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Exams add stress to the holidays

Aaron Steiner | Tuesday, December 9, 2008

According to a national survey, studying and preparing for class is not high on many students’ to do list, and as finals approach, this leaves many students feeling nauseous at the thought of exams.

The most recent National Survey of Student Engagement, released last month, reported that about one in five students frequently come to class without completing readings or assignments – just one example of being underprepared.

That may or may not be the case at Notre Dame, according to Learning Resource Center (LRC) director Nahid Erfan. She said that students at Notre Dame are typically “motivated and hard working.”

But with final exams looming in the days ahead, many students reported feeling overwhelmed by coursework, especially exams.

Senior Apurva Aslekar said he was “stressed” about the work he has to get done in the coming days.

“I have 45 pages to write by next Monday,” he said.

Junior Gavin Green said that part of the stress is “the build up at the end of the semester” that really makes things difficult.

“Usually when it’s more spread out during the course of the semester it isn’t as bad,” Green said.

Junior Bridget Tully agreed that the end of the semester is the hardest “when you have to cram everything in.”

“I think you have to get things done, no matter what. It’ll get done. It just might not be the best work you would have done with more time,” she said.

Erfan said that students often lack enough time to study, and may mismanage the time they do have.

“It’s a little bit of both,” she said. “Many students, especially first year students, have not perfected their skills for managing time well.”

Other students just don’t have enough hours in the day to do it all.

“There are many students who have excellent time management skills, and are still unable to complete all assignments,” she said. “They simply do not have enough time between classes, meetings, meals and other commitments.”

The national study, based on surveys earlier this year of close to 380,000 college students, said that students spend about 3.5 hours a week preparing for each class, about half what instructors expect from a typical student.

Erfan said that it is normal for professors to expect more from students.

“Higher expectations promote learning,” she said.

For those feeling stressed and underprepared for their finals, Erfan offered some suggestions to students as they approach exam week.

“First, [students] should not panic,” she said. “Second, they should take full advantage of the resources the University … has to offer.”

Erfan said students should start by arranging a meeting with their instructors to get a better idea about their situation, and to find out what resources are available.

She also said not to “blame yourself” for past mistakes, but instead to correct them. This includes reviewing midterms, tests and other assignments.

“Consider the final as the last opportunity to learn what the course is all about,” she said. “This way you remove some of the exam stress since you place the focus … on learning.”

When the final arrives, students should remain calm and prepare by taking care of themselves.

“Go to the exam room on time and in good physical and mental state,” Erfan said. “Eating well and sleeping well during exams week can help.”