How to Prepare For Final Exams
Posted on 15 May 2017
The time is here to prepare for finals! Getting through your exams at the end of the school year can be tough when you know there are only a few tests and papers left between you and your summer vacation. You are burnt out from a long semester of hard work and "vacation brain" is setting in, but you need to find a way to not completely tank those last few tests. Here are a few of our favorite best-practice study habits for surviving the stress and studying effectively — because we know you don't have any time to waste when it comes to finals.
- No Distractions. It's funny how you always discover that the best time to clean your room or do some other chore that you normally avoid is when you SHOULD be studying, so finding a time and space where you can focus is key. Create some clear space so you can spread out and concentrate, without games, TV or other things around to suck your attention. Put your phone onto "do not disturb" mode so it does not become a distraction; it will allow you to think without "going dark" and turning all the way off.
- Manage Time Effectively. It's always easy to delay the start of actually studying by getting yourself "ready to study": collecting all of your notes, grabbing another highlighter, getting a snack, etc. By making it a point to have everything you are going to need in advance, you're ready to start studying right away rather than blowing an entire hour on pointless prep time. When it's finals, you don't have that extra hour to waste.
- Reference Materials. Class notes, text books, handouts, online sources, library resources, and labs, can all be materials you need to help get prepared for final exams. Plan your time around identifying what you need and where to get it. Leaving this until the last minute might make you rush around and miss a key piece of study material that you suddenly can't get your hands on. Getting organized early eliminates that last-minute panic feeling.
- Stay Positive. If you feel less than great about how you performed on an exam, just take it in stride and move on. Don’t let the bad feeling about one test spill over into all the others, and don't forget to celebrate the little victories when you do kick ass on an exam.
- Study Groups. Your friends and classmates are probably just as worried about finals as you are. Finding a time that works for everyone to meet can be tricky, but starting a group text, or using an app like Google Calendar will help keep everyone on schedule. Study groups will help you stay on track and hold everyone accountable to get studying done in a timely manner.
- Teachers Pet. If you get stuck or want to clarify information, many TA's and instructors are there to help via email or Skype. Utilizing your professor's office hours is great as well. This allows you to clarify any questions you might have come across while studying, and it's a great way to get individual attention and let your professor that know you are really trying. Showing genuine effort could work in your favor if you end up with a borderline score in the class.
- Sample Tests and Cliff Notes. Taking a practice test can help you identify the areas that you should be pinpointing your studies on. Focusing your studies will cut down on wasted time and effort on revisiting what you already know, or don't need to know for the real exam. Check out study and flashcard apps for your phone so you can take,studying on the go.
Take Care of Yourself:
- Get Some Sleep. Cramming for the exam the night before isn't going to help much if you are running on no sleep. Try to get a regular few hours of sleep each night; you will be better able to absorb the information that you really need to know. Be sure to keep a balanced sleep-to-study schedule.
- Caffeine, Caffeine, CAFFEINE!! Trying to fit extra time for studying into your already busy schedule can be hard. If you can't stick to your sleep schedule, caffeine is going to be your best friend and savior during finals season. Coffee, tea, and energy drinks all provide a much-needed energy boost that helps get you through these crazy times.
- Healthy Eating. Make sure to eat at regular intervals. Healthy food helps create a healthy brain, so try to eat as much "real food" as you can while studying this finals season. But don't be afraid to treat yourself once in a while! If you are in the middle of a study sesh and just aren't up for a full-on healthy meal, pizza is always a great option, because pizza is the finals food from the gods. Add a salad so you get a little bit of green into your meal. Take a break from studying and enjoy your pizza; you've earned it!
- Stay Hydrated. Everyone knows that being dehydrated makes you tired and cranky, and caffeine can further dry you out and heighten this effect. When that caffeine buzz kicks in a little too strongly, keep the fluids coming with plenty of water or Gatorade.
- Study Break. A short 5-10 minute break every few hours to clear your head will help you get back in the game; try meditation or a walk around the block. Just don’t spend this valuable time getting sucked into scrolling through Instagram. Use your phone to set yourself reminders and timers to take breaks, then set it down and take that break.
- Exercise. Those endorphins make you feel good, so doing some fun physical activity or simple stretches can increase energy, relieve stress and help you stay focused and get that studying done!