Secrets for Schooling Exams

Charlotte Heinrich, features writer

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As the sun lingers in the sky for a few minutes longer each day, our daydreams of summer no longer seem unrealistic. Ignoring the nag of our alarms and turning our history notes into doodles would be too easy. It’s almost as if our math problems are asking to be neglected. Yet as our focus diminishes, the looming fate of finals speeds towards us. With little motivation to spare, here are some crafty hacks to make it through finals into the land of snow cones and sunburns.

Catherine McCandless

Pick a theme song.

For each exam, pick out a different song. Make sure it isn’t your favorite tune, or something you can’t stand. While you study for said exam, listen to that chosen song. Although seemingly annoying, this trick creates a mental bridge between that song and the content. When the test comes along, sing the theme song in your head to help jog your memory.

Catherine McCandless

Get active.

Studies have shown time and time again that as little as 10 to 20 minutes of exercise increases cognitive function by up to 14 percent (Neuropsychologia). After a quick jog around the block or a few minutes of yoga, blood flow increases to the brain, helping decision-making done in the frontal lobe. And, these final cardio blasts get us ready for swimsuit season!

Catherine McCandless

Let the creative juices flow.

Remember “King Henry died by drinking chocolate milk?” or all “Fifty Nifty United States?” Our elementary school teachers were on to something with these funny phrases and catchy songs. Channel your inner fourth grader and get goofy again. Make odd acronyms for remembering the metalloids on the Periodic Table or relate tyrants of the middle ages to tyrants in your grade. You won’t forget when the content is personalized, and maybe it will make your math final somewhat light-hearted.

Catherine McCandless


Whether you are reaching for an A or just trying to pass the class, everyone can benefit from fueling up before test taking. Our brains on average use 20 percent of glucose, 35 percent of vitamins and minerals, 40 percent of water and 50 percent of fats that we take in, according to Developing Human Brain. Foods like nuts, blueberries and eggs replenish lost energy most effectively, along with drinking lots of water. By trading in breakfast for a caffeine-packed coffee, you also risk trading in test points.

Catherine McCandless

Be the Tortoise, not the Hare.

It’s the day of the final. Last night you stayed up into the wee hours of the morning cramming a semester of information into a single night. Now you find yourself squinting, trying to remember what exactly that study guide noted. Avoid this all too real nightmare by reviewing material a little at a time. For example, spare 15 minutes to look over each subject every other night. This results in about an hour of studying each night, and a bit more sanity left over.

Catherine McCandless

Don’t be dumb, chew gum.

A recent study done by St. Lawrence University examined test results when participants chewed gum. The study found that those who briefly chewed gum for 5 minutes before the exam performed better on memory-based tasks. Similar to light exercise, chewing gum improves blood flow to the brain. Effects typically lasted for 20 minutes before wearing off, so work through those multiple choice swiftly.

Catherine McCandless

Go out (or stay in).

Before hitting up the Custard Station in downtown Kirkwood, hit the books. Might as well make the hours spent studying as enjoyable as possible. Find out where you can be the most productive, whether that is a cafe, your backyard or the library. Set the mood with snacks, a comfy chair, lots of space to sprawl and earbuds for your theme songs (hack #1). The key is to find the balance between not getting distracted and not feeling tortured while studying.

Catherine McCandless

Rest up.

As tempting as after-school naps may be, getting into a good sleeping routine is the best trick of the trade. Teenagers on average need 8 to 10 hours of sleep, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Without sufficient sleep, bad eating habits form, focus declines and managing stress becomes more difficult.

Best of luck on finishing out the school year. Study hard, and rest up because before you know it, snow cones will replace the study guides and (hopefully), sun poisoning will be as unlikely as “The Cookie Lady” coming on the one day you have money.

Art by Catherine McCandless.