Editor’s note: Don’t panic, but finals week is just days away. The good news is there are a variety of great ideas to help you cross the finish line. Check out these Top 15 Hot Tips for Finals, listed in US News Education. We curated and rephrased the advice here (below). Also be sure to check out NIU’s De-Stress Fest on April 30th!
Top 15 Study Tips
1. Use Bite-sized Study Strategies. If you have 7 days until a final, don’t wait until the 11th hour to start cramming. Do this instead: “…divide the course into sevenths and study two weeks’ worth of lectures each day.”
2. Protect your Time and your Focus. Here’s where your time management skills *really* come into play. Drop any unnecessary or any time-consuming social activities so you can use that time to focus on your studies. Every moment counts. According to the list on US Education: “…Even a few strategically placed extra hours can make the difference between doing just OK on finals and doing a really great job.”
3. Face your fears. Instead of studying an equal amount for each final, look at all of your finals and figure out which courses are the most challenging for you. If you know a final exam is going to be difficult, evaluate how well you know the material (be honest with yourself). Then, if you need to, devote more time studying for the difficult final exam and spend less time avoiding it by focusing on other courses that you are strong in.
4. Get a lay of the exam terrain. Ask your professor to share what’s likely to be on the exam. Readings? Discussions? Material from lectures? Is it comprehensive or will it cover only a certain number of chapters? When you know the context for the final — the extent and the boundaries — you can organize and structure your studying.
5. Understand how your professor asks questions. Ask your professors about the approach she or he will take with questions. Will the final be a big question or two? Or will it be a series of focused questions that cover specific material in the course?
6. Study examples. If your professor ever said — “That would make a good final exam question” — then you might want to “take the hint” and review that particular topic and example. Other resources to include in your studies include Study Guides or Review Questions, most particularly if they are pointed out by your professor.
7. Engage in Group Study or “not so much”. If it helps you stay focused and on track, study groups are great. If you find them more a distraction than anything, just remember it’s your time and energy that you want to protect so that you can do the work you need to do.
8. Attend review sessions. Eighty percent of success is showing up! If your professor offers a review session, make sure to be there. Review sessions are often the most under-used resources but can be the single biggest help to you. When professors give you a review session, you get a glimpse into how they are thinking about a topic or what they consider to be the high points of a course. Think of it as a cram session with your professor — and it’s really the only worthwhile cram session to take part of!
9. Utilize your notes (when allowed). If your professor allows you to bring your notes to class, make sure your notes are organized and clear. That means take them out and look at them. This will also reinforce the material and the refresher — along with clean notes — will make it more likely that you will express your ideas clearly and well during exam time.
10. Size up the test right when you get it! Before you start answering questions, take a couple of minutes when you receive the test to get a lay of the land: how many questions are on it? how much does each part count? Then make a decision upfront about how much time you will spend on each question. This will help you focus and help you manage your time during the exam.
11. Write clear essay answers. Unless your professor indicates otherwise, much of what is graded here has to do with the correct answer AND with how well you develop and explain your answer. So develop your answers fully and clearly. Oftentimes it helps to think about how you would explain your answers to a sibling or a friend who isn’t familiar with the topic.
12. Help the professor to give you a good grade. Professors grade upwards of 70 finals over a two-three day period. Make it easier for them to give you a good grade by providing them with neatly written essays. Your essay should: make clear the question you’re answering and should begin to provide the answer in the very first sentence.
13. Pace yourself. Think of a final exam as a work session that is divided into sub-sessions. Stay focused in each part and take each question one at a time. Between parts, take a short breather for a few short seconds-minutes before starting the next part.
14. Don’t panic. Remember that most tests are designed to have some harder questions and some easier questions. That means that the overall degree of difficulty will vary over a 2-3 hour exam period. Ignore the feeling of a “roller coaster.” Stay focused on the material and don’t dwell on how well you think the exam is going.
15. It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over. Stay for the entire exam time. Use any extra time to double-check your work: go over your answers, proofread, or add more clarity to your essay answers. Remember your goal is to help your professor to give you a good grade, so take the extra time to make sure the work you turn in represents you as well as it can.
Don’t forget to stay hydrated, eat healthy foods, get rest, and above all don’t panic.
GOOD LUCK TO YOU ALL … YOU’LL DO GREAT!