As the end of the school year approaches, it can be challenging to maintain the concentration and self-discipline needed to get through final exams. At this time of year, students usually fall into one of two categories: they’re either completely overwhelmed by everything they have to do to wrap up the semester and prepare for finals, or they’ve checked out and are mentally on summer vacation already. Regardless of which sounds more like you, we have some tips to help you get through your finals successfully!
1. Get Organized
First things first, you’ll need to get a handle on everything you have to do. Write down the dates and times of each of your final exams so you can work backward from there to decide how to prepare. Gather your notes and materials for each class to make sure you have everything together so that you’re not frantically scrambling to find things when it’s time to start studying. Make a to-do list of what you need to accomplish to be adequately prepared for each test so that you don’t forget anything.
2. Break it down into manageable tasks
Looking at a whole semester or a whole year’s worth of information to learn for a test can seem daunting to the point of impossibility. Don’t look at everything all at once! Take your tests and tasks one at a time. Instead of thinking about re-learning all of US History, break it down to one chapter at a time, then one lesson at a time. If you need to make new notes or a new study guide, this is especially helpful. Remember to cross things off your to-do list as you accomplish each task, even if the task is simply “Review Chapter 6 notes.”
3. Use the Study Guide OR Make Your Own
I’m always surprised by how many students do not take advantage of the study guides given to them by their teachers. Study guides narrow down the entire semester’s worth of information into a more manageable form. If you’re lucky enough to have a teacher who gives you a study guide before the final exam, please use it! Even if it’s just a list of the chapters that will be covered on the test, it’s at least a place to start. Most often, study guides from teachers look something like a list of the main topics covered in each chapter, with the occasional important term or person or event listed. With this kind of study guide, you can go through your notes, writing down the information for the topics listed on the study guide. Sometimes study guides also contain review questions, which is a great hint at the kind of questions you need to be able to answer for the test. If you have these, write out the answers and study from them.
If your teacher does not give you a study guide, you can still make your own. Go through notes, handouts, and tests from the semester and create your own study guide by listing the main topics, terms, and ideas that you learned in class. Information that was important on tests throughout the semester is usually the same kind of information teachers include on final exams, so pay special attention to what has already appeared on tests and quizzes. Final exams are usually worth a lot of points because preparing for them does require a significant amount of time and energy, but that time and energy will pay off. You’ll always be in better shape going into a final exam with an organized and complete study guide than if you’ve just casually looked through your work from the semester.
4. Remember this is not the first time you’re seeing the material
While the amount of material covered on final exams can seem intimidating, remember the information covered on the exams is not new. In other words, you do not have to learn a semester or year’s worth of information in a few days. You have been learning this material for months: taking notes, doing homework, studying for tests and quizzes, writing papers, and talking about it in class. You’re not being asked to learn all of it for the test, but rather to remember it. The information is in your head somewhere!
5. Create a study plan
It’s difficult to accomplish anything without a plan, and succeeding on final exams is no exception. Once you’ve determined when each test is and what you need to do to prepare (completing the study guide, creating your own study guide, reviewing notes, etc.), you can create a schedule for yourself. Everyone’s study plan will be different, so do what works best for you. You know which subjects and which tests are going to require the most work from you, so make sure to schedule plenty of time for those. For example, if Biology is your hardest subject and you know that doing the study guide and reviewing it is going to take a lot of time, you should start working on that one early even if it’s your last test. On the other hand, if English is an easier final and an easier subject for you, maybe you only need one afternoon to make a study guide and one afternoon to review before the test. Make sure that you give yourself time to work on study guides, review/memorize information, and test yourself.
If you have any questions about studying for or preparing for finals, I’m happy to answer them! Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Good luck with your finals!