1. Study early, reduce stress by preparing in the weeks ahead
Do not just wait until you are in the middle of the last week of classes to get proactive. Finals will be so much easier for you if push yourself early on. Taking time to put in the extra work now, before finals, will allow you to be calmer about the test itself. If you feel good about your grades going in, you may be more clear-headed, which is important when studying. Reducing stress is key.
It can really help to go the extra mile on those little assignments that you get in the next week. It is easy to be complacent towards the end, but do not allow yourself to slip at this point. If you keep up the good work, that one big exam will become less and less worrisome.
2. Look at percentage worth- know the importance, what you're going into
Start by finding out what percentage of your overall class grade is taken up by your final exam. In rationalizing and planning your study time, it is important to know which exams should be your highest priority. Do yourself a favor and round up those syllabus worksheets from the beginning of the semester to find out how important the test is to your overall grade. Actually, take the time to calculate what your final grade will be depending on the grade of your exam.
If you’ve lost your own syllabus, you can usually find them on Moodle. If not, ask your classmatesー one person is bound to have theirs.
3. Prioritize your studying
Assess and consider your priorities. Once you know about the importance of percentages and how the exam will affect your overall grade, put your classes in order from the highest to the lowest priority final. If you have one class that you always show up particularly late to or you have not turned in all your papers for, put that class as first priority on your finals list- especially if it counts for 15 or 20% of the overall grade.
4. Set vague daily guidelines
Once you actually get into finals time, make sure that you are taking care of yourself by managing your time. Do not go overboard on the exact planning of how you are going to study, instead, try to have an idea of how you are going to manage your time: what you need to get done each day, how early you have to start studying, etc. Give yourself more time/more days of studying the subjects that are a bigger priority.
5. Think over what you know about normal exams/what resources you have
Once you actually begin to study, it is important to think about what exactly you should be studying for. Every professor has their own way of testing students. Ask yourself what you know about the type of questions that will be on the exam and if you can plan what kind of things you might need to study. Does your professor ask more broad, thoughtful questions, or do they test you more on memorization? Do they focus on smaller detail or larger points? Do you have to write for the test? Are there essay questions, multiple choice, or fill in the blanks?
Also, there is no shame in admitting what has confused you in your class. For example, if you can not remember some specific topic, do not be ashamed to ask the professor or, if it is easier, reach out to your class tutor or a peer. Remember: it is a professors job to help you understand what they are teaching, so, they are likely to want to help you with test questions. If not, organize or attend a review session with your classmates. If you organize one, it may help them as much as it helps you.
6. Set up a plan for test day
So, you’ve gotten to test day- do you have a plan? Think about how you are going to act the day of the test. Maybe exercise helps you calm down. Maybe you need to eat extra protein because that helps you focus. Maybe what helps you is doing breathing exercises before you walk into the exam space.
All of these are good things for helping to reduce stress and allow you to think clearly. Eating well and keeping your mind focused is always important. Eat good breakfasts, I know, it's a cliche, but important. Exercise has been shown to be helpful before tests in lowering your heart rate and allowing you to focus.
If you want some good breathing exercises, here are two:
a.) to lower your heart rate quickly, try breathing for 5 seconds in and 7 seconds out for a minute
b.) to keep yourself calm and breathe steadily for a longer time, try the breathing square: breathe in for 4 beats, hold your breath for 4 beats, breathe out for 4 beats, hold for 4 beats, then repeat. Imagine your breath traveling in a square while you do this to help keep your focus clear.
7. Schedule in rest and breaks; Account for good sleep in your schedule
REMEMBER TO SLEEP.
This not only helps your brain retain memory and, therefore, study and perform better on tests, but it will also keep you calm.
All-night cramming has been proved time and time again to be the worst study method. Sleep and study around sleep. It is important for both your physical and mental health.
Break up your studying with rest periods. Allow yourself time every once and a while to reflect and stay calm. Take a shower, drink some tea.
8. Think about what you are working toward to motivate
Why are you doing all this? What are you working for? Ask yourself: what is the overall goal and why do you want to do well on your finals? Keep your answer in mind while you study. Maybe even write your reasons down in your notebooks so that you can refer to them as a reminder when you get really down.
In this, please do not forget that the overall goal should be your health and wellbeing, not a grade. Do not lose sight of the importance of this one grade in the scheme of things.
In the end, if you stay calm and work hard, it will all work out fine. If you understand the material and are thoughtful about the work you are doing, there is no doubt that if you will come out of finals week soaring.
Good luck! You will do great! However you do, as long as you do your best, you are doing wonderfully! Be proud of the work you have done thus far and along every step of the way! We at The Cad are rooting for you!
Winnie is the Co-founder and President of The Weekly Cad.