Final exams can be stressful for students
SIKESTON -- Countdown to Christmas break has begun for area high school and college students, but before they can focus on sleeping in and having fun, they must tackle a greater feat -- finals.
"Finals can help the students, but if they aren't prepared, it can really hurt them," said Dr. Larry Bohannon, Sikeston Public School's assistant superintendent of secondary education. "Generally the ones it hurts usually haven't been attending anyway," he added.
At Sikeston Senior High School, students have the option of counting or not counting their final exam grade in a specific class if they have: 98 percent attendance, a "C" average in that class, no Level II or higher discipline referrals (maximum of two Level I) and no more than three tardies per semester per class. All class final exams count as 10 percent of the semester grade. Other schools have similar guidelines.
Licensed counselor Judy St. John of the Center for Health and Counseling at Southeast Missouri State University said more and more stressed students have been walking into her office over the last couple weeks.
"It's starting to pick up in here," St. John said. "Last week alone, we had 12 new students."
St. John admitted students coming in are mostly first-year students or those who have extra personal or family problems and are having a difficult time keeping with school work.
However, the majority of students who come in asking for advice on stress management during finals are those who have been skipping classes all semester long and haven't learned the class material, St. John said.
"Basic nutrition and time management are the keys for any kind of stress management," St. John said.
Of course students will try to cram the night before their exams and study all night long, but rather than do that, St. John recommended studying a week or so before and in 90-minute intervals with 10 to 15 minute breaks.
"You should put yourself in an environment free from interruptions," St. John advised. "Turn off the telephone and TV and focus on studying. "I also recommend setting a timer or alarm when you study so you don't lose track of time or in case you fall asleep."
Avoid alcohol and too much caffeine during finals because they can affect the central nervous system, St. John advised. Alcohol is a depressant and can make you more drowsy and too much caffeine can make you more nervous and jittery, she reminded; plus, they're dehydrating. St. John also suggested drinking fruit juices when studying.
A final is a good indicator on the success of the teachers as well as the students, Bohannon said.
Comprehensive benchmark assessments, which test students over the material they've learned throughout the school year, are administered to students at the end of each quarter to help them prepare for the MAP test in April. Bohannon said he really liked the benchmark assessments, which were implemented last year, and thinks they improve students' test-taking skills.
"If you can get through a MAP test and score at an advanced or proficient level, you shouldn't have to worry about finals in college," Bohannon said.
Southeast's finals are scheduled for Dec. 9-12; while Sikeston's will take place the following week Dec. 18-20.
Instead of two-hour finals over four days like Southeast, Sikeston has 50-minute finals over a three-day period. Fourth hour finals are Wednesday; fifth, sixth and seventh are Thursday; and first, second and third hours are Friday, Bohannon explained.
Teachers usually use Monday and Tuesday as days to review and provide students with study guides.
"One of my students recently told me, 'I love those days when we review.' It also gives students an opportunity to learn what the test will cover in case they may have been studying something that wasn't on the test," Bohannon said.
Southeast also offers review sessions and workshops. St. John said a free test anxiety workshop will be held Wednesday on Southeast's campus to help students survive their finals.
"Students with borderline grades usually hit it pretty hard," Bohannon said about general student populations. "Sometimes I see them cramming, but for the most part, finals really help the students."