Stress and Finals: Tips for Success

Tips to Prepare (study):

Reduce test taking anxiety. Anxiety is excessive worry about doing well on a test. Excessive anxiety can be an obstacle to peak performance. It can cause difficulty with retrieving information from long-term memory and poor planning in addressing the demands of a particular test, such as prioritization and planning. Here are a few tips to reduce anxiety:


Don’t cram. Be well prepared by spacing your study over a few days or weeks. Don’t wait until the night before.


Get enough sleep. Turn off the cell phone and all electronics by 9:30. Minimize light sources. If you are not getting at least 8 hours of sleep, the extra time studying rarely pays off. Remember: 1 hour of study with 8 hours sleep is about the same as 2-3 hours of study with 6 or less hours of sleep. When you are too tired, it takes more than twice as long to learn things. Most students need more than 8-10 hours of sleep to perform optimally.


Maintain a positive attitude. Look forward to “showing what you know” rather than worrying about how the test will affect what your parents might do or your college entrance requirements. Mountain bikers pay attention to the path on a steep downhill, not to avoiding the rocks. Use the same frame of mind when taking a test. Be in the moment, not in the future or the past.


When studying in the evening, do not watch television after you have studied. The brain remembers the last activities before sleep, and you don’t want to remember Snookey’s baby’s name rather than Shakespeare’s characters right now.


Study the way that works the best for you, either in a small group or alone. Turn off the phone and the email while you study. It takes time to get back into the groove of studying when you socialize.


Get the big picture first, and then the small details. When you are studying, pay particular attention to bold-faced or italicized print and the section headings. Memorizing the chapter and section headings helps give you the overall goal of the course. Use text cues like pictures, end of the chapter questions, vocabulary hints, formulas and text boxes.


Take advantage of the extra flex periods if they happen. Go in after school or before school. Ask questions in class about what you don’t understand. Ask the teacher about the format of the test and what you can bring to help you. The more you know about the format and the teacher’s style of test-giving, the better you will do. Will the test cover the whole semester? Just the last few weeks? Listen to the teacher and ask questions.


Maintain routines for exercise and nutrition. Don’t forget to work out and to eat well. By all means, wake up early enough to have a nutritious breakfast the day of the test.


Show up early and have all of your materials ready, like extra pencils, calculator, and allowed notes.


If you get nervous, take a few deep breaths. Concentrate on the aspects of the class and assignments that you have enjoyed the most.


Tips for Taking the Test:


1. Read the directions slowly and carefully. If you don’t understand the directions, ask the teacher to explain them to you.


2. Skim through the test so that you have a good idea of how to pace yourself. Do the simple questions first to build up your confidence. If you don’t know a question skip it for the time being and come back to it later. Remember you don’t have to answer every question right to do well on the test.


3. Make time to check your answers.


4. Don’t worry about how fast other people are finishing. Just concentrate on your own test.


Know the format:


For essay questions: as you read the question, underline important words such as “describe,” “compare,” “analyze,” etc. These tell you what to do. Come up with your thesis statement first, and create an outline before answering. Be sure to use supporting arguments and counter arguments in your outline. Then begin writing.


Multiple choice: read the question while covering the answers. Try to answer the question without looking at the answers. Then look at the answers to see if there is a match between one of the choices and yours. Cross out the  answers you know are not true. Try to find one reason why one of the remaining answers could be right. Be suspicious of choices that are on the extreme ends of the spectrum. (See True and False.)


Matching questions: read the directions. Look at one list, and then the others. Match the ones you know. Guess on the remaining.


True and false: you have a 50-50 chance of getting these questions right. Answer the ones you know. Then decide on the others by looking for clue words that can trick you. Clue words are statements taken to the extreme of right or wrong. Statements beginning with “all,” “never,” “always,” “only,” etc. are often not the right answer. More moderate words like “often,” “almost always,” “usually,” “frequently,” and “rarely,” are less extreme and more frequently correct.


Jim Hanson

Lincoln High School Psychologist

Summer Stress and Underage Drinking

Don’t Fall Victim to Summer Partying:

Creating Summer Balance and Transitioning for College

prepared by the Cardinal Families Health Action Network

Health Safety Alert: Many high school graduates fall victim to the summer before college. They see this as a time to…1. Release stress related to finishing high school 2. Catch up and connect with friends who might be heading off to a different school or 3. To start preparing for the college party lifestyle they believe is expected of them. What ever the reason many teens turn to drinking and other drugs during this time. Underage drinking is a serious problem that leads to many other serious consequences such as motor vehicle accidents, unwanted pregnancy, sexual assault, trouble with the law, death and addiction or dependance. Make sure your teens are not using alcohol or drugs as coping mechanism for stress.

**Parents be aware of how your child is spending their time and when certain behaviors can lead to poor coping mechanisms and sometimes even bigger problems.

Know the signs of underage drinking or substance abuse.

Follow these tips for keeping tabs on your teen:

  1. Know where they are and who they are with
  2. Set summer rules for family vs friend time (keep an active role and influence in their life)
  3. Model good adult behavior related to alcohol and also demonstrate other activities for fun and stress relief such as alcohol free parties or alternatives such as fun group outdoor activities like bike riding, hiking or picnicking.

Teen Summer After High School to College Transition Issues:

Teen Issue #1 They feel older than they are and they feel younger than they are. Teens struggle between wanting to be an adult and still needing their parent.

Solution: Give your teen space to grow up and go out with friends but also schedule time to be there for them. They need to feel your support more than they need to be told what to do. Give hugs and affirmations. Do things with them you usually do with your adult friends like schedule a lunch, hike or movie date.

Teen Issue #2 They go a little crazy with the freedom of summer knowing they are going on to college soon and will be away from parents.

Solution: Set ground rules for their time. Explain that they are still part of a family. They have friend time and family time. This parent or family time can be used to solidify what you have spent the last 18 years teaching them.

Teen Issue #3 They succumb to peer pressure. Peer pressure has been there all through high school but it’s about to get college sized.

Solution: Reinforce that you care about their safety. Have them set goals for the next 3 weeks, 3 months and 3 years and ask them how well they feel they can succeed if they are drinking or drugging.

Other contributing factors to stress at this time:

What might really be the issue? Your teen is likely struggling with the emotional stress of growing up and might be worried about the added responsibility that college brings.

The internet has no shortage of articles on how you should spend your time the summer between high school and college. But more than the top 5 or even 50 “things to do” you might want to consider learning how to balance your stress and emotions. Yes, getting a summer job or doing a college pre course might seem high on the priority list but taking the time to learn stress management and plan for the upcoming responsibility of college life would definitely be a good choice as well. It is also a great time to strength the teen-parent bond and is a win-win for everyone. The changes going on in your teen and yourself (and the relationship between you two) during the transition from high school to college is normal and to be expected.  Finding how to balance both your emotions and reduce any underlying stress is the key. Take a look at common teen and parent issues, look at warning signs of a problem vs normal behavior as roles change and see how to make the best out of this very important time.

Check out this article on letting go…

Don’t grab a drink try these “Stress Management Tips” instead:

  1. Take 10 deep breaths
  2. Go on a 10-20 minutes walk or run
  3. Watch a short comedy skit on YouTube

*Need more ideas… stretch for 15 minutes, make up a list of things you are grateful for, drink a glass of water, tell someone you love them, go to a yoga class, smile at the next person you see.