How to study for finals is an all-important question for any student. There’s not one formula for successfully passing this test every time, but there are numerous ways to approach the situation, ace the final exams, and get satisfactory marks.
So, we’ve compiled this list of the best tips to study for finals. This list is primarily written for college students, although anyone facing a really tough exam can use these best practices.
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1. Avoid procrastination and start early
Perfection is said to be an enemy of productivity, so is procrastination. They are not exactly polar opposites because overthinking may cause you to procrastinate lest the results proved to be unsatisfactory. But between trying to get work done despite reservations and putting it off, the latter is more worrying.
Finals week screams urgency, and the best way to lessen the dread is to start planning early. Preparation would cover all the bases: creating timetables, making and organising notes, selecting places where you can actually study, finding study buddies, and actually studying.
So check your university’s website for final-exam schedules including departmentals. Know when the university registrar actually posts the schedule, to be confirmed with your professor.
If you are a new student, make inquiries early in the term, familiarise the academic calendar, or ask older students. Moreover, check the course syllabus for any final exam or equivalent activity.
Having actual dates makes the whole thing realistic and concrete. It’ll give you a long lead-time, which may be more than enough time to strategise.
Also, it’ll help you decide whether you can afford to procrastinate.
Think about the quizzes, midterms, paper works, and projects with deadlines occurring on or around the same time. These things will surely decrease the length of time for the revision.
2. Create your own study schedule
Incorporate your finals-week schedule including study days into your overall study schedule for the term. Take note of all the key dates for every course or subject on a spreadsheet, a task board, or agenda.
Update your study schedule regularly, putting details like the chapters to be covered, study notes, references, etc. This is particularly helpful in the week leading to the actual exam dates, as you have a plan on how to utilise those crucial days.
With your study schedule, allocate time for each activity, academic and mundane. Plan your day around studying, eating, sleeping, exercising, going to the library, etc.
Setting aside a regular amount of time for studying, especially when the lecture is still fresh, remains one of the best tips to study for finals. Give it time and the activity becomes second nature.
By studying regularly, you are able to discover your strengths and weaknesses. Knowing the following would help you set a comfortable pace:
- Subjects that you love or struggle with and thus need more of your time and focus
- Distractions that cost your attention and dealing with them
- Study preferences/styles
It may take time to realise that you can retain information better when using your tablet or mobile device or that you get more work done in the cafe than in the library. You find it more effective to study with others too.
Those discoveries or variables will help you build a conducive environment that puts you in the right headspace for studying. It’s also a matter of mixing strategies or making adjustments along the way. This flexibility becomes a luxury if you just study sporadically.
Moreover, following a schedule for studying lessens the chances of staying up the night before the exams. At least a month is needed to prepare for the finals.
But should something come up and leave you with just a few days to study for the finals, cramming for the final exams may be less stressful because you already know how to study smart.
3. Seek support
Even the most diligent students still catch the “finals blues.” This feeling is understandable because grades bear weight in one’s academic and employment prospects one way or another.
You are not alone, and you can overcome the hurdle like the other students before you. Maybe you can reach out to your roommates or classmates and talk it out with them. Also, try the following strategies.
Being in a study group can give you both: learning and emotional support. Members help each other prepare for exams, discuss topics with each other, or practise with mock test questions. It’s like filling in the things that you or others may have missed.
Meeting regularly, externalising and communicating, and encouraging each other to study are purported benefits of studying with a group. Plus, a sense of community during this critical period may boost your morale.
Forming or finding a study group can be one of the first things you do at the start of the term.
If you think studying with three or four people is too much for your social energy, one study buddy may be enough – someone who is good at communicating, patient, empathetic, organised, and consistent (they actually show up in meetings). You also have to be that to your study buddy too.
Having a study partner who is on the same academic level or same major is the most ideal because you share many things like classes, course requirements, and maybe struggles. But some study partners who have different majors still click and thrive.
Mental Health Support
Check with your university for counselling services. Personal issues can contribute to your stress and make it difficult to concentrate on the exams.
Whether it’s because of exam-related stress or something else, feel free to access your university’s mental health resources. Also, don’t forget to take a breather.
4. Take breaks
Taking breaks is one way to avoid burnout. It can replenish your energy, boost your mood, and keep your eyes on the prize, which is a critical mindset to have in the lead-up to the finals.
Breaks are about breaking down tasks into smaller, manageable bits, so they’ll appear less daunting. They can be as often as every 25 minutes or 50 minutes of studying.
The interval is sometimes a matter of feeling, you just know when it’s time to get up or rest your eyes. Depending on the quality and length of the break, you may be able to find yourself ready to do more.
Go for a coffee break, take your dog for a walk, or just rest your eyes on the view outside. Once you’ve taken the last test and turned in the last paper for the term, it’s time to take a long break and party, “cheat meals” and all, because you deserve it.
5. Do the final prep
Final exams ultimately test all that you have learned and reviewed.
Those exam days are surely going to be gruelling and nerve-wracking. You might have to take two exams in a single day, and each exam can take a lot of time and energy.
How do you study for three back-to-back tests? Check with your university’s final-exam policies and ask for a reschedule. Then go back to the above section about creating and following your study schedule.
On top of studying, you also need to take care of practical things and reduce the decisions you have to make on finals week. This way, you can focus on the more important stuff.
The night before the first finals exam is the most critical one and sets the precedent for the days to come. So, what to do the night before the exam?
- Eat a hearty dinner. Remember those foods for your brain and memory.
- Review notes to refresh your memory.
- Set a wake-up alarm.
- Prepare for tomorrow, from your clothes to snacks – something healthy and invigorating.
- Pack your notes, books, pens, pencils, paper, laptop, charger, water bottle, etc. If you are allowed to bring notes to the venue, be sure they are readable.
- Sleep, so you’ll be alert and in a better mood the next day.
On the day of the exams:
- Have your breakfast/coffee. Try not to drink too much coffee and give caffeine time to kick in.
- Go to the testing venue early, and be aware of the rules on seating, checking into the room, etc.
- Make yourself comfortable, take a deep breath.
- Rest after the test; you’ll need it for your next exam and revision.
Final exams represent just one way of measuring a student’s understanding of the course, but their effect on one’s grade can’t simply be ignored, thus this article.
With the best tips to study for finals above, there may be no need for staying up late to study the night before the exam. But sleepless nights or not, make all your efforts count it in the end.
You’ve got this.