Finals Survival Guide

By: Beau Goodreaux (he/him/his), Peer Success Leader, 2019-2020

Read time: <6 minutes

The most dreaded week of the school year is fast approaching. Finals season is undoubtedly the most stressful and unpleasant time of the semester. It feels like the pages and pages of notes that need to be studied are endless and the stress and pressure are at an all-time high and rightfully so. The final exam’s grade often has a huge impact on your grade in the class. How should you deal with this seemingly insurmountable task ahead? Let me share some of my personal tips on how to succeed!

The most important thing is timeliness! The sooner you start prepping, regardless of how you study, the better. This is especially important if you feel that the class is very difficult or if it covers lots of information during the semester.

By starting to study as soon as possible, you can break the huge mountain of information into smaller chunks that are more manageable. Also, if you come across concepts that don’t make sense, you have time to reach out for clarification. I like to break the material up into groups based on the total number of sections that the class covers in a year; for example, if the class goes through 12 sections during the semester, I would study the first four sections on one day, the second four on the second day, and the last four on the third, and then repeat. If a class does not have any defined sections or chapters, try splitting the material up based on time spans (i.e. study all of the notes from the start of the school year through September on one day) or exams (i.e. study all of the notes pertaining to the first exam on one day). During each study session, go through the notes at least twice, the more repetitions you have, the more familiar you become with the material and the more it sticks.

 I also think that quizzing yourself on the information is extremely helpful, since I have found that just running through notes but not applying the information afterwards can be a big problem; it forces you to question if you really know it. If your professor gives out a study guide or a practice exam, try answering the questions they’ve given you after you’ve run through the notes a few times. If there are practice problems or flashcards available in your book or online, try those.  If not, ask the professor if they have any practice questions or make some of your own! It also doesn’t hurt to look at your old tests or quizzes and try your hand at those questions again.

If your class has SI or review sessions, attend them if you can. The extra practice and review that they provide is almost always beneficial and they can answer questions that you may have or may better explain something that isn’t making sense. Studying in groups also has a similar effect!

Sometimes, I think we all find that studying becomes very mundane and tiresome, which causes us to procrastinate or to not study with purpose and mentally “check out.” To combat this, try methods to help you focus and stay on track. I like to put my phone out of my reach so I won’t be tempted to check it. Have white noise, calming sounds like rain or gentle music playing in the background, and sit in a comfortable chair in soft clothes. For motivation, try “rewarding” yourself for studying; once online I saw someone suggest placing pieces of candy every so often in your notes and then eating it once you’ve studied up to the candy and I find this works great! You can even make studying a little bit fun! Quizlet has lots of awesome “games” that you can make out of your study material that are really fun to play.

Now the moment of truth approaches – the exam is here. In the hours leading up the exam, do a “final sweep” of everything that you’ve studied. Quickly scan through your notes, making sure that you’re familiar with everything. Maybe try some more practice problems or run through ones that you’ve already done. Then, take some time to calm yourself if need be. Do some breathing exercises, go walk in Audubon, or just do something that you find helps you relieve tension. You’ve studied a lot and worked hard all semester and deserve some relaxation before your exam. During the exam, remember to stay calm and try your best, your hard work is (hopefully) about to pay off! After, regardless of how the exam goes, pat yourself on the back. You’re officially finished with that class! Go treat yourself to something small, and when you walk out of the last exam, go celebrate and enjoy the holiday season – you’ve earned it!

Use the buttons below to link to some useful final exam resources.