Ways to prepare for upcoming exams

As final exams and Advanced Placement (AP) exams approach, students might be wondering how they should juggle studying, managing their time wisely and lowering their stress levels. Here are ten tips to prepare for final and AP exams: 

1. Perfect your note-taking

While studying for finals, students should try different note-taking methods to see what works best for them. One method is the Cornell Method which was proven to be an effective note-taking method by a 2012 study from North Dakota University. Students who use the Cornell Method split their paper into quadrants: the top part of their paper is for a header, the left side is for keywords, the right side is for notes and the bottom of their paper is for a summary of their notes. 

2. Avoid procrastinating 

Every student has felt the sinking feeling of “if only I had started doing this sooner.” To avoid procrastinating, students should start working as soon as they start thinking about the work they need to complete. Students should also think about what motivates them. The self-determination theory created by psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan says that students are motivated both externally and internally. Vaqueros should identify what motivates them and use these motivators to encourage themselves to study. 

3. Remove distractions 

A student hears the low buzz of a television outside of their room. I’ll be able to focus, the student thinks. Although students may believe that they can focus while they are distracted, they may not be fully concentrating. A study from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee says that even moderate background noise-such as the sound of other people talking-can cause concentration problems for students. In addition, anything can be a distractor—even strong smells. In order to concentrate, students should work in rooms that are quiet and calm. 

4. Find a study method that works for you 

As Vaqueros are studying for their exams, they can experiment with different studying methods. One effective and famous method is active recall. Active recall is when a student quizzes themself about what they have just studied. By actively recalling what they are learning, students can more easily understand and remember information, according to a study from the Journal of Nepal Medical Association. Some resources that can help students recall information are Quizlet, StudySmarter and Active Recall.

5. Manage your time 

I have an Engineering and Korean test on Friday. How should I manage my time? A 2009 study from the University of California Los Angeles states that students learn best when they study over multiple days. In order to have enough time to study over multiple days, students must use their time effectively. Vaqueros can do this by utilizing the Pomodoro method. Those who use the Pomodoro method study for 25 minutes at a time and then take a five minute break. After someone has studied for four 25-minute sessions, the Pomodoro method recommends that they take a 15-30 minute break. Apps that can help Vaqueros use the Pomodoro method are Focus Keeper, Clockwork Tomato and Fiveable.

6. Take advantage of Flex Time and tutors

Even though it is tempting to go to a more “fun” class during Flex Time, Vaqueros should go to the class that they are struggling the most in to ask their teacher for help. If students would like additional help from their peers, they can also ask a peer tutor for help. Peer tutors can be found in certain classrooms, such as World Language classes that have members of Honor Societies serving as tutors. Students can schedule their FlexTime appointments here.

7. Manage burnout 

I need to study for my World History test, but I feel so tired. By the end of the school year, many students experience burnout, or feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. To manage burnout, students can try parallel studying or changing their study space. Parallel studying is when a student studies two or more subjects at the same time. When a student feels tired of one subject, they can give their mind a break by moving on to another one. Students can also try studying in different rooms in their house, or going to a coffee shop. Coffee Tomo Irvine, The Lost Bean and Wall Writers Coffee are all quiet cafes Vaqueros can try studying in. 

8. Manage anxiety and stress 

During finals week, many students become anxious about maintaining or raising their grades. To manage stress, students can try exercising or doing mindfulness exercises. Students should try light exercises such as yoga, weightlifting or swimming. Vaqueros can also try mindfulness exercises. Two mindfulness exercises students can try are body scan and walking meditation. Body scan meditation is when someone focuses on the different parts of their body and imagines a ball of energy is traveling throughout their body. Walking meditation is when someone walks a distance of 10-20 feet and thinks about the sensations they are feeling. 

9. Sleep

I feel sleepy but I need to study more. Students may lose track of getting enough sleep during finals week. However, it is important that students sleep enough so that they can be well rested and remember the information they have studied. To make sure that they get enough sleep each night, Vaqueros should set a schedule for themselves. This schedule should include going to sleep at the same time each night. Apps that can help with setting a sleep schedule and falling asleep are Headspace, Pzizz and Calm.

10. Reach out for help

If students are feeling overwhelmed during finals week, they should reach out to the people they trust. Students should also feel free to reach out to any of Irvine High School’s counselors. To make an appointment with a counselor, students can go here. Vaqueros may also reach out to their peers in Hope Squad by messaging Hope Squad through their Instagram account at @ihs_hope_squad.

Access the AP testing calendar HERE and refer to this LINK for more information.


Study tips with Irvine High Student and Staff

El Vaquero: How do you study for final exams?

Ishaan Gaikwad, Freshman: “First, I take a look at my classes’ learning targets. I do this for my history class because they give us all of the learning targets we’re supposed to know for tests. Secondly, I look through my past worksheets and homework assignments and do a review sheet. If I still feel unsure about something, I look through my homework and—especially in math—I create my own problems.”


El Vaquero: How should students study for their finals?

Jeff Prugpichaliers, Math teacher: “Students should practice similarly to the way the final will be. For any class, that means copying problems down on a blank sheet of paper and putting all of your notes away and trying to solve all of them without looking at your notes. Or, if there’s an essay or writing component, try writing an essay or paragraph without referencing any notes. That way, when it comes time for the real thing, students are used to the process. They’ll also have a better idea of how prepared they are.”


Art by Alexis Tran