Most college students cringe a little at the thought of final exams. Finals are the great obstacle that stands between you and getting to enjoy a break from your courses. For seniors, it's one last hurdle before graduation.
Though finals can produce a range of negative feelings, these exams give you a chance to demonstrate the knowledge you've gained over the semester. It's the culmination of all your hard work. When you study effectively and stay healthy, you can ace finals week and save yourself a lot of stress while doing it. Here's our best advice on how to prepare for finals.
Depending on the class, your final may be a research paper, an experiment or some other type of demonstration of what you've learned. However, for most courses, finals are exams — big, scary tests most students don't look forward to taking. Whether your test is comprehensive or only covers part of the course material, the final is typically your last chance to influence your grade in the course.
Though finals can be daunting, they don't have to be. When you take a smart approach to studying, you can feel prepared for all your exams. Let's talk about eight ways you can study effectively.
Looking ahead to finals can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing for some students. Before you start breaking out your books and worrying about how you'll do, take some time to make a plan. A sound strategy can help set your mind at ease and instill confidence since you know you'll be studying smart and not just hard.
So, what should this plan include? Since you're likely juggling multiple classes, start by taking stock of all the final exams you have to prepare for. Now, consider which ones will require the most work for you to feel prepared and the order in which you'll be taking each test. This strategy can help you determine a smart study schedule from now through finals week.
Many students want to know how to prepare for final exams in a week or less, but every list of study tips should include the encouragement to start studying early. That's because this is one of the best ways you can set yourself up for success. Some people may be able to cram for a test the night before and represent themselves well. However, cramming is not learning. Even if you remember some key facts for the test, your brain is not going to retain that information afterward.
The weeks leading up to finals tend to be busy, but it's imperative that you start taking steps to prepare for your final exams several weeks in advance. Rather than planning how to study for finals at the last minute, start reviewing your notes and filling in gaps in your understanding by seeking assistance from your professor or a tutor. Starting early takes the pressure off and allows you to implement good study methods instead of cramming.
Finding a study buddy or forming a study group from your class to work with can help you in a few different ways. One is that it tends to make studying more fun. Turning studying into a social event can lessen the sense of drudgery, especially if you make coffee or pizza part of the experience. Just remember to stay on task.
Another reason studying with a friend or a group can be helpful is that you can sharpen each other's skills. These include study skills in general, as well as the course material you're trying to learn. Ask your friends what study methods work for them, and try these methods yourself. You can gauge your level of preparedness by periodically quizzing each other on the test material. Finally, studying with a partner can create more accountability and encourage you to study early and consistently.
Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a page and realized your brain has checked out and you have no idea what you've just read? Studying inevitably involves a lot of reading, and this scenario can become all too common — especially when you're starting to feel tired or bored. A helpful way to stay focused while you read is to read out loud.
Research shows reading out loud promotes better memory recall because you're engaging your ears and your eyes at the same time. If you're worried your roommate will hear you talking to yourself and question your sanity, just let them know they have the privilege of getting to listen to a free lesson on art history, organic chemistry or whatever subject you're studying.
Many students fill out a study guide or create flashcards to help them study. These are both great strategies, but they can fall short if you opt to type your answers out or make flashcards on your computer instead of breaking out pen and paper. Taking notes or creating study materials by hand may feel old-fashioned or too slow, but research shows it can help you retain the information better than if you typed it out.
The fact that it feels cumbersome compared to typing is for the best. It's forcing you to think about the information as you write it down, which embeds it more effectively in your memory. If you prefer keeping things in the digital universe, try using a touchscreen tablet where you can write with a stylus, since this effectively mimics the act of writing with pen and paper.
Even if you take notes and use smart study methods, there are bound to be some topics that keep stumping you. If it's a concept you don't understand, you need to seek help from your professor or a tutor to clarify the topic. However, it may be a fact, a name, a date or a list you are struggling to memorize. Rote memorization doesn't come easily to all of us, but there are tricks you can use to help you remember the areas where you keep coming up short in your study sessions.
These tricks are mnemonic devices. Since your brain and the way you learn are unique, you should figure out which mnemonic devices work best for you. For instance, some people find putting the information to a melody is the most effective and easiest way to store information in their mind. Other people may come up with an acronym or a rhyme or use the method of loci.
