6 Real Deal Finals Study Strategies That Actually Work

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Ah, finals week: that time of the semester when occupancy at the library  – or any remotely quiet place – peaks. It’s also the time when you need to re-learn all the stuff you forgot forever ago, and do so in a state of panic, and in the the span of days.

Are you experiencing pangs of regret that you haven’t cracked the textbook open since midterms? Is the stress mounting because one test can take 30% (or more!) of a bite out of your grade, and the clock is ticking?

You’re not alone.

Whether you’re an academic Navy SEAL, judiciously doing all the reading, extra credit, and studying all along, or if you’re a last minute cruncher, these tips will help get you (and your GPA) through finals week.

1 – Do the simple stuff and prepare early or you will end up kicking yourself later (at least a little)

All night cram sessions really suck.

Surprises on test day and that sinking feeling you get after the test when you know you blew it also suck.

The greatest assets you have in your pocket to prepare for for finals are time and any resources that your school provides. Take advantage of both with these tips (future you will thank you):

  • Attend the last class of the semester and if there is an exam prep class DO attend it:  These two sessions will be your only shot to ask questions about exam format and logistics. Also, teachers, professors or TA’s will sometimes give you little hints about what important topics to focus on are or what to ignore.
  • Get your exam dates straight and plan ASAP: Missing an exam because you got the exam day wrong or having a schedule conflict between an exam time and a work shift – these are sucky situations. Avoid scheduling trouble by figuring out logistics as soon as you know your exam dates.
  • Start studying early (…even if it’s the tiniest bit). Even if it’s just attending a study group or casually leafing through notes from early in the semester, this less time you will have to spend burning the midnight oil.

2 – Studying as a group does work  (…but only attend one if everyone can stay on task)

Study groups can be seriously great for helping you prep for finals and can make the studying process less isolating and painful. With that said, only do the study group option if you know that everyone is gonna take it seriously and not get distracted.

It’s finals week, so time is of the essence.

Going through problems as a group and explaining concepts to one another can help you get a handle on stuff you didn’t understand as well the first time around faster than trying to figure stuff out using the textbook. Otherwise, sometimes just quietly studying with a group may help with keeping you on task.

3 – Building The Study Guide Of Champions Fast

No matter what subject you’re studying, building the right study guides will get you far. Your first step will be to gather the materials that will for sure be on the test.

Sometimes teachers will give you hints or a study guide, but don’t bank on it – many of us find ourselves surprised on exam day with whole topics that were not on study guides. Incorporate any study guide the teacher gives but also include these items, so you don’t find yourself surprised on the big day.

  • Retake your old tests ( if you can)  first –  We’ve all been in the classes where the exam questions are like SAT questions, this is especially common with open book exams. Unlike mid-term time, you now have data! If you didn’t toss your quizzes and had your mid-term exam returned, use this info. Chances are that the question style used in quizzes or midterms is what you’re gonna see again at finals. On top of that, it will let you know where you forgot stuff in the past. Doing this step first will help you figure out what you need in your study guide and give you an idea of how big of a mountain you have to climb to be prepared for the test.
  • Go through slide decks and your class lecture notes – If  it’s in a study guide or the professor spoke about it, it’s probably gonna be on the test. This should be the first resource you start building your study guide with. If you’re preparing digitally, copy and paste key concepts, definitions, and formulas.
  • Pull in topics from your assignments into your study guide – Quickly go through old assignments and pull out any formulas or topics that are missing from what you already have gathered from lecture notes.

4 – Create your studying fortress of solitude

Your friends, that one person you’re crushing on, or your significant other will still be around when you’re done studying – I promise. Chat apps will prevent you from getting into the flow state that you need to really make the most out of your study time and will slow you down way more than you think.

Make the most of the time you do have to prepare by creating your study fortress of solitude, using these four steps:

  • Turn off your phone or place it in another room if you can (just leaving it on silent will just result in you checking it out of habit)
  • Log out any chat apps on your desktop
  • Download this extension that prevents you from accessing social media in your browser
  • No Spotify or Hulu in the background (I know this is a toughie but trust me!)

5 – Have brain food and water on the ready (I’m serious)

If you’re studying at the library or are in your dorm for a cram session, you need brain food (…no, vending machine snacks typically don’t count ). Also, having snacks ready saves you needing to get up, and losing your spot as a result. Also, if you’re the kind that likes to caffeinated while you study, have water on hand.

6 – Swallow the frog

Doing the memorization sucks. Having to do tons and tons of problems also sucks. Alas, it is the essence of studying. As soon as you have your study guide ready, you just have to start. It will suck at first but once you get settled, you’ll find your study groove. In order to make studying less painful, start in earnest with some easy problems or some concepts that you’re already familiar with, this sometimes helps warm you up for the harder studying.

Now that you know these six tips, there is only one thing left for you to do, start studying, and prepare to crush final week!