The word “finals” can be practically synonymous with stress. Especially toward the end of the school year, when you’re already busy with school projects, extracurriculars, and making summer plans, the prospect of studying for exams might be downright anxiety-inducing. However, there are plenty of ways to approach studying for finals that will not only lead to success, but will help you avoid burnout.
Of course, you already know that final exams are important. In many classes, a large percentage of your grade for the course comes from your grade on a final exam, and the pressure that this creates is often overwhelming. Considering that a whole semester (or year)’s worth of learning will be evaluated on a single test, it can be difficult to know where to begin with the study process. Keep this in mind: you CAN do it! The best strategy is to start early, study often, and ask for help.
Once you know the date of your exam and the material that will be covered, take some time to sit down and make sure you really understand what to expect on exam day. If you have any questions, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your instructor. Ask those questions and talk about your understanding of the material. Your instructor will likely also provide you with helpful information, such as study tips specific to their exam, that you didn’t even know you needed.
Once you’ve spoken with your instructor, make a study schedule for yourself. Ideally, you’ll create this schedule as far in advance as possible, giving you the maximum amount of time to integrate the knowledge you’ll need for the test. You want to be the tortoise, not the hare, when it comes to studying: make a schedule that allows you to study regularly, even in small increments. An hour of reviewing readings during study hall here, thirty minutes of going over flashcards with a friend there–the time you commit to studying really adds up, allowing you to retain information and giving you confidence in your understanding.
Forming a study group is another effective–and fun–way to study for finals. Gather a handful of other people also taking the exam and get together weekly (or more often if schedules allow) to discuss material, quiz each other, and fill in gaps. Think of study group sessions as low-stress encounters where you can really be yourself. If questions arise during study group sessions, make sure to bring those questions to your instructor before the exam!
There are other great ways to enlist help from friends and family as you prepare for exams. Make flashcards and have family members quiz you during weekend car rides, or go for a walk and talk with a friend about the concepts you’re being tested on. Remember, the people in your life are rooting for you, and chances are there are others who could use your support preparing for finals too!
If you begin early and study regularly in the time leading up to finals, you should have plenty of time to take breaks. Build in regular breaks to your study sessions. Get some exercise, have a snack, listen to music–whatever you need to feel rejuvenated. As exam dates approach, be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat well. Taking care of yourself physically is essential for a high-functioning brain.
Whatever you do, aim to avoid last-minute cramming. It’s not the end of the world if you’re still figuring out some concepts the day before the test, but you probably won’t benefit from staying up all night studying the night before your exam.
And importantly, keep your final exams in perspective. Yes, they’re important, but they’re only one part of the bigger picture of your life. If you plan ahead, seek help, study consistently, and take good care of yourself, you should be able to stride into your finals knowing you’ll do your best–and what could be better than that?