10 Simple Study Strategies for Finals

‘Tis the season for holiday cheer and final exam fear! Perhaps you’ve been here before, recognizing that the only thing standing in the way of your highly anticipated winter break are a few assessments that demand your time and attention. It can be a daunting realization that leaves you feeling overwhelmed and anxious. We understand your frustration and the prospect of procrastination, so we’ve come up with 10 simple study strategies to help reduce stress and boost your confidence as you prepare for finals.

1. Create a Schedule

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Time management is the key to success. Use a planner or calendar to carve out at least 15 to 20 minutes a day for study time. This could be as simple as reading notes on the bus, before bed, or while you have some downtime between classes. By dedicating just a few minutes each day to reviewing your exam materials, the better chance you have of retaining the information long-term.

2. Get Organized Early

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Don’t wait until the week before your exam to start collecting your study materials. The earlier you start gathering and creating your study aids, the easier you’ll make the study process. Getting an early start allows you to have plenty of time to locate missing assignments, create detailed study guides, and even reserve study rooms in advance. Plus, it will feel great to not have to dig through your entire backpack when you’re ready to study. 

3. Start with Your Most Difficult Subjects

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It may be helpful to create a to-do list, so you can assess what will take up most of your time. If you know that you have a dense, cumulative exam in your most challenging course, start prepping for that first, even if it is not your first exam. By gauging how much time different tasks will take you, you’ll be able to enhance your time-management strategies and focus your attention on the content you need more time to learn.

4. Join a Study Group

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Studying together allows students to share information and insight that you may not have retained on your own. Even if you haven’t talked to anyone in your class, you’ll be surprised how many of your classmates are willing to help each other come exam time. It’s nice to have the support and realization that you are all in the same boat.  Also, you don’t have to have had study groups at the library. Try hosting a potluck study dinner or meeting up for an ice cream. Surrounding yourself with other people who want to perform well on the exam will be contagious!  

5. Change Up Where You Study

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By changing up the places you study, the less dreadful the process can be. The library during finals week is like Walmart on Black Friday. Look into other places on campus, coffee shops, or even a quiet place outside. The goal is to find an environment that has limited distractions and encourages focus. Changing your study environment will help you remember more material, because you can associate it with the different places you were studying when you learned it.  

6. Limit Distractions

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Put away your phone. If you have too much separation anxiety, at least turn it off for 20 minutes. We all know how easy it is to start aimlessly scrolling through hours of news feed. By removing distractions altogether, you’ll be surprised what you can get done. If you really can’t avoid surfing the internet, it may even be helpful to block certain websites for a couple hours. I promise that the video of the cute sneezing panda will still be there once you’re done. 

7. Talk to Your Teachers

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Believe it or not, not all teachers want you to fail the final exam. Try to find a good time to ask your teachers questions. You can attend their office hours, chat before or after class, and even send them a short email if you can’t track them down in person. Your teachers are the ones creating the exam; therefore they’ll be the best guides at determining if you are on the right study track. You may be surprised about how much they reveal about the exam and what you can do to ensure a high score. Plus, it never hurts to showcase the effort you are making to study the materials they worked to teach. 

8. Simulate Test Conditions

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Test anxiety can drastically alter the outcome of your performance. Regardless of how much you prepare, sometimes nerves just get the best of you. It’s extremely helpful to simulate test conditions and take a practice test. Go into a quiet room, set up a timer, and put away anything you won’t be allowed to use during your actual exam. This will give you a feel for how things will be during test time and hopefully make you feel more confident about what to expect. This is extremely helpful for exams that require short-answer or essay sections.

9. Allow Breaks and Rewards

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Studying can be a grueling task. You do not need to lock yourself in a room with fluorescent light for six hours. If you’re partaking in a long study session, allow yourself to take breaks at least every half hour. Take a walk outside, call a friend, or do the hokey pokey. You do not need to punish yourself throughout your study process. You deserve to reward yourself after a solid study session. Find things that will help motivate your studying so that you’ll feel more inclined to complete your work. 

10. Take care of yourself

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Mental and physical health are super important, especially come finals time. Stress will make you sick and susceptible to the seasonal bug that is lingering among your classmates. There is no need to pull an all-nighter if you manage your time wisely. (I know, easier said than done.) By ensuring you get enough sleep, exercise, and are not submitting to a vending-machine diet, you will be in a much healthier state come exam time. You should also look into what free services your school provides to students during finals, which often includes massages, puppy play dates, and tons of free food.  

As good ol’ Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” You do not have to dig yourself into a hole this exam season. You have all the tools to be successful. Remember, everyone has a unique style of studying, so find what works for you. Good luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!

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