Finals Survival Guide

How 2 weeks of light studying can make up for 13 weeks of slacking.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published on Dec. 5, 2010. Now that finals week is upon us, BUnow decided to repost it in order to help all our Huskies push through the final stretch of the fall semester!

It’s that dreaded time of the semester for students. Thanksgiving break has come and gone all too quickly and there is still one big obstacle left before the month-long winter break, finals. Although finals have a bad reputation, they are usually not as bad as they are made out to be. If you have a proven system that works for you then you should definitely continue to follow it. Whether you’re a freshman or are just unsure about how to approach finals this year, use these tips to help you lock up that A.

Prepare to study about 1-2 weeks before your final:

  • Know what’s going to be on your final It may sound self-explanatory, but as the semester drags on it seems like less and less people come to class. If you do find yourself getting increasingly “sick” make sure to at least come to a Final Review day to know what you need to study.
  • Make your study aids – Everyone studies differently. I’m someone who rarely studies but I still find that flash cards are a life saver. Flash cards are especially handy because they contain a small amount of information and can be used almost everywhere.
  • Find someone to study with – Chances are you know at least one person in your class that you are willing to study with. If you somehow do not know anyone in your class, then this is your time to make friends. Continually mentioning how difficult you think the final will be should make people more likely to want to study.

Start studying about a week before your final:

  • Don’t do too much – Use your flash cards that you made before, and study with a partner if one is available. Make sure to study in short intervals. Recent studies have shown that humans get the most done when working for approximately 45 minutes with 20 minutes break in between. If you try to sit down and study for eight hours straight you will get much less done than if you broke it up.
  • Know what’s going to be most important – Most Bloomsburg finals are comprehensive. I’ve found that most finals are 20% things we’ve learned since the previous test, and 80% old things, although as you always need to check with your professor and their syllabus. If your final is broken down like this, make sure you learn the new things first. The older information tends to be more generalized whereas the new curriculum should be more in depth.
  • Stick to a schedule – Try to study each day at the same time and at the same place. We are creatures of habit and you will be more “in-the-zone”  if you get used to having a specific studying time. Also avoid studying on a bed, because habit will suggest that you take a nap instead of getting your work done.

Relax the night before your final:

  • Avoid the all-nighter – A popular “trick” with college students is to put off all their studying and then just pull an all-nighter. This does not work and should be avoided at all costs. As previously mentioned, a human isn’t designed to cram for eight hours. You will not be retaining much at all, and mixed with the lack of sleep you are going to feel horrible during your test. Learning 15 weeks worth of information in two weeks is possible, trying to learn it all in eight hours is just stupid.
  • Try to relax – If you’ve done the work the previous week or two then by now you should be solid with the test information. Don’t study the night before the test, just go over any information that you were having problems retaining. Look over notes while watching a movie or listening to music. Try to do something physical as well, such as going to the Rec, so that you will get a good night’s sleep.
  • Prepare what you’ll need for the morning – Chances are that you won’t need much for a final. Outside of some pencils and a pen you may not need anything else at all. If you are allowed to use something, such as a notebook or a calculator, make sure you gather it the night before. You don’t want to have to look for these in the morning.

Taking the final:

  • Get to your final early – Getting there early gives you prime choice of where to sit. Take a spot that you feel most comfortable in and get settled in. If you suffer from bad test anxiety like I do, take some deep breaths here and try to relax.
  • Chew gum – While some students might chew gum during test because it tastes good, it can actually increase your grades. An informal study at Cornell found that on average, students that chewed gum did much better on tests. Even if it’s not hard science, it will still help you relax and concentrate better.
  • Remember that it’s all over – Once you sit down and start taking the test, there’s no reason to stress anymore. You’ve done all of your studying and as soon as you get through these few pieces of paper, you are done with school for over a month. As Shakespeare said, “the readiness is all.”