Final exam season can be an overwhelming time for students, but East Carolina University offers resources to help students adjust to the stressful period and push through it, which could be useful in students’ futures.
Ashley Chavez, a sophomore intended nursing major, said her stress skyrockets as finals quickly approach. Her fellow nursing major peers also feel a similar way about their stress as the semester comes to a close, Chavez said.
Chavez utilizes the test prep opportunities that the Pirate Academic Success Center (PASC) offers throughout the year along with the cumulative final test prep at the end of the semester to prepare for her finals, she said. The tutors through the PASC help point out what specific topics to focus on and how to study those materials, she said.
Chavez said she is an auditory learner and hearing herself repeating the information over and over helps her solidify the concept. Her study habits have stayed relatively consistent throughout the years, she said.
“I make a ridiculous number of flashcards. So far, between the Anatomy and Microbiology courses that I am taking this semester, I have made over 1,000 flashcards. Being able to hold something tangible and talking myself through topics is the best way for me to fully comprehend the concepts being taught in class,” Chavez said.
Chavez said to utilize resources ECU offers and to always review old homework assignments, old tests, notes, and recorded lectures. Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance, she said.
To prevent being stressed throughout the year, especially during finals, students can study daily, even if it’s just 30 minutes every day for a specific subject. It will greatly decrease the work students will have the night before the exam, Chavez said.
“A piece of advice that I was constantly given as a freshman but never listened to, even though I should have, was to take time for yourself. Studying is extremely important when it comes to the success of your education but taking time for your mental health is just as, if not more, important to the success of your education,” Chavez said.
Rosalinda Kowalczewski, a senior majoring in anthropology, said she feels an increase of stress around the end of the semester, especially as a senior. She said she felt like she was on top of everything at the beginning of the year and now she has a lot of papers and exams on the way, Kowalczewski said.
Kowalczewski said she tends to go straight to the professors and faculty themselves for assistance. She said she goes during office hours to review past exams.
The faculty understands what was like to be a student and are willing to help a student succeed in their courses and they’ll sit down with them and help explain things if they show that they are willing to learn, Kowalczewski said.
“When I first came to ECU, I would always stay in my room to study, but now I force myself to go somewhere else, like the library, to do work. Staying in a place with a lot of distractions would keep me from doing work that needed to be done,” Kowalczewski said.
Kowalczewski said her advice to freshmen would be to go to the review sessions at the end of the semester. They can help deepen your understanding of a topic and professors might tell the student answers to questions they wouldn’t have heard if they weren’t there, she said.
Director of Pirate Academic Success Center, Elizabeth Coghill, said finals are a stressful time for everyone. She often sees professors assigning exams right before final exams. Whether if its lectures for a specific topic took a little bit longer than they anticipated or whether the weather resulted in class cancelation, all that work can kind of be a tough situation and it’s a lot of pressure on students, especially for freshmen, Coghill said.
The amount of students who go to the PASC is high from early September through December and it sees students coming in who are significantly stressed constantly, Coghill said. Students come in and just ask for support and the PASC does their best to accommodate their needs as much as they can, she said.
Coghill said a lot of students come in the day of their exam when they’re stressed, and the PASC staff can tell their anxiety levels are up.
“We see a lot of students coming in for chemistry, psychology, anatomy and physics. For STEM courses especially. We see a lot of students who are majoring in nursing coming in for chemistry. Mathematics is the second highest we see showing up and asking for help,” Coghill said.
The PASC is busy throughout the year, but it’s not nearly at the level they experience towards the end of the semester. When students come back from Thanksgiving break, professors have review days for Monday and Tuesday and that’s it. It can be a lot for students, Coghill said.
Coghill said the most important combination for preparing for finals is getting course content support but also getting study skill coaches. Those individuals are professional staff members or upper-level undergraduate students who help students get a feel for new approaches, strategize, time-management and accountability, she said.
The PASC trains their tutors to be students’ first line of incorporating as many study skills as possible in their sessions and helping them realize things they can be doing on their own. They give them resource guides and assistance in connecting with those resources, Coghill said.
“Going back to the syllabus and making sure students know the content of their exam, whether it’s cumulative or not is very important. Finals easily stress students out, especially with break and then we come back and go straight to finals. It’s definitely going to be a shocker for some beginning students and even our upperclassmen. It’s a quick turn around and students need to be thinking about exams now,” Coghill said.
Coghill said she sees students stare at their notes as a way to study and students can’t do that with their final exams.
Another aspect Coghill said she sees is students not using their textbooks. By looking through their textbooks, students are able to determine what actual information was used in lectures for previous exams, so they know exactly what to study in the textbook, Coghill said.
“It’s all about making it an active process. Rather than staring at notes, if it’s not using Quizlet, covering up the answers and quiz yourself, asking a friend to quiz you or even writing it out helps a lot,” Coghill said.
Coghill said a lot of students pull all-nighters to prepare, but students need their sleep, especially before a test. Students aren’t going to have the memory they think they are going to have. After the test, they’ll go back, and crash and they can really mess up their sleeping schedule and studying for other classes, she said.
“Finals week can be challenging because the exam schedule is different. Someone might have never had an 8 a.m. before and their exam is now at 8 a.m. They have to prepare ahead of time and come up with a plan. Students can lose vital time to study and prepare because the schedule is so different,” Coghill said.
Coghill said the library is always open as a safe place to study. Students need to be mindful what floor they’re on and if it’s a social or quiet place and see what works for them. Residence halls are also a useful place and so is faculty, she said.
Faculty will put study guides and resources on Blackboard and students won’t take advantage of it and It’s really important they look for resources the faculty has given them, Coghill said.
Coghill said the PASC has tutoring by appointment that’s free and students can either call or come in to make those appointments. They also do walk in services; Monday through Thursday between 4 and 6 p.m. to accommodate to certain student’s needs who aren’t necessarily free during other times, she said.
Daniel Wiseman, an academic advisor, said some classes might also have final projects or other assignments due before finals which can be very chaotic for some students. It’s very beneficial for students to take advantage of the resources on campus, Wiseman said.
The Advising Center sees some students with some concerns and questions about classes reach out, but the biggest spike would definitely be in the PASC or The Writing Center. The Advising Center can give students their one on one time with their advisors they share a unique bond with. They help students in any way they can and help give them guidance and advice, he said.
“Students should keep a line of communication with their professors and their office hours. Always touch base with them to make sure students are studying the correct content for their exam. The professors want you to succeed and are always open and helpful and will guide them as best as they can,” Wiseman said.
The PASC or The Writing Center are good resources on campus and the Math Department has their own math tutoring services can also be helpful, Wiseman said.
“Every student learns and studies differently. I am a hands-on learner and I would go through my notes constantly, read them, and write them over and over again. That helped me commit the content to memory. Some students might be a visual or auditory learners and it’s important that students understand what kind of learner they are to fully succeed,” Wiseman said.