Studying for finals is not my favorite thing to do, but whose is it? By this point in the semester I’ve taken about 3-4 other exams before finals per class and I just want it all to be over with. It’s too easy to slack, but arguably finals are the most important exams of the semester.
Once I start thinking about making my favorite drink, setting out some sugary snacks and decorating my notes with pictures I’ve already convinced myself to set at my desk, and now I have to study.
One of my pet peeves when taking final exams is studying what feels like everything and feeling like you did not study the right way. Because of that I now spend a little bit of time planning out exactly what I’ll be studying for the finals and it makes all the difference in making the most out of the little time you have before the exams.
Today I’m sharing the ways I tackle the task of studying for finals and how I study for each class. The very first thing you need to do is:
Create a study schedule
Before you start studying make a study schedule that evenly splits up all the things you want to review with the amount of time you have before the exam day. Whether you have 2 days or 1 week left to study it’s time to get realistic on how studying for finals is going to go. If you have the advantage of time it is useful to focus on just 1 chapter/topic a day and take breaks. If you don’t have the advantage of time, select the most important things to review and go from there.
Decide what study method you need
After making your study schedule the next thing you need to decide is what kind of format do you need to study for the class. Is your class asking that you memorize the majority of things or practice problems? If you are studying for a math or organic chemistry exam and you are memorizing the majority things instead of practicing, you are going to run into some problems! Likewise, if you have an English class you might likely be researching most of the time instead of memorizing.
Practice exam style questions
I love it when the professors provide practice exams because you know exactly what style of questions to prepare for. Study those questions without looking at the answers as if you were taking the real test. In this way you’ll be able to see exactly what areas you need to focus on. If your professors don’t provide one, look at practice questions online or make your own prompts (depending on what type of course you are studying for). It’s important to take reading your notes one step further with practicing exam questions because ultimately they are testing your ability to solve the questions and ability to remember things and reading just your notes is not going to fully prepare you. And there is always tons of practice questions online if your professors are not great at providing resources.
Use the professor’s notes
I know this sounds pretty straightforward. It is! 🙂 Usually, but not always, the professors provide the most important points to know in their PowerPoint lectures or in a condensed version that they may provide for the exam. If you get an ‘old school’ professor that is not good about providing PowerPoints or any lecture material at all ask what the most important things are to know and collaborate with other people in the class.
Create your own study guide
In my experience the majority of professors don’t provide a study guide and those that do provide a study guide aren’t very helpful. But whether they do or not it helps to create a study guide that’s tailored towards you. You know which topics are your forte and which ones are not so in that study guide it would make sense to provide more information on that.
When you make your own study guide you also have the ability to get creative with it and make it “study friendly”. What I do so that I can actually study off of it is that I include colorful pictures when I can and turn important numbers and statistics to remember in cute infographic style representation. So, have fun with it! Lists are in a separate blocks as well as important things to remember. It also helps to highlight similar things in the same color such as all definitions in blue, all questions in orange, all stats in yellow and so forth. By associating things with color it makes it easier for our mind to remember and when you make your study guide personal you’ll have an easier time studying as well.
Make each study session productive
When you actually sit down to get to studying make sure that the time you are spending studying is truly spent studying. Bring out the snacks and drink of choice, then put your phone on silent and somewhere you can’t see it. Limit all your distractions and have a productive study session. If you know going to the library helps you be very productive then go there, or if music gets you in the study mood then do that. You’re in charge.
Ask questions now
When you are studying your notes be curious and ask questions about everything. There is usually a purpose or some sort of reason why things are the way they are. If you learn why something is the way, it is you will be much more likely to memorize what you need to know. If some part of an important topic isn’t 100% clear google the heck out of it. Don’t leave questions lingering. Use videos on YouTube, online tutor services, phone a friend, email the TA. Do what you need to do now.
Take Care of Yourself
The most important thing you need to do when studying for finals is to be kind to yourself and eat and sleep well. Fact of the day: 75% of our body’s energy is used up by the brain. So pretty much eat lots of healthy foods and you can ace your exams! Okay, a bit of an overstatement, but I don’t think i’m that far off by saying that one of the best ways to prepare for finals is to have some me time. If you are stressing from finals take a break right now and do a fun workout or reward yourself for finishing your study goal for the day!
Summary of Final Exam Tips
make a study schedule
collaborate with friends
study with snacks
Find your inner “study zen”
have fun with the notes
ask all the questions
chuck the phone (jk!)
Good luck! 🌼