The ultimate exam szn survival guide

The gentle warmth of springtime is making us *totally* crave summer. We just can't wait for that epic beach vacay with our besties, wearing the cutest swimsuit and getting the perfect sunkissed tan and—oh wait. 


If the looming fear of exam szn is putting a damper on all of your summer daydreaming, you're not alone. The final stretch of the school year before summer can be a tough one, but we're here to help make the experience a little less stressful.

We've rounded up all the tips, supplies and snacks you need to absolutely ace the last few weeks of school. That stress-free summer mindset will be yours in no time, bb! 

The supplies

It's about that time in the school year when you look into your backpack and find a half-pack of gum and a single broken pencil.

We get it—you've been doing this school thing since September and the essentials have run low. Now's the time to remedy this situation. Here's what you'll need to upgrade your note-taking for exam szn:

1) A set of cute multi-colored pens for color-coding your notes (which can help you memorize the info better!) and for marking up any edits on your final papers.
2) College-ruled paper to keep those notes thorough, organized and easy to read.
3) Index cards, to supplement your study guides and make reviewing your notes a bit more interactive.

Remember that feeling on the first day when you had a stack of new notebooks and a full case of fresh pens just waiting to take notes with? Channel that energy. Not only is a restock important for all the ~practical~ reasons (ie., writing that history paper) but it will also help you get your motivation back, which is *just* as important as a fully-stocked locker.

The music

Besides all the school supplies, music can also be a super helpful tool during exam szn. For many people, listening to music while studying helps them focus and really "tune in" to their work. If you're having trouble sitting down to review your carefully curated notes, a good mix of music might be just what you need to get started! 

So what makes the perfect study playlist? Anything not too distracting, honestly. We recommend the instrumental versions of all your fave songs. This way you can enjoy the music, but you won't be too tempted to sing along until *after* you're prepped for the big test. Ofc, everyone's music taste is different, so check out this GL article to find a study playlist that best fits your vibe.

The study habits

Now that you have your notecards ready and your lo-fi playlist on repeat, it's time to put in the work.

Trust us when we say that studying does not need to be stressful! If you're feeling overwhelmed, it might be a sign that you need to rethink your study habits. (Find a list of study habits you need to shut down rn, here.) When studying, remember to:

1) Set goals for yourself. Go into your study sesh with a plan, whether that be reviewing all of Chapter 10's vocab by the end of the day or mastering the quadratic formula by the end of the week. This will keep you on track in an already busy time of year.
2) Take breaks. Don't try to work throughout the entire day. When you feel your concentration slipping, consider it a sign to step back and do something fun for yourself! Just make sure to get back to the books eventually, ofc. 
3) Repeat, repeat, repeat. Srsly, repetition is your best friend. So you *finally* understand the Kreb's Cycle—Congrats! But be sure to revisit the topic a little while later to make sure you really retained the information. If you can recite the facts a few different times throughout the day, you're golden.

The snacks

Feeling like you need a pick-me-up in the middle of your biology review? Power through the rest of your work with a nutrient-dense (but still delish!) snack. Trust us, your body and mind will thank you. 

The ideal mid-study nosh should be packed with carbs and protein while also being totally delish. Bonus points if it's perf for on-the-go! We've rounded up some of our fave hunger-crushing combos

1) Ants on a log: satisfy your sweet tooth with a srsly healthy snack. Yeah, it's possible. Cut up 2-inch slices of celery and fill them with a hearty scoop of peanut butter. This will be your "log." Top it with a trail of cute little chocolate chip "ants," and you've got a snack that's as energizing as it is adorable.

2) Energy bars: There's a reason they're called "energy" bars! If you're studying outside the home, a yummy, individually-wrapped energy bar makes for the easiest healthy snacking. We recommend mini Clif bars for quick study seshes, or naturally protein-packed GoMacro bars for long hours of working. 

3) Trail mix: Known for its versatility, trail mix can serve as a high-energy snack that works for all taste buds. Nuts and dried fruit are popular add-ins, but feel free to get creative! And pro tip: M&Ms make for a colorful and tasty mix. 

The stress relievers

Finally, we're here to remind you that it's OK to take breaks, even during the crunch time that is exam szn. 

If you're feeling symptoms of burnout (tiredness, lack of motivation, etc), it is important that you take a step back from your work and do something that brings you personal joy. Does playing with your dog make you oh-so-happy? Take your pet for a walk around the neighborhood. Are you obsessed with a Netflix show? Watch the next episode.

While exams can sometimes feel like the end of the world, the scores you get will never define you. It's important to study, but it's even more important to take care of your mental health. So sit back, relax and read that addictive fantasy novel you've been ignoring for your history homework—bc you deserve it, girl!

Looking for more tips? Follow us on Instagram @girlslifemag to stay up to date on all our best school advice.

Top image: @yaratomdyara
Slider image: @isabellapmayer
All GIFs via Giphy


by Melanie Dowling and Laila Mayfield | 5/3/2023