During finals week you probably have two goals: do well on your exams and manage the stress. Here are 11 tips to help.
#1 Make a plan.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail.” If you just start studying without a plan, you are likely to overlook important areas and over-study unimportant subjects.
Before finals week, make a plan for each class you have a final to prepare for. Use your class syllabus or outline to review the key topics you will study and review. If there are areas you have had trouble understanding, put those as top priorities. Your study times will be more effective and you’ll gain the confidence that you are ready to take your finals.
#2 Become a time miser.
During finals week, you must become a study machine. Any other activities should be done with the goal of refreshing you for the next study session. Basically, during finals week you should forget that you have a social life. Everything that is not absolutely necessary must be put on hold until finals are over.
#3 Choose your environment carefully.
Do not just start studying anywhere. Find a quiet, orderly place. Your dorm room is probably a bad place to study. With the familiar objects around, it’s too easy to get distracted, especially if your roommate is there.
If your usual study locations seem stale to you, find a new place to try—a public library or new coffee shop. Sometimes a completely new place will be mentally stimulating—just what you need to focus and learn. Keep ear plugs with you to reduce noise while you study.
#4 Structure your study sessions and take breaks.
If you’ve made your study plan, follow it when you study and set a realistic goal for each session—perhaps to finally nail that one concept that’s been hard to remember and learn.
Not all study time is created equal. A solid 60 minutes of study is less effective than three 20 minute sessions broken up with five minutes in between. Concentration levels and retention are increased when breaks are included to a study time.
The short breaks should be purposeful. A short walk, some stretches and deep breathing can really clear your head and send much-needed oxygen to the brain. Rest tired eyes by looking into the distance and closing them for a moment or two.
#5 Exercise for your mental health.
Vigorous exercise help relieves the stress that makes finals week so…stressful! Brisk walks, runs, and other sports can be a good way to let off extra energy and regain your concentration. Just do not make your exercise breaks too long – keep them to 15 minutes at most.
#6 Eat healthfully.
With the shortage of time during finals, it’s easy to reach for whatever is quick and tasty, but not healthy. This is a big mistake. Junk food may give you instant energy, but it will decrease your concentration and memory. Eating healthy food will help you learn and retain what you learn.
Lay in a supply of healthy foods for your meals and snacks. You’ll be glad to have something in your backpack to reach for rather than having to purchase something every time you need to eat.
#7 Sleep is your friend.
Finals week and all-nighters may go hand-in-hand, but skimping on sleep is a detriment overall. Your brain processes information while sleeping…the information you’re working so hard to absorb!
Plan sleep into your finals schedule. You may have to shave an hour or two off your nighttime sleep, but try throwing in a 15 minute nap in the afternoon. It will certainly refresh you for another night of study.
#8 Get help if you need it.
Many students are afraid to ask for help. This is a big mistake. If you do not understand what to do or study, ask someone. You can ask classmates and professors. Visit your campus success center for help. People will be glad to help because the goal is for everyone to pass their finals.
#9 Use study groups.
If you are part of a study group that functions well and stays focused on studying, the group can switch to ‘exam prep’ mode for finals week. If everyone is working from the same outline, and the goal of exam prep is maintained, the group can be helpful.
Starting a study group right on top of finals may not be the best idea. The time spent setting up goals, agreeing on a study approach, and scheduling the meetings is time lost from studying.
#10 Double check your exam times.
You might think this is unnecessary. Nevertheless, it has happened. When you are taking many exams in the same week, it is easy to confuse the times. Enter them into your smart phone calendar and set alerts. Write the times on sticky notes; put them on your refrigerator, computer, class books…anything that you will see on a regular basis.
#11 When finals are over, celebrate then evaluate.
Once you’re done with finals, treat yourself to something. You should celebrate that you made it through! It doesn’t matter if you want to hit the hay or hit the dance floor, take a break from the intensity of the past few weeks.
After a day or two, review your experience. What worked for you? What missteps did you make? When finals roll around next you can incorporate what you learned to make them go more smoothly.
What are your favorite tips for thriving during finals week? Please share them with us!