Final Week = Hell Week: How To Study, Prepare, and Hopefully Pass!

December 12, 2014 (Original post here)

I know I probably should’ve posted this a lot sooner, but I was busy with my own preparations for finals week. This was the first semester where I didn’t have a final for all of my classes and some of my finals were actually papers. Anyhow I wanted to provide a little insight on how to study for finals and how to handle the stress and pressure it can bring. Please, keep in mind, what works for me may not necessarily work for you. You need to figure out what your learning style is and figure out what methods work for you. What I’m going to be talking about has worked for me in the past. Unfortunately there are some subjects, like math, where I’m just not good in no matter how much time/effort I put in. Anyhow let’s dive in!

  • Show Up To Class: Showing up to class is probably the best and most helpful thing you can do to help you get ready for finals. It’s best to show up to all the class sessions leading up to the first test and see where the professor gets the questions for the test from. Sometimes a professor will put in questions from examples they had during lecture. I had a marketing teacher who would ask about stores that we talked about in class. Other teachers may tell you what’s going to be on the test and actually knowing what’s going to be on the test is a lot better than nothing. Showing up to class may also show that you’re at least trying to put in some type of effort. If you do bad on a final or one of the tests you can always talk to you professor and let them know that you’re showing up to all the classes and you still aren’t doing well on the exams. If they feel bad for you they may provide you with extra credit opportunities or a heads up on what to focus on.

  • Take Notes, Only Good Notes: Now you may be asking yourself, “What in the world are good notes? Isn’t anything I take good notes?” The answer is no. There’s a difference between taking notes and taking good notes. When you’re just taking notes, you’re basically underlining, highlighting, or writing down words that the professor has mentioned during lectures. You’re not really putting much thought into whether those words hold any value to them. You just think that since they mentioned it, it must be important. When taking good notes you need to look at some of the vocabulary that they’re using and understand what it means. If you don’t understand, then that’s where you listen for examples from the professor. Then when it comes to studying for the final, if you’re still confused about what a vocab word means or the actual concept, look at the examples and that may help make it clearer for you to understand.

  • Rewrite or Type Out Notes – Flashcards: If a class’s final/tests are based on knowing vocabulary words, this was the best way I could remember them. I had to re-write my notes, by hand, and for some reason it helped me memorize and understand the concept or word. Although it’s pretty tedious to do nowadays, if I really think it’s necessary, I’ll make flashcards for the class. Believe it or not, that elementary school thing that our teachers made us do actually comes in handy in college. I use flashcards because it forces me to understand the concept and I ultimately have nothing to rely on except my memory. Also, retyping or rewriting your notes will help create a neater study guide for you because everything will be organized. Don’t underestimate the importance of organized notes.

  • Do Something Odd: I’m sure a bunch of you have already heard about this trick. When studying for a certain subject chew a specific flavored gum or eat a specific type of snack, then on the day of the final, chew/eat that specific thing. The theory is that by doing so, you’ll be able to trigger your memories and remember what you studied. I’ve heard of other people, mainly girls, who will wear a specific show while studying for a certain subject and then they would wear that pair on the day of the final; some girls also paint their nails a certain color for the same purpose. You can even go as far as wearing a certain shirt or pants. Another trick that I’ve heard of is to write down notes/study guides in blue because you’re more likely to remember what you wrote down. I’m not sure exactly how effective that is, but I think it’s an interesting concept. What has actually worked best for me is when I type out a study guide, I’ll sometimes leave in spelling errors when it comes to the vocab words. That way when I’m studying it,  always remember it by the spelling error.

  • Plan, Plan, Plan: When it comes to studying it’s all about planning and knowing which finals are the most important and which ones will take the most time to study. It’s best to calculate your grades for the class, and you’ll want to make sure you have calculated it out for the best case scenario, the worst  case scenario, and the most likely case scenario. If you’re still going to pass the class even if you completely bomb the final, then you can focus your time on another subject that may need more of your attention. As it comes closer to the day of the final for a class that you’ll still pass even if you bomb your final, go over the notes and chapters just to be sure that you at least understand most of the concepts. If you get your final schedule early in the semester, you can also begin to plan out when to start studying and half way through the semester, you should have an idea of what classes you’re struggling in and which ones you’re doing okay in. If you’re struggling in all your classes, I say give yourself at least two weeks of prep/studying.

  • Stay Calm: I used to have this big issue, when I would be taking my final, that I would run out of time, we’re given 2 hours to complete our finals. Learn to keep calm and keep a steady pace. If you’re taking a 100 question exam, and you’ve spent about 5-10 minutes on a single question, circle it and move on. If you don’t know it within the first couple of seconds of reading the question, chances are, you don’t know it. Focus on the questions that you do know the answers to and stay calm. Circle the questions that you’re not sure about and go back to them. Sometimes you’ll see that another question has answered one that you weren’t sure about.

  • Take A Break: It’s best to take breaks in between your studying. Don’t continue to push yourself if you feel like your brain is fried. There honestly is no point in pushing yourself past that point because you’ll retain nothing. Then you’re just wasting valuable time. It’s okay to take breaks and the most common break cycle I’ve heard of is 30-35 minutes of studying and then 15 minutes for a break, but you shouldn’t go more than 3-4 hours of studying in one session. Remember a fried brain has no use for you. Take breaks and relax a little.

  • Study In The Morning and At Night: This is another typical trick that a lot of people use. In the morning our brains are apparently more receptive to information and retains it better, and the same thing at night before we go to bed. I like to study right before I go to bed. If I have flashcards I’ll review them 2-3 times and then go to bed. If I’m studying off of a regular study guide, I’ll go through that guide about twice and then go to sleep. I’ll also study the morning before the final and periodically leading up to the final. I think that this tip kind of works, but I’ve only tried it like three times and it’s been okay.

I hope that some of these tips help you, but you really need to know your learning style. For me, there are certain subjects where I could only understand it if I had examples to follow. For other classes I didn’t have to worry about examples and I could just focus on studying vocal words. Everybody has different learning styles and it also varies between subjects. It’s all about knowing what works best for you, and sometimes that means not doing well on a couple of tests and learning from your mistakes. I hope your finals week is going well! Please, if there’s anything that you may want to know or want my perspective/opinion on, please write it down in the comments!

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