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The no stress exam package

November 30, 2010

I was talking to an alum of the school I teach at recently, and mentioning that exams were coming up, and she said “You know, I never really enjoyed the holidays until I graduated from high school and college because of the stress of exams.” This quote sums up the month of December at my school, and probably many others. We’ve got 2 weeks of school, followed by a week of exams, and we’re already maxing out the stress needle among students (and faculty, for that matter). Conversations about grades are at a fever pitch, and I’ve lost track of how many games of misery poker I’ve overheard as I walk around campus. Really, it’s bad, and we need an intervention.

I keep comparing this time to the weeks leading up to the BCS championship. Do you think Cam Newton and his buddies are sitting around talking about how much stuff they have to do to get Auburn ready for the SEC Championship next weekend? Does Michael Phelps moan and whine about all he’s going to do in the week before the olympics? And our students almost never complain about all the extra practice they do before a big gam or state title. So why is it different in academics? Why can’t they treat my exam as the “Superbowl of Science?”

So in this effort, I tried to distill some of the best advice from Cal Newport and other sources to put together a short packet of advice on how to prepare for exams without stress, and possibly even have some fun doing so. I gave my kids this packet and a calendar for the next 21 days broken up into half hour blocks. Some seemed genuinely appreciative—and hopefully this, along with all the other metacognitive work we’ve doing, is beginning to break through and help them find just a bit more enjoyment this holiday season.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Courtney Bellais permalink
    December 1, 2010 5:52 pm

    Hi John,
    I am a student of Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class at the University of South Alabama. I have to admit I too am not a huge fan of exam week and only look forward to the break of the holidays after. I think your exam package is pretty great, and I’m definitely going to put it to use. I’d have to say number two is my favorite! There are so many times where I sit for hours at a time trying to study and I get burnt out or frustrated, so I like the interval idea with study and breaks. Another favorite of mine is the sleeping more of course, but I also get caught up with the college life and stay out late more than I should. Like I mentioned I am going to put your package to use and prepare myself the right way for my exams. Thank you so much for sharing it’s greatly appreciated!

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