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Preparing for Exams: Tips and Resources

Post by Bahja Ammari, second-year UBC student & Vantage College alumni 
It's April and the weather is finally great again! However, given that it’s final season, I would recommend resisting the urge to have a lazy day under the sun and sort out your finals preparation before you’re overwhelmed! What is the first thing that pops into your head when you think of final exam season in university? A lot of people would say: stress, lack of sleep, and coffee overconsumption. This may be accurate for some, but it doesn't have to be you! After a lot of trial and error during my two years as an undergrad, I’ve learned a few things about how to tackle finals and start on the right foot. The tips below have helped me a lot, I hope they do the same for you as well.
1. Create an early action plan
Creating an early action plan is a foundation for everything! Here is the way I do it. First, mark off your finals date on your calendar (both digital and paper calendars work). By doing so, you can get a sense of the available time at hand. Next, break down each of your days into a few time blocks. Similarly, break down the material you need to cover for each course to smaller chunks. Then, fill in your time blocks with the different tasks and chapters that you have sectioned already.
If you still have papers to submit during finals, try using the library’s Assignment Calculator. Based on the paper due date you indicate, the Assignment Calculator breaks down the process of writing papers into smaller tasks guiding you on how to finish it on time.
Finally, don't forget to find a friend to study with - and make sure it’s someone who can hold you accountable for the goals you have set yourself up for.
2. Take care of yourself
Starting early with an action plan is so crucial because it minimizes your school stress allowing you to take care of yourself. You've probably heard this countless times, but your parents were right about eating and sleeping well - you really do need those things in order to perform well. Fill up on nutritious food instead of relying on carbohydrates and energy drinks to keep you functioning. Skip on those cups of coffee and allow yourself enough time to charge for the day by sleeping (a minimum of 7.5 hours of sleep per night is recommended). Additionally, take some time off whenever you are feeling low on energy. To increase my efficiency and minimize procrastination, I started using the Pomodoro Technique to help me to effectively stay on top of tasks without getting distracted. You might want to give that a try, too!
3. Seek help
Don’t be afraid to seek help and utilize the resources available to you. If you aren’t sure you understand any of your course material, approach your professors and teaching assistants. They will be so willing to help you the best they can - it's what they're there for! The Chapman Learning Commons is also a great resource that offers students services such as tutoring, peer academic coaching, student toolkits and it’s where you can also find the UBC Writing Centre. It's normal to feel overwhelmed by finals, especially if it's your first year in university. However, always know that you don’t have to do it alone and that great people at UBC Counselling Services and The Wellness Centre are there to support your journey along the way.
4. Utilize technology
You can do great on your own, but utilizing technology can help you do even better. Whether use physical or digital notes, Google Docs is a great tool for exchanging and sharing notes with your classmates. Secondly, if making flashcards is not one of your favourite things, try creating your own online flashcards that you can access anytime! Lastly, If you're stuck on a concept or an idea you don't quite understand and it's too late to ask for instructors’ help, finding a YouTube video explaining the concept might help you.
These tips I’ve shared with you have totally transformed the way I study and prepare for finals. Remember, more preparation means less stress! Start early, take care of yourself, seek help, and remember technology could be your best friend in this digital age. Hopefully then, you might have sometime to spend outside in the sun, right?
Good luck on your finals!