first one and you haven't spent any time on them at all. Try to set aside some time every day to study for all of your classes. Obviously, on the day before calculus you are going to give more time to it. But if you also spend an hour on history and an hour on econ then getting ready for those will be that much easier when you get closer to them. And, you will be less likely to get overwhelmed and swamped by any one subject.

  5. If you do all your work during the semester, exam period is a snap. Okay, so if you blew off gobs of work all term long this isn't a particularly helpful tip. But here's the thing: if you blew off gobs of work all term long no tip is going to be particularly helpful. I don't know what to tell you. Maybe try the thing with the socks and the coffee.

All kidding aside, try to relax and have faith in yourself. Trust that you've done the work. Spend the time you have wisely. Review what you know and hone up on the things that are most challenging for you. Then get plenty of sleep, eat right, and do your best.

That's it. Good luck and have a great break!

Jim Terhune
Dean of Students

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