For many college students, concentration can be a genuine challenge that makes it difficult to study. If you struggle with concentration, make sure you do all you can to set yourself up for success. Above all else, that means avoiding distractions. Consider the things that are likely to break your concentration, and take steps to keep these distractions at bay. For many students, this means disabling social media notifications or leaving your phone stowed away temporarily.
One of the best ways to avoid distractions is to pick a good place to study. Pay attention to what environment is most conducive to your concentration. Rather than study in your dorm room by default, consider whether a quiet corner of the library or a coffee shop may be a better spot. If you can't find a quiet spot, try listening to instrumental music through headphones.
When you feel the pressure to study hard, you may think you need to plow ahead without stopping for breaks. However, this is a mistake. Not allowing yourself breaks typically leads to mental fatigue and can make it harder to focus. Breaks give your eyes and mind a rest so you can stay fresh. Think quality over quantity here. Even if you subtract 10 minutes for a break from the hour you're studying, those 50 minutes will likely be more productive because of the break.
Breaks not only refresh you and make the stint of studying that follows productive. You can also boost your productivity by knowing you have a break coming. If you're prone to distraction, you'll be more likely to fully concentrate when you know you'll get a break soon to check your phone or let your mind wander. Breaks encourage more intense focus, so you can make every minute of your study session count.
Final exam success tips aren't just about ways to study, because your overall mental and physical preparedness matter, too. Pushing yourself at the expense of your health is not a smart strategy. Instead, make sure you follow these four tips to stay healthy and to keep your mind working at peak performance during finals week.
What you eat can have a profound effect not only on your health but on your mind, as well. You may notice it's hard for you to focus and feel alert after eating a carb-heavy meal like pasta, for instance. Carb-loading may help fuel a long run, but it's not a smart strategy before a test. You also want to avoid excessive amounts of sugar or caffeine, which can make you feel jittery.
So, what should you eat? Look for foods that provide plenty of protein and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Protein is essential because it helps your body produce amino acids, which lead to neurotransmitters that enhance your mental acuity and motivation. Omega-3 fatty acids help with concentration and memory, both of which are critical functions for test-taking. You can find large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in freshwater fish as well as nuts like hazelnuts, walnuts and cashews.
When you're tired of studying and ready to take a break, you may feel like watching TV or scrolling through social media sites to kick back and give your brain a rest. Instead, consider going outside or heading over to the gym and getting some exercise. You can still take a break from studying this way, but getting your blood pumping can help you return to your work more energized, and can even help stimulate your brain.
You may even want to fit in a little exercise shortly before your exam to help energize your mind and calm anxiety. Even a walk across campus can help. Exercise doesn't just help your concentration in the short term. Maintaining an active lifestyle, especially in terms of cardiovascular health, links to better cognition for young adults overall. Therefore, it's smart to prioritize regular exercise in college.
You're probably used to your parents urging you to get plenty of sleep during finals week, but perhaps you don't take this advice seriously. After all, you have too much to get done to lose eight hours out of every 24 on sleep. The reality is that you should prioritize getting a full night's sleep each night, even if it means less time for studying.
This advice isn't only for finals week. If you're concerned about your test performance, research shows getting enough sleep after studying will help you remember and consolidate that information more effectively. This research also demonstrates it's better to start studying early so you can process information more gradually, with sleep between study sessions, rather than cramming the night before the big test.
Finally, you want to do your best to keep a positive attitude leading up to and during finals week. Every college student knows finals can be a stressful time. It's only natural to feel the pressure to do well, but for many students, this can turn into crippling anxiety. Feeling anxious over your exams will likely only hurt your performance and can make finals a negative experience, no matter what grades you end up receiving.
Try to replace negative emotions with positive ones. Combat thoughts of failure with ones of positivity and confidence. Remind yourself of all the hard work you've done to get where you are. Also, remember that light at the end of the tunnel to help you get through finals week. Do you get to go home afterward to enjoy time with family? Will you finally be able to catch up on your favorite show? Visit old friends? Whatever you're looking forward to, use it as a motivator and something to keep you smiling when you're feeling stressed.
Finals don't have to cause stress. With the right study solutions, you can feel confident in your performance. One source of stress for many students is trying to figure out a challenging concept on your own. When you run into confusing ideas or questions, instead of hoping they won't be on the test, reach out to a tutor on 24HourAnswers.
All you have to do is fill out a simple form, and we’ll connect you with a tutor who can help you work out your problem. That way, you can be ready for anything your professors throw at you on your final. Contact us today to see how our tutors can help you succeed.