Final exams present an essential benchmark of everything you’ve learned throughout the semester. But while finals can often produce a significant volume of anxiety, even amongst generally relaxed and confident students, exams don’t need to consume your entire life or create restless nights for the last couple weeks of the semester.
With the right strategy, your tests can shift from a considerable weight on your shoulders to determining if you’ve accomplished the results highlighted in the course syllabus. The key to having less stress and anxiety during finals week is reducing unproductive habits and not making yourself vulnerable to undesirable pressure.
The key to having less stress and anxiety during finals week is reducing unproductive habits and not making yourself vulnerable to undesirable pressure.
When it comes to ensuring the most excellent grades and the least possible pressure, here are 10 study tips for finals to help make your final exams more manageable.
1. Avoid the Urge to Procrastinate
From all-nighters to “panic mode,” procrastination seems to be a universal college experience. The harsh reality is that when students procrastinate, worse scores ensue.
Planning for final exams should start at the beginning of the semester. The curriculum at the beginning of the semester is just as important as the information in the middle and end of the course. Still, it’s also the most likely to be forgotten by the time finals arrive, meaning there's an additional need for increased focus in those first couple of weeks.
As a student, a good rule of thumb is to plan on reviewing the entire extent of material, possibly breaking up studying by chapters in the textbook or committing a study session to each week of the course.
Almost every student has genuine intentions when the semester starts, but of course, life happens. When the source of the procrastination is understood, it’s easier to avoid it from the beginning and set a course for success.
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2. Don't Be an Insomniac, Get Some Sleep!
All of your studying and prep work for college finals is much less effective if it’s not supplemented by enough rest.
Numerous studies conducted by sleep experts have researched the effects of sleep on the brain, particularly memory. The research reveals that sleep enhances the mind's capacity to concentrate and performs an active role in fortifying memories, making it simpler to reclaim knowledge. All sleep is good sleep; however, slow-wave non-REM sleep, in particular, is vital when it comes to recollecting facts.
The earlier you get started studying, the less chance you’ll need to survive all-nighters later on. The connection between a lack of sleep and studying becomes a vicious cycle: less sleep causes trouble remembering material, leading to anxiety and more trouble sleeping, and so on.
If you’re currently striving to get quality shut-eye, you’re definitely not alone. School doesn’t have to result in minimal sleep. There are plenty of easy steps you can take to increase sleep health, such as eliminating TVs, phones, tablets, laptops, and other electronic gadgets from the bedroom; taking on a consistent schedule as soon as possible; and not consuming caffeine in the later hours of the day.
3. Find a Space Conducive to Studying
Your study environment is vital. Trying to study in a room full of distractions ends up being just that: distracting. It also might seem like a good idea to have the TV on for "background noise," but that rarely ends well.
If feasible, set up an area exclusively used for coursework and studying. The study space should accommodate:
- A desk
- A comfortable seat
- Proper light
- Any supplies you may need to facilitate a quality study session.
Try to eliminate all distractions when in this study space and announce to your family members, roomies, or other fellow tenants that while studying in this space, there are to be no interruptions or other distractions.
4. Create a Playlist That Helps You Focus
Having the right music can channel an enjoyable and highly effective study time. There are numerous studies that underline the worth of classical music, in particular, due to its wordless melodies. For instance, a study printed in Learning and Individual Differences talked about the effects of music while studying; the survey discovered that lectures including classical music in the background led to more favorable scores on quizzes and exams than comparable lectures lacking classical music.
So what can we take away from the results of the survey?
Music puts people in a better, more stable emotional environment that enables the mind to be far more responsive to knowledge than it would be in other circumstances. According to researchers at Duke University, it’s also believed that music facilitates the retention of information because it helps reduce anxiety.
If you need help finding the right study playlist, try Deep Focus on Spotify.
5. Get Rid of Distracting Devices
In today's digitally-focused world, it can be tough to go more than a few minutes without looking at your phone.
There’s a high likelihood that anyone reading this article looked at their phone while reading. Sadly, the dependence on obtaining constant information from phones can produce real difficulties when it comes to sitting down to study. Studies show that even the presence of a phone nearby is adequate to stop most people from studying efficiently — this means that even when using self-control and not scrolling over notifications, the presence of a phone can still result in a less-than-productive study session.
Even though alarms and certain apps can appear necessary, their inherent distracting powers may undermine the purpose of productive study time in a dedicated workspace.
For the most beneficial results, consider turning your phone to do not disturb for an hour or leaving it a safe distance away from your study spot.
6. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment With a Mix of Study Methods
There’s no one-size-fits-all study method. While some people retain information best from reading notes aloud, others retain information better with the help of highlighters or flashcards.
Get creative and try a variety of methods until you find a strategy that best meets your individual studying needs. However, one process may not produce the same results for every class. A unique plan may prove to be more productive for one class compared to others, so don’t be too intimidated to change things around when a previous studying process seems to produce weak results.
7. Write Out Practice Test Questions
This tactic requires you to reduce a semester's worth of material into a few key takeaways. While the small details are essential, it’s also crucial to recognize the big picture. Additionally, writing practice questions prepares you when it’s time to take the actual exam, and enables you to think like your professor.
Lastly, creating tests for studying will help determine any gaps in understanding for a better sign of topics that require closer review.
8. Work with a Study Group
Meet up with peers from your classes to study the material together. This is an effective way to study for finals because together, you can:
- Help keep each other stay accountable
- Quiz each other
- Solve problems together (“two heads are better than one”)
- Compare class notes
- Teach concepts to other peers
9. Take Breaks
Taking study breaks is a much more effective study habit than trying to work for a few hours straight. An intentional study break (anywhere from around 5 minutes to an hour) refreshes your brain while simultaneously increasing your energy, productivity, and focus.
Different activities you can do on your break include:
- Breathing exercises
- A quick walk
- A quick power nap
- Cooking a healthy meal
- Tidying up your workspace
10. Maintain a Healthy Balanced Diet
It’s important to maintain a healthy balanced diet on a daily basis, but this is especially true during finals. This helps you stay healthy and energized during study season.
When studying for finals, incorporate brain stimulating foods as snacks or in your meals.
- Dark chocolate
- Red, green, and orange veggies
Keep your brain in tip top shape during finals by giving it the nutrients it needs and plenty of water.
Once finals are finished and the semester has come to a close, take the opportunity to assess your semester with complete honesty. Think about what you would like to do even better the following semester.
However, the critical thing here is not to be too hard on yourself, do this step with a sense of constructive criticism. Scrutinizing yourself relentlessly about mistakes is not a fruitful activity – as long as you learn from previous mistakes, you are on the path to becoming a better student (and person) overall. Best of luck with your final exams!
If you're looking for the perfect coffee shop study spot, check out our list of close to Loma classic coffee shops.