Image of someone studying

What is it like to study for exams?

A day in the life of an American university student during the midst of exam season.

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By VoiceBox ·


Harriet is 19 years old and from Charlotte, North Carolina. She is currently a first year at the University of Virginia, studying commerce.

What is it like to study for exams? Day in the life of an American university student during the midst of exam season.

With the Covid pandemic, almost all of my classes are online. With this comes new forms of taking tests, and that can create a lot of test anxiety and additional stress for students. Come follow me through a day in the life studying for exams at an American university.

When I have a lot of work that needs to get done, such as making flashcards, finishing practice quizzes, or reviewing readings, I have to get up early to get my day started. Normally, I wake up around 9, but during exam season I wake up at 8! After waking up and getting ready, I grab an apple and leave my room to find a study spot because I find I am most productive outside of my bedroom.

Oftentimes this means I go to one of the libraries and grab a booth and table near a window, so that I do not feel completely locked in the darkness while in the library. Normally, this is around 8:45. I find I get the most work done when I am by myself, even if this means leaving my friends who go to study somewhere else. Once I sit down, I pop in earbuds and start listening to music. My go-to study music is either EDM (weird I know) or instrumental pop music. I like to block off my studying in blocks of 2 or 3 hours. After working without distractions for 2 or 3 hours, it is now around noon and time to get lunch.

My favorite quick lunch so that I can get back to studying is a Starbucks Chicken Caprese Sandwich and a Strawberry Acai Refresher, and lucky enough for me it is right next to the library. I eat my lunch at a tent or bench outside quickly before it is back to the library for me.

Fast forward to 3 hours later, I need a break from studying. This is when I like to go to the gym or run outside for about an hour before coming back to my room and taking a shower. While I wait for dinner at around 6, I like to review my flashcards, respond to any emails, or have a quick study session with my roommate when we happen to be in the same classes.

Once me and my friends head off to dinner, we like to stay for about an hour and socialize because this is really our only study break during exam season. We take the time to catch up and talk about anything but school to get our minds off exams. After dinner, normally we will go to a different library that is closer to our dorms to do some final studying. I am not a night owl and have learned how important it is to be well rested during exam season, so I normally go to bed around 10:30. Before bed, I wind out the day by reviewing my flashcards one last time or reading a section in a textbook.

These days can be daunting and they are exhausting, but I have found that once you create a schedule that you can manage and learn how to motivate yourself to study, this plan works out great and can set you up for success!

To all the students out there about to have exams, I wish you the best of luck!

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