Tips for Studying for Finals

Final exams are the single-most stressful event in college life. They approach slowly and silently; the semester moves gently along, and classes proceed as normal, but then, just as the end approaches, the professor mentions the final. Chaos ensues, and students panic as they scramble to master the assigned knowledge of the past weeks. The Finals Beast rears its monstrous head, and there is no rest for the weary, yet frantic, student body. Perhaps this is all a bit dramatic, but none would argue that finals can be stressful, and it is crucial that students manage their time efficiently as they prepare. If they cannot, the end of the semester will be far more stressful than it need be, and final grades may be less than satisfactory. Fortunately, there are several specific tactics that can save inordinate amounts of time.

Focus during the semester:

Chances are that if you are reading this it is too late for this advice. But there is no better way to study for a final than to learn the material as it is presented. If you pay attention throughout the year, studying for a final should consist of a quick refresher course on your notes. In addition, if you are paying attention you probably have a decent grade, and doing well on a final is not quite as crucial if you do.

Make flash cards:

Flash cards are the quickest and easiest way to memorize simple facts, dates and terms. Test yourself or do them with a friend, but flipping through cards forces you to actually master the information. It is a true test of your knowledge, and flashcards are simple and inexpensive to make.

Take practice tests:

If the professor gives a similar test every semester, ask a friend if you can look over the old test. See what kind of questions he asked, and make sure you are prepared to see identical questions on your final. 

Look over old quizzes and tests:

There is no better way to see what you don’t know than to see what you didn’t know in the past; the rationale is that if you didn’t know it then, you don’t know it now. Finding out quickly what you don’t understand allows you to target the areas in which you are struggling and waste less time going over the material that you do know. In addition, these previous tests give a sense of what kinds of questions a professor asks.

Know thyself:

It is important, above all else, to understand the way that you study best. If you are incapable of focusing with a partner, study alone. If you cannot bear to peruse academic materials without a peer, then bring a peer! If you like to eat as you study, bring some snacks. Regardless of your tactics, be sure to focus!