Final Word on Finals

Michael Gross The onset of spring weather ignites contrasting feelings in the students here at the Latin School of Chicago. The joy of the warm weather and the anticipation of summer are tempered by the dreaded countdown to final exams. Latin students simply overstress about finals and make them more foreboding than they truly are. Throughout the semester, Latin students build up final exams to be an impossible task that requires days of locking yourself in a room in order to prepare. Countless times in the past few weeks I have overheard students in the hallways making extreme remarks, such as “during Finals week, I am just not leaving my room.” What is most concerning is that many students actually follow through on these plans and end up having a miserable weekend, entering their exams tired and stressed. The built up stress leads to unhealthy habits such as eating poorly, lack of exercise, and the avoidance of enjoyable activities. While most of these students have the intention of being as productive as possible, their study rituals actually prevent them from producing their best work. Study breaks are essential to being the best prepared for your final exam. Just as you need days off from sports to rebuild the new muscles that you have tirelessly worked on, you need breaks from studying to rejuvenate the effectives of your brain. The fact of the matter is that although some don’t realize it, finals week is a lot more relaxing than any other week during the school year. You show up, take a test for two hours, and are either done for the day, or have one more test with three hours of free time in between. Throughout the year, people often complain about their excessive amounts of homework: an essay in one class, a project in another, a sports commitment, and on top of all that, a test. In the week leading up to finals, most sports and extracurricular activities have concluded (except the Forum of course), and, if you have stayed on top of the material for the entire year, all you need to do is review the material you have already learned. By the time the last weekend of the school year rolls around, all the “studying” you need to do is merely a refreshment of the material. In the midst of the anxiety, the actual impact of the Final exam on a yearlong grade gets ignored. At most, the final exam accounts for 20% of the semester grade and realistically can only impact your grade 1-3%. Furthermore, in most classes, to get the final grade, both the semester grades are averaged out, which further dilutes the impact of the final exam. When you think about it, finals are no more strenuous than any project or test accomplished during the school year. In an attempt to ease the stress of our Honors Chemistry class, Ms. Wells said, “You have to understand that I cannot put the hardest types of questions on your final exam, or you would not be able to finish in the time given,” as the exams are required to be designed as a two-hour test. With all that being said, finals are certainly important, and should not, by any means be neglected. This spring could actually be considered more stressful than most, as with the elimination of exams in December, some classes like Mr. Stroup’s BC Multivariable Classes are given a year-long exam. Unfortunately, by the time you are reading it (if you do), final exams will be in the distant past, and you will not even remember being stressed out about them. But trust me, next year you will remember that feeling. So, how do you deal with the seemingly unbearable stress of final exams? If you want to enter finals with the least anxiety possible, do well throughout the school year, so you do not have to worry about the finals to significantly improve your grade. Nevertheless, you will still have to prepare somewhat, and the key to a productive finals weekend is efficiency. Make a schedule for yourself, allotting certain times for studying specific subjects, and other times for an enjoyable break. However, what you cannot do is mix a break with studying – work when you work and play when you play. Do not spend an hour and a half doing a little studying, while texting or looking at Facebook, but rather, spend an hour studying and 30 minutes taking a break. Also, an extremely important aspect of time away from studying is exercising, as it is a crucial alleviation of stress that will ultimately allow you to return to your studies with a fresh mind. The most effective way to relax, is to go to the Latin website, click on the forum, and read some great articles.