Finals are just another monster to slay in your college chronicles, but it can seem like such an insurmountable task when you’re watching the work pile up in front of you and the letting the fear of failure mount. Last year, I wrote about what finals are really like, and now I’m springing back at you with some tips to get you through it!
- Know your study style and play to your strengths: If you know that you need weeks to learn material effectively, plan accordingly for that. If you’re a crammer, be aware of how that impacts your other exams and responsibilities. If you need flashcards or outlines or to re-read the textbook, do that! Find your groove and stick to it! There’s no need to adopt outlandish outlining habits or to highlight the entirety of the readings — just do what works for you.
- Study with friends or classmates when possible: Working all alone is the absolute worst when you’re stressed and have no outlet. Pressure keeps building, and it generally helps to have other around you to lessen your anxiety. Having friends around to joke and share in your misery makes it 100x easier to muddle through. If you have friends in your classes, even better! Work together to cultivate study materials and review difficult concepts! Just make sure you’re partnering up with friends and people that will actually allow you to be productive and study well because if you’re both not task-oriented and focused, you’ll regret it later on.
- Once you’ve hit the books, get some sleep: I can almost guarantee that you won’t do your best on the exams ahead if you’re dead on your feet. Sleep is a cumulative phenomenon, and a few days of make-up rest don’t fully catch your body up from the deficit it endures. Your working and long-term memory need rest in order to maximize their efficiency, and honestly an extra three hours of studying isn’t worth it if you’re only going to get two hours of rest. Prioritize your health a little bit and fight the panic impulse to pull back-to-back all-nighters. In some cases, you might have zero choice, but I would generally say that sleep is your friend and is about the only thing that will keep you sane during finals week.
- Unwind in intervals: No one can work effectively for 12-24 hours straight. You need to take intermissions where you let off a little steam. Get dinner with friends, go for a walk, clean your apartment, or watch some TV. You need to give yourself a bit of recuperation time in order to be able to return to your work and studies in a focused way. I highly recommend practicing self-care whenever possible, but most especially during times where you’re stressed beyond belief. Here is my masterlist on micro and macro self-care methods you can employ. Even if it’s only 15 minutes at the end of the day, you’ll be glad for it.
- Know what kind of exam you’re taking in order to prepare: If it’s multiple choice, you can work on familiarity with concepts and name recognition. If it’s short answer, you can aim for strong foundational understanding. If it’s an essay exam, know your sources and the broad-brushstrokes of the subject matter. You need to know what type of situation you’re walking into so you can prepare effectively. It’s also critical that you walk in with all the materials you’re going to need. Do you need to bring a blue book? Scantron? Pen? No. 2 pencil? Scratch paper? Can you have a cheat sheet? Do you they give you the formulas? These are all questions you should know the answer to well in advance because some may require a little bit of effort on your part.
I hope these tips prove useful! Let’s save the semester (and make up for all the studying we didn’t do since August)!