Winter break is almost here, but before the relaxing, exciting, family filled weeks can begin, finals have to be taken. I have three finals standing between me and winter break, and I can hardly wait! While I don’t necessarily want to wish the semester away, I am also ready for it to be over.
Finals week (and the week leading up to finals week) is one of the most stressful, if not the most stressful, week of the semester. Thankfully it only happens twice a year! With a little bit of preparation, organization, and focus, finals week can go pretty smoothly. This post I wrote last semester during midterms has some tips about how to cut down on stress, something that is definitely still applicable for finals week. Now that I’m in my last year of school, I think I have a pretty good handle on how to (and how not to) study for finals.
The first step is to figure out if your final is cumulative or not. I always expect the worst (cumulative exam), so I get excited and relieved when the professor decides to just give a unit exam. From there, gather the relevant materials you have for the class.
What I’ve noticed is that I learn best by using different studying techniques depending on what class I’m studying for. I don’t use the same studying method for every class, because sometimes flashcards aren’t practical or reviewing problems isn’t applicable.
For some classes, especially math and science courses, I find it beneficial to review the problems we did throughout the unit or semester. I make sure I know the correct formulas, or at least what each formula is used for if the professor is going to provide them for the exam.
When classes are very terminology-based, I tend to make flashcards. I usually take the definition from the textbook and also add anything the professor added in class or how I interpret the definition. If the final is cumulative, I’ll color code the flashcards by unit so they are easy to organize.
If the professor provides a study guide, I tend to add as much detail as I can to it, then I review the study guide. I like to complete the study guide as far in advance as possible, because the sooner it is done, the more time I’ll have to study it.
Do not be afraid to email your professors or drop by their office hours if you have questions. In the past, I was hesitant to ask professors for help, so I would just try to find the answer online or from a friend. I realized I save myself so much time by going right to the professor AND I can be sure that I learn something the way the professor expects me to.
One way I prioritize my studying (in addition to when the exams actually are) is based on the grade I need to get in order to have a certain final grade in the class. If I think I can easily get that grade without much studying, it’s a lower priority than an exam that will make or break my grade.
Remember to get plenty of sleep and eat a good breakfast! I’m not usually a big breakfast person right when I get up, but I make myself go to breakfast especially if I have a morning final. While glancing over your notes right before the test isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if you don’t know something the night before the test, it’s probably too late to learn it. It’s better to spread out your studying and reviewing over a few days or a week.
Good luck with finals, friends! Hang in there, and remember that winter break is almost here.