Final Exam Pro-tips from Survivors.


What could be more stressful and tiring than final exams? …perhaps your very first college finals? Finals can be emotionally overwhelming and physically exhausting. I certainly don’t envy freshmen, or any other students, at this time of year. However, in addition to a big dose of sympathy, I would like to offer some perspective and advice. I hope you will too.

Perspective: By hook or by crook, most students survive to tell the tale.

Advice: Since I doubt (hope???) the goal for most students isn’t just survival, but to actually do well, I would like to offer up my favorite 6 pro-tips and study hacks.

1.) Have a strategy – There are only so many hours left between now and when you turn in that last exam. Take some time to consider how much time & energy you actually have & where your efforts will make the biggest difference in your GPA. Don’t waste your precious time nudging a B to a B+ if there is another grade that you can move from a B to an A. If, heaven forbid, there is a class that will need repeated no matter what you do, don’t waste energy on a lost cause. Consider the best time to do your most taxing studying to get the most from your efforts. (For more info See Go Zone Hacks)

2.) Don’t cram – Someplace between 30 – 50 minutes (depending on the expert) your brain stops functioning at its best & requires a break. Give your mind at least 5 – 10 minutes every hour to “rest.” Rest doesn’t mean nap – just allow your brain to wander or perform a non-demanding task. Your back and eyes need breaks, too, so optimize break time by getting up to move. Walk for a few minutes, organize or clean something, or call a friend.

3.) Take care of your body – No matter how tempting it is to skip your workout, eat junk food, or stay up late, DON’T DO IT. Committing to healthy habits will reduce stress, increase your energy, help you think more clearly, and protect you from getting sick. The last thing your brain needs during finals week is an unhealthy body slowing it down. Think of your brain & body as a team. Don’t allow your body to let the team down! (Click here for more info on Great Sleep)

4.) Minimize distractions – Study after study finds that minimizing distractions is the best way to study – no music, no TV, no puppy videos, no chatting with study buddies, and definitely no cell phones. Even having your phone in sight can negatively affect your brain power. Turn it off & put it away – out of your sight & out of your mind. Your mind has better things to do for now. (Click here to learn more)

5.) Use your time wisely – Not all study techniques are equal. Just reading over the same old notes is not the best way to study. The more & varied you interact with the material, the better. Consider using flashcards, taking practice exams, and reciting facts out loud. Using different parts of your mind and body to study will really help the material sink in. Consider changing study venues from time to time to not only wake your brain up with new surroundings but to better train yourself for the actual exam. Chances are you will not be taking your exams in your pajamas, in the comfort of your dorm room, with easy access to snacks. Study in a manner & place which replicates the exam experience.

6.) Take advice from others – Anyone who has ever survived final exams has learned a thing or two along the way – what works, what doesn’t, what to avoid, what to embrace. Learn from the mistakes of others, you don’t have enough time to make them all yourself.

These are my favorite 6 pieces of advice, but many people have other hints, pro-tips, and strategies that are useful. What is the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

  • What should every Freshman know going into their first finals?

  • What is your most tried & true study strategy?

  • What is the worst finals prep mistake you’ve ever made?

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