It’s finals time! These time-tested tips for studying for, and taking, your final exams can make a huge difference in your results, and send you off happy to your holiday break
1. Count your way forward.
Many students, when starting to think about preparing for finals, look at the dates of their finals, then count their way back. “Biology final on Wednesday? That’s two or three studying days needed. I guess I’ll start hitting the books on Sunday.”A far better idea is to count up from the day the study questions are handed out to the day the exam will take place. “Seven days? Then I’ll divide the course into sevenths and study two weeks’ worth of lectures each day.”
2. Shed some commitments.
You’ll find you have a lot easier time studying if you make extra time for it. Put off any unnecessary social obligations or family commitments. And, if you’re working, try if at all possible to take 10 days off for final exam period (or at least trim your work schedule). Even a few strategically placed extra hours can make the difference between doing just OK on finals and doing a really great job.
If you can finish your term papers the week before the last week of classes, it’ll free loads of extra time to study for finals.
3. “Triage” your study time.
Some students think they should spend equal amounts of time preparing for each of their finals. Instead, proportion your study time to how hard the final is likely to be and how well you already know the material.
4. Figure out what’s covered.
One of the most important things you need to be clear about is what materials are going to be tested on the final. Are readings and discussion sections included, or is the final going to focus almost exclusively on material from the lectures? Is the final going to concentrate on materials since the midterm or is it going to be a comprehensive or cumulative final? Knowing the extent—and the limits—of the exam will make it much easier to organize and structure your studying.
5. Is it one or two or two-hundred questions?
Professors have two strategies in making up finals. Some profs design a single, big question or two; other professors give a series of more focused questions, each covering some single issue in the course. Before you start studying, make sure you’ve figured out your professor’s test-construction strategy.