With the holiday break so close, studying for finals may not be the most exciting thing on your to-do list. However, exam week is critical and because of its importance, it can cause major stress. For us during finals week – as much as procrastination tried to distract us – starting to study early was super helpful. That way, when our finals test date crept up, we didn’t need to cram all night and we had a little more confidence. As painful as finals week is, you have the power to take control. There are many little useful tricks to help you study – hopefully one of these works for you!
Create a plan.
Before you dive in to your mounds of paperwork, old tests, and study guides, create a clear guideline for the most important topics you’ll need to know for each test. This way, when you spend hours studying, you will be studying the material that will be most useful. Also, set aside hours of your day for studying for each class/test instead of just studying when you feel like it. When you have a clear plan, you’re more likely to follow it.
Take 5-10 minute breaks.
For every 55-60 minutes that you study, take a 5-10 minute study break. Whether you are transitioning between topics or just need to clear your head for a bit, do something completely different to take your mind off of what you spent the last hour reading and practicing. Don’t be fooled, break time is not wasted time.
Designate a study area for a certain period of time, then change it up.
Spend the morning studying history at the library, and then move to a cafe to study English in the afternoon. When you’re back in your dorm or at home that evening, round out your day by practicing math equations at your desk. If you sit in one place all day long, you’ll start to get distracted and bored. Everything will feel like it is blending together. Switch up your environment for a change of scenery and for the walking breaks.
Start studying early.
As hard as it is to avoid procrastination, starting to study early is the best thing you can do for yourself. Since it is no surprise as to when finals are in the year, you can plan out your study days accordingly. Try to give yourself at least one month to study before finals week. During your first week of studying, you won’t necessarily need to buckle down and study as hard as you will in the third and fourth week. Use the first couple of weeks to review all of the material, start from the beginning, and refresh your memory.
Find a focus point.
Designate something to be your source of comfort. For instance, a favorite family photo, your childhood teddy bear, a soft tennis ball to squeeze, or a funny comic strip. Then, when you get anxious or nervous before your test, pull out your little object to bring some laughter, happiness, and focus back into your mind.
Get those endorphins going! Cardio is good for your memory and health, and a quick dance break might be just what you need to remember a tricky equation or definition.
Laugh. A lot.
Just as you need your cardio break, you also need to laugh! Laughing relives tension and stress, so don’t be shy. Laugh away. Watch a hilarious video your friend sent you, listen to your favorite comedian, or crack a couple of silly jokes with friends.
Talk to your professor.
If you start studying early, you can create a list of questions you may have to ask your teacher. Swing by his or her office hours and discuss anything you might find confusing. Also, be sure to ask in class or during office hours what exactly will be on the test. Your teacher might not be willing to share that information, but it never hurts to ask. When you start early and arrive prepared, you will be more confident come test day.
Maybe writing equations or definitions down on flash cards will help you remember them. Maybe acting out a Shakespeare scene will help you better understand the themes and major plot points. Turning the capitals of countries you need to memorize into a song or poem will definitely spark a reminder during the test. Do what works for you and be creative!
Study with friends/classmates.
But only if it makes sense for you. You want to study with people who are motivated to learn the material and who have been paying attention in class. Everyone should equally contribute to the conversation or that time spent with a group is just not worth it. If you find a good group to work with, divide up the material between your peers and have everyone come to the study sessions with their sections filled-in with useful information. When the group can help each other and maximize time and be efficient, it is a win-win for everyone involved.
Avoid the dreaded all-nighter.
It might sound tempting to stay up all night before the test to cram that last bit of information. However, if you stay up all night, you’ll be exhausted for your exam the next morning. What you study last-minute the night before will have little impact on your overall knowledge of the content, so it’s better to get eight hours of sleep so you feel refreshed, quick, and comfortable.
Enjoy healthy snacks.
Want to munch on something while you study? Snack on carrots, apples and peanut butter, popcorn, and almonds. Avoid sugary sodas, energy drinks, and too much caffeine, as that will just give you a sugar crash that you did not need.
When you feel your heart starting to race when you’re studying from the anxiety about test day, put everything down and just breathe. You’ve taken tests before, you’ve done the work all quarter/semester, and you’ve read the material. Breathe deeply for a count of 10 seconds, think about positive outcomes only, take a break if you need it, and then get back to work with a more relaxed attitude.
Good luck with your finals! You got this!