SPOTLIGHT: Student Study Tactics

With finals just around the corner, some students are deliberating between studying in advance or cramming during finals week, while using a plethora of study tactics to get the best possible grades.

Around a month before finals, junior Natalie Tsung began to feel the intimidation of finals season, and after moving here from Miami, believes that Bay Area academic pressure contributes to the competitiveness during this time. She feels her high expectations are something she puts on herself, however.

“I definitely feel like it’s a lot more competitive here, and that does stress me out more because… I feel like the people here are more competitive so they’re more hesitant to reach out and help,” Tsung said.

Sophomore Varsha Venkateswaran has experienced more helpful and supportive academic environments. She often sends out Quizlet and Google Slides links to her classmates with study guides and an overview of her notes.

“I’m the quizlet master for AP Euro,” Venkateswaran said. “I’m the one who makes the classrooms and gives them to other people, and I make my own study slideshows. I have 30 people on that slideshow every day before tests studying.”

In addition to the study guides she makes to help others, Venkateswaran uses Notion to take her own notes to study for tests and finals.

“Notion is this organization app. You can use it for anything, but I use it for notes because I type my AP Euro notes,” Venkateswaran said.

Tsung also relies on her notes to study for finals. Tsung tends to print out her notes to annotate, and then does a final review the night before the exam to make sure she does not forget anything. Recently, Tsung has decided to branch out and try different techniques.

“My current study method is taking notes and reviewing those notes, but I’m going to try to do more practice problems because it helps me think and recall better than just reading my notes, which is what I usually do, so I think that would be more helpful for finals,” Tsung said. “I think taking practice tests and exams and doing actual practice problems would be a lot more beneficial than just reviewing notes and passively reading.”

Venkateswaran has also thought of incorporating different techniques into her study routine for finals.

“I see a lot of people doing Cornell notes, and honestly, I feel like Cornell notes is so stupid, but I think doing the summaries will seem like, ‘Oh, I want to try doing that,’” Venkateswaran said.

In addition to changing techniques for the future, Venkateswaran has evolved her techniques over the years depending on the difficulty of her courses.

“Before, during freshman year, my classes were so easy, so I didn’t really have to study that much,” Venkateswaran said. “But this year, my classes have gotten way harder, so I feel like I’m spending a lot more time studying and going over material.”

As for her current finals study schedule, Venkateswaran feels that her focus is on retaining as much information as possible instead of prioritizing sleep.

“I feel like I want to try to prioritize sleep, but I usually sleep at 11:30 or 12 because I’m just studying. I get way too paranoid, or like, ‘Oh, I have to go over this, or I need to go over this, or I need to go over that, too,’” Venkateswaran said.

Tsung also often sacrifices sleep to study during the finals season, and she also believes that it can be harmful.

“When I stay up really late, the latest I stay up is around 3:00 a.m. or 3:30a.m., but when I stay up really late sometimes I can’t stay awake during class, and then I’m missing the material, so I definitely think sleeping early would help me retain the information better when I’m actually learning it for the first time during lectures,” Tsung said.

Another tactic for studying that many SCHS students use are study groups, which freshman Paul Kim believes are beneficial.

“If we (friends) have the same classes (I will do a group study session), but if we don’t have the same class together, then I will probably go solo,” Kim said.

Venkateswaran, however, believes that study sessions with friends will help overall for finals.

“Group study sessions are kind of small groups. Usually, me and my friend would go to a library that’s near our house and study,” Venkateswaran said. “But sometimes you get distracted a lot, so I also study over FaceTime calls.”

Venkateswaran believes that music is beneficial during her study sessions as it serves as background noise.

“I like not being in a quiet room. I like listening to music. It helps me,” Venkateswaran said.

Kim said he listens to music to zone in on exactly what he is working on.

“Music and closing everything that is not relevant to that certain subject, or school, as well as any distractions helps me,” Kim said.

After taking her finals last year and changing her techniques a bit, Venkateswaran advises freshmen taking their first finals to build study habits early in high school.

“I feel like you guys (freshmen) should really start doing study habits now. I know the classes are easy. I know the stuff seems easy, but it’s gonna get harder,” Venkateswaran said. “So I think you (freshmen) should prioritize and study… because it’s going to get harder.”

Tsung agrees that freshmen should take the finals seriously and try to get the best possible GPA. She also feels that using all available assets will set students up for success.

“Reach out to your teachers if you need help because they are there to help you, and you should take advantage of every resource you have to make sure you do well and establish a good foundation for the rest of high school,” Tsung said.