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How to Relieve Stress While Studying for Finals: Top Tips

Updated on August 31, 2016
annerivendell profile image

Anne has a BSc in Applied Psychology and has qualifications in counselling CBT & mindfulness. She teaches mindfulness workshops and courses.


This is the year that counts

College assignments and exams are often stressful events, but none more so than in your final year. This is the year that really counts, the year all the work so far is leading up to.

You may have had a small percentage of your grade from last year counted toward your final grade,(some universities do this) but even if you messed up then, you really can’t afford to mess up now.

Ten Top Tips
1.Highlight the subjects and the dates on the exam/assignment schedule so that you can see at a glance what is due and when
2. Plan your own schedule for each item
3.Break tasks into small, manageable chunks
4. Be realistic.
6. Keep a couple of days ahead of submission dates.
7. Attend lectures
8. Keep up with course work
9. Keep up with readings
10. Summarize our notes

Thesis, assignments and exams

I’m not sure how it is in other European countries or in the U.S. but pretty much all university degree courses in Ireland require that you hand in a thesis in your final year. This is in addition to the usual assignments and exams.

But even if you don’t have a thesis to complete, there are still all of those assignments to complete and the exams to prepare for.

So, how do you deal with the stress?


Time management is the key to relieving stress

No matter which subject you are studying as an undergraduate, time management is the most important skill you can learn for this year.

In fact, Fresher’s year is the best time to learn time management, but it’s never too late, and if you haven’t learned it by now, keep reading.

Schedules are important

You should have been provided with an assignment and/or thesis schedule early on in the academic year. If you haven’t been, contact the academic office and ask them for one.

Have a copy of that schedule pinned up wherever you study at home. Use different color highlighters, and highlight the subjects and the dates so that you can see at a glance what is due and when.

Write the important dates into a diary and keep it with you all the time.


Plan carefully

Next, plan your own schedule. If you do have a thesis to write, break it into small, manageable chunks.

For example, plan to have all of your research completed by the end of the first month, then perhaps the introduction written by the end of the second month, and so on.

This is only a suggestion-you will know what is required and when it is required, so break it up in a logical way that suits you.

Be Realistic

Be realistic. For example, don’t plan to write the entire introduction in one day.

Allow time for proof reading, rewriting and improvements.

Also don’t forget to allow time for breaks, entertainment and socializing.

And allow for possible delays due to illness and other unforeseen circumstances by being a little ahead as much as possible.

Apply the same plan to each section, and most importantly...

Fun with friends is important, but stick to the schedule!
Fun with friends is important, but stick to the schedule! | Source

Stick to the Schedule

Self discipline was never more important than it is in this year.If you want to keep the stress levels at a minimum, you have to keep ahead of the game, or at least keep up with it.

Don’t make a decision to fall behind with your work by choosing to do other things instead.

Sure, you have to have a life, you need to see your friends, socialize and have time for fun, and you will have included this in your schedule.

But if you persuade yourself that socializing is more important than keeping to your schedule, your stress levels will hit the roof at deadline or exam time

Even if you don't have a thesis...

If you don’t have a thesis or dissertation this year, you will still have assignments and exams, so the same rules apply.

Make your schedule, keep it manageable and stick to it.

Make a separate schedule for each assignment as above. Aim to have them completed a couple of days ahead of when they are due to allow for any unforeseen delays


Keep up with the work

Attend the lectures, keep up with your course work and with whatever readings you’ve been given. Don’t leave it all to near exam time.

You will be reading and trying to learn new material at a time when your stress levels are already high. But at least if you have read the material before and attended the lectures, you won’t be learning the material for the first time and it will be easier to remember.

Summarize Your Notes

In the days leading up to your exam, summarize your notes into headings and bullet points. Again, I recommend using highlighters in different colors so that they are easy to see at a glance. Use small cards (postcard size) with a different one for each subject. This makes it easier to read over your notes just before going into the exam.

When your notes ares well laid out, on small manageable cards with the headings highlighted, the words almost pop out at you and in my experience, stay in your memory for longer.

Keep your notes with you until the last minute. You may have already noticed how often the very last thing you read just before going into the exam was the first question that you noticed on the paper. This gives you confidence, reduces any panic and relaxes you, making it easier to think.

It really IS up to you

So, keeping your stress levels manageable in your final year is possible, but it is up to you. Use common sense.

My gift to you: A Guided Mindfulness Meditation for relaxation


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    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 5 months ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thank you for your comment, Claire. And apologies for the delay in replying. I've been taking a break from technology for a couple of weeks!

    • clairebranigin profile image

      Claire Branigin 6 months ago from Bay Area, California

      Planning ahead by breaking studying down into manageable chunks is definitely key to reducing stress! Great tips, Anne!

    • annerivendell profile image

      annerivendell 5 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thank you, Tonette for you kind comments. I hope your niece gets through it all okay.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 5 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hello Anne. This is very informative. I'd definitely have my oldest niece read this as she truly had lost weight with her study habits. We've been worried she looked like melted candle from what used to be a curvy body. So I can say this is perfect. I like that "use your common sense" too.... A good reminder to me, as well, lol. Thanks for this, really. More power!