In Depth

Students Share Studying Tactics

Studying for last winter’s chemistry final was a memorable, if painful, exam week experience for Thomas Hamel ’10. Cringing, Hamel reminisces, “There was a rumor that the final would be impossible since the year before the exam average was really high. I kept studying for it; I felt like I couldn’t study enough.” He sighs, “It ended up that the final was just as bad as everyone said it would be. It was a colossal letdown.” Sitting comfortably on the other side of the block in Morse Hall, Bobby Vardaro ’10 consoles Hamel and agrees, “That was bad.” The next day, Nadine Khan ’09 ponders the same question, closing her eyes, blocking the bustle of noise in the back of Uncommons until she recalls a similar memory; studying for chemistry had made its mark on her Andover exam week history. “Chemistry was a struggle Lower fall because I was a new Lower and I didn’t know how to study at all. I just thought that if I sat down for four hours and studied, I would have it all packed… and I thought that if I studied really late into the night, it would stay with me until the next day.” Khan laughs. “It didn’t work out like that. And I learned that my mind doesn’t function like that.” Sitting up in her desk chair, Nneka Anunkor ’11 says above the hum of music in the background, “I remember studying for history last year, Winter Term, when a few friends and I gathered in the room. We said we would study. But we didn’t. It took a good chunk of the night. It was a bad idea… but it was fun.” She smirks. Amid the quiet drone of voices in Steinbach Lobby, Kwon-Yong Jin ’09 answers that his most challenging exam “was probably for History 340, Lower year.” He leans back a little into the couch. “It took me quite a bit of time [to study], probably anywhere from 10 hours to 15 hours…It took me three to four days to study for this.” Back on the block, Vardaro says, “I once studied eight hours for one exam, not at one time, but all together.” Vardaro jokes, “This is for the subject that I’m normally failing in.” He explains his study methods: vocab cards for language, teachers’ study guides for math and his own study guides for other subjects. For Jin, exam week does not mean he changes his study habits. “I take it just like most other weeks. I might study some more, but I try to keep my usual pace.” Jin knits his brow and adds, “Most of the time, I try to treat final exams like period tests. I do have some special stuff that I do for final exams. I go over the term’s materials, usually my notes, homework and most importantly, my period tests and quizzes.” “I’ve always taken exam week seriously,” says Khan. “That’s just because I guess the thought of having finals, papers and exams that count for so much of your grade…or it’s just something about me.” On the question of whether he crams or prepares ahead of time for exams, Jin, says that he is “probably somewhere in the middle [between cramming and preparing ahead of time]. “I’ve crammed…just not something like 10 minutes. For final exams, it’s just the sheer amount of material that I have to cover most of the times; it prevents me from cramming because there’s just so much you have to cover. Most of the time I probably go over the entire term’s material in five to 15 hours. That can count as cramming in a way.” Khan notes a positive change in her study habits. “When I was a new Lower, I definitely used to cram. Now, I think it’s gotten a lot easier. As a Senior, I can have more leisure time; I’m writing one or two papers, and then I have to study. When I was a lower, I was stressed. Maybe the school can do something to cut down on that. I think especially for the Juniors and Lowers.” Khan smirks, “I look out for the underdogs.” Having already experienced Junior and Lower years, Hamel knows effective ways to relieve his stress during exam week. Hamel says, “I try to, in between one long study period, take a break. I usually try one hour of physical activity, like working out, or shooting some baskets. It really helps me concentrate.” “I listen to music,” says Anunkor, glancing at iTunes on her computer. “Whatever comes on shuffle, I guess. If it’s really getting to be too much, I just stop and take a 10- or 15-minute break, walk around, talk to people.” Jin says, “I don’t have stress spikes during assessment week because I try to keep it as normal as possible just like every other week. When my stress level reaches too high, usually I just take a little nap, an hour or two. Sometimes I watch a movie.” Khan explains the importance of sleep during exam week. “I need at least nine hours of sleep. I’m not one of those people who can get five [hours of sleep] and survive on that; I fall sick if I do. I don’t necessarily do that during the school year, but the week before exams and the week of, I make sure I sleep better.” Anunkor expresses her opinion that remaining sane is a priority. “[It’s important that students] don’t get too crazy,” declares Anunkor adamantly. “You’ll see some people who have 50-page study guides. I mean, if that works for you, that’s fine, but for me, I write a lot of notes in class so I can refer back to my own things. [Finals] are important, but it’s not that serious.” Hamel says, “The morning of an exam, breakfast is important. I have scrambled eggs and pancakes.” In agreement, Vardaro says, “I have toast and eggs.” He chuckles, “If I’m not happy, scrambled.”