It is 5 a.m. Eyes glazed and stomach churning, panic sets in. Even after staring at an open textbook all night long, it does not seem like it is enough.
Finals time – it’s one of the most stressful times of the year, according to most college students. Procrastination, types of testing and exam scheduling all impact students’ anxiety levels during third week of December.
Freshman Rajiv Patnam, like many students, said he leaves his studying to the last minute, which can lead to many stressful nights before deadlines.
Patnam confidently offers his motto: “It is not due until the day it is due.”
Other students said putting work off makes them work more intensely. Senior Laura Walton said she feels a positive effect from stress.
“Stress pushes me to work harder,” she said.
Many students said professors who assign exams before the University’s scheduled date also increase stress levels.
Senior Jen Goodman said she is more anxiety-ridden this fall than previous semesters. With two big papers and two take-home exams due before reading week, she said she is feeling the crunch.
“Other semesters have been spread out, and now it is all piled on,” Goodman said.
At the moment Goodman said she is focusing on what is due immediately, putting off studying for her other three exams until reading week.
Many students interviewed said anxiety at the end of the semester intensifies because they do not feel reading week gives them enough time to study. The official reading week is two days long from Dec. 12 to Dec. 13.
Senior Anastasia Roussos said she believes the University should give more time between classes and finals.
“I think there should be an extra day,” Roussos said. “It should be at least four days and a weekend.”
But other students said they are satisfied with the break, grateful that the University sets aside the days at all.
Sophomore Michele Kaplan thinks the reading week is ample time to study.
“I am not stressed because I feel I have enough time to study,” Kaplan said.
The anxiety of preparing for exams can also come in part from the way students are tested: objectively or subjectively.
Multiple choice and true/false questions require heavy amounts of recall and recognition.
Roussos, a biology major, said she feels most comfortable with objective formats.
“I would rather have multiple choice and short answers than long essays because that is what I am used to,” she said.
Roussos is in the minority among her peers interviewed. Most said they prefer papers and essay exams.
Goodman likes papers the best because work is done out of the classroom.
“I have had experience with in class tests where I study so much and it just doesn’t show,” Goodman said.
Kaplan said she prefers essays and papers because there are fewer time restraints.
“You can take as much time as you want, and you don’t have to cram the night before the exam,” Kaplan said.
Although professors acknowledge student preference for subjective testing, papers and essay questions are not appropriate for some courses.
Business Law Professor William Yaeger said giving tests with standard answers is a “fair way to test.”
“It leaves less room for a student to complain,” he said. “You can point out the right answer in the text.”
Yaeger says his class covers a lot of material with little depth. He said essays are suitable for courses with a narrower focus.
Spanish literature Christopher Britt has never been a big fan of objective exams, which is why does not give them.
“When I was a student, I didn’t like them,” Britt said. “I don’t like them now.”
He also said grading an objective test would become boring and repetitious for him. He wants the test to show what the students got out of the class, not merely what they can repeat from a book.
“Subjective tests give students a chance to perform,” Britt said.
Kista Tucker, a dance appreciation teacher, does not give the same style of test each year. She breaks up the class into several categories: movement, textbook material, discussion, an oral presentation and a paper.
“I assign more than one type of project because people excel in different areas,” Tucker said.
Whether the final consists of multiple choice questions, short answers or essays, the fact remains that student stress escalates in the days leading up to exams.
“My yoga tape is coming in the mail, so that will help keep me de-stressed,” Goodman said.
The University Counseling Center offers stress management workshops throughout the year, and a guided Web site for those in need of last minute tips.
“The stress students feel provides them with the energy to do something,” Assistant Director of the University Counseling Center Bob Wilson said.
He said the added energy is not necessarily a bad thing. Learning how to manage it is the trick.
Wilson said there is a “useful zone” for physical energy. Exceeding the limit leads to lack of concentration and tension.
“The way to relieve this is through meditation, exercise and a healthy diet,” Wilson said.
When the main goal is staying calm, Wilson emphasizes, is to keep a balance between studying and relaxing. When studying becomes too mundane, step away from it for a bit.
“Take a break, go for a walk, talk to a friend or just get a hug!”