Whether it’s your first finals week as a college student or one of your last, you may be feeling anxious just thinking about the amount of work you need to do in order to prepare. Final exams and projects are the last chance to maintain or boost the grade that you have been working towards all semester long. No matter how you may be feeling about the big week, following are my top tips to prepare for finals.
- Study in advance, for small amounts of time.
This may be the most important tip of all. Instead of putting all of the stress on yourself of cramming a ton of information the night before, try to start studying at least a week before the exam. Studies have shown that students perform worse on exams when they study for long periods of time. Instead, aim for studying 30-60 minutes per day leading up to the exam.
- Prioritize your tasks.
It is important to know which exams you should study for first and which exams happen later in the week. Figure out the times of each exam and put them in your calendar. This will be useful not only for studying purposes, but also for the occasion when professors give you the option of taking an exam at a different time. For example, if you have an economics test and a lengthy paper due on Tuesday, it might be wise to change your exam to Wednesday (if you are given the option). If you only have a limited amount of time to study, I recommend using your time to study the most difficult content first.
- Choose a practical study environment.
When you are studying for your final exams, make sure you will not be distracted by your surroundings. While some people may be able to focus in a noisy café or while chatting with friends, it is usually better to work in a relatively quiet place with no distractions. Some guidelines for this include choosing a space that isn’t too cluttered, only listening to instrumental music (if any), and physically putting your phone away so you aren’t tempted to look at it.
- Stay healthy.
If you maintain your physical health, your mental health will also improve, which will help you perform better on exams. I recommend getting 8-9 hours of the sleep the night before, and eating a balanced breakfast the morning of. Even if you aren’t a “breakfast person”, try to eat something small to fuel your brain in the morning. It is also important to mention that eating a balanced diet and getting the proper amount of sleep are not only crucial the night before a test, but consistently doing these habits a week before the test can really help to prepare you.
- Study with a group.
Many college students enjoy being social and sometimes it can be difficult to stay motivated when studying alone. This is why forming a study group can be very beneficial. Not only can it be more fun than studying alone, but it can also help you to understand the material better when your peers explain it to you.
- Remember basic exam strategies.
When it finally comes time to take your exams, remember basic strategies that can be used depending on the format of the test itself. For essay questions, try writing a brief outline before beginning. For multiple choice questions, use the process of elimination and answer all of the questions. For math problems, remember to show all of your work so that you might receive partial credit, even if you don’t have the correct final answer.
- Stay calm.
Remember that you have done all of the hard work throughout the semester to get your grade where it is; one test likely isn’t going to dictate your entire grade in the class. Remind yourself that grades are important, but your physical and mental health are more important than any test. Take a deep breath, remind yourself that you are capable of succeeding, and do the very best that you can. Happy studying!