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Finals push some Darien students to risk health

Updated 12:13 pm, Friday, June 8, 2012
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Darien High School freshman Amber Zia said she tries to plan ahead for exams.

"Without studying I feel like I can't do anything," Zia said. "Without studying I feel like I'm not going to do well automatically."

When final exams started this week, Zia had an exam in both her English and French classes. She has one exam Friday and three more next week.

"I think it's kind of harder for freshman compared to (upperclassmen), because for freshman you have to take bio review quizzes ... and they cram it before the other exam," she said.

Many high school students compromise their health before and during final exams. Zia, with all her quizzes and final exams, said she will stay up all night sometimes in order to prepare.

"(I) try to get all the information way before the exams," she said.

Teachers have told Zia a lack of consistent studying will make it harder to be ready for an exam, but sleep is very important the night before an exam, she said.

"So, I think sleep is important for me as well," she said. "But I want to make sure I have all the information before the exam."

This used to be the case for senior Lexy Ashburne, who said she is exempt from three exams this year because of good grades and a lot of effort put in throughout her high school years.

"Usually, I would probably be studying from the second I got home to the second I got to bed, which would be midnight some nights," Ashburne said. "I'm a really intense studier."

She said sleep is on a "need basis" for her when work becomes more rigorous.

"As far as five days before (an exam), the sleep is not very much," she said. "But the night before, I try to get sleep."

When studying for a long time, Ashburne said she will also force herself to get up and get a glass of water, even if she's not thirsty, just to get her blood flowing.

Proper nutrition is important during the exam itself, English teacher Sybil O'Hare said.

"You need to eat," O'Hare said. "The brain needs calories or else you start starving halfway through the exam."

Kim Karas, a nurse at the high school, said she sees students who are dehydrated and not well-nourished going to final exams.

"Normally, they've got good energy and are eating well," Karas said of students during the regular school year.

School nurse Rosanne Fitzmaurice agreed and said some students come to school who aren't feeling well because they don't want to miss a final or a review.

"We see students fatigued and openly stressed out," Fitzmaurice said.

Not all students find it difficult to prepare for exams. Reed Morgan, a junior who has four exams and a class project, said he doesn't feel overwhelmed.

"I tend to have fairly good recall, so I don't do a ton of extra prep," he said, but added he attends some review sessions when teachers have them.

"That's the bulk of it," he said. "And as the exam days come I'll review a little more in depth."

Morgan said he doesn't stay awake too late the day before exams.

"I tend to find that I can fit in all that I need to in the usual time," Morgan said.

The nurses said they let students take naps in the their office during a regular school day.

"We let them nap here if they have a free period," Fitzmaurice said. "If they have a class, they have to check with their teacher first. We see that a lot especially before sports finish."

Dan Record, a physics teacher at the high school, said bad time management is what stresses students out.

"You can't learn an entire semester's worth of material in a couple hours," Record said. "Some kids come in and say `I studied three hours the night before!' And I say, `Well, but what does that mean?' I encourage kids to study earlier. Doing it all at the 11th hour is tough."

tmichael@bcnnew.com; 203-972-4407; www.twitter.com/tmichael89

Alice Wang contributed to this report.