How to Survive Exams Session

Ilaria D'Onofrio Program Assistant, Rome Center


December 13, 2018

The end of the winter semester is around the corner, and while people are thinking about the best way to spend their Christmas holiday, most college students are worrying about their final exams. Being a college student myself, I am very (I mean VERY) familiar with the huge amount of stress and panic that students could feel during this delicate period, watching your timetable filled with tests you have to take can be overwhelming. Therefore, I would like to give you some tips people have given me through my university career, things I have learned myself and things that I have discovered online during my crazy and desperate Google researches like How To Study 300 Pages In One Night.


I know it sounds silly and useless to tell somebody that, but it is something that during our studying session we keep forgetting. Passing your exams and getting good grades are absolutely important for your studying career, your future and your personal confidence, but you do not have to feel as you are doing something impossible or life-threatening like saving the world or deactivating a bomb. Then, when you are feeling too much pressure just try to relax: close your eyes, take deep breaths and keep telling yourself you got it, that you can do it just fine.


Everybody knows that doing it will save you more than the 50% of your studying time at home, but sometimes getting distracted in class could be so appealing that you cannot help yourself. Although, try to not lose your attention and keep reminding yourself that taking notes during classes could be lifesaving: it is likely that the professor will explain some crucial and difficult concepts, which are in the book, but in a simpler and clearer way, allowing you to understand it quicker and more efficiently. Moreover, in class, you can ask questions to clarify those things that you cannot understand, a thing that you can’t do when you are alone with your book (unless you want to look insane).


Before you start studying on your books or your notes for a test (and I advise you not to do it just a week before your exam), make a study plan according to the number of things you have to study and your other commitment. Prepare yourself daily practicable goals like read and sum up 20 pages and remember to include free time to rest and go out with your friends.


If you are a person who can easily get distracted around friends and other students I definitely recommend you to do study alone in the library, or at home. But if you can be productive while you are with your friends I advise you to organize some group study sessions with other students from your class: you can compare your notes, help each other when a passage is not clear, socialize with people you may not know and say what you are studying out loud, which is the best way to memorize things and improve your verbal skills.


People tend to lower their expectation in order to not get hurt by their failure or to always be pessimistic. But the day of your exam you have to stay positive: you have studied everything and you are perfectly able to pass the test, so be focused on your goal and believe in your abilities. Having a positive attitude towards your problem can help you to overcome them, while too much stress and pressure will definitely damage your performance. Then, if you fail, do not feel sorry for yourself: understand what you have done wrong, what you can improve, study harder and try again until you pass the exam. Failing is not the end of the world.