By Jennifer Wang
As finals approach, here are some tips to help you get ready for the exams.
1. Get Organized
Before you do anything, you need to get organized. It’s surprising how much we manage to cover in a year of class, so you have to determine the most important concepts that were covered and what you want to spend the most time on. A good place to start organizing yourself is from a syllabus. Read through it to get an idea of the general theme of the class and identify topics or chapters that connect to each other. Next, look over your quizzes and tests to identify the concepts that your teachers think are important. Also, look over your grades so that you know what topics are hardest for you and need the most work. Finally, read through all of your notes. Keep in mind that you don’t need to read every word; skim through notes that are less important and focus on ones that were prevalent through the entire year. Pull out notes with the most important concepts and mark any concepts, terms, or examples that enhance your understanding of the subject. By the end of the process, you should have identified the main concepts of the class, gathered any pertaining notes, and have a collection of materials to study off of.
2. Make a Schedule
Before you start studying, set up a study schedule. Start from the last day you plan to study before the finals and work your way to the first day you plan to study. Start off with something that you understand on the first day or two that you plan on studying. Then, move on to your hardest subjects so that you have time to figure them out. After that, move back to simpler concepts to give yourself a break. A day or two before the finals, look over everything, prioritizing your hardest and main topics. When making your schedule, make sure that your study sessions are short and at a regular time during the day when you’re not tired. Don’t spend more than 20-30 minutes in a row on the same subject. Most people remember the beginnings and ends of things the best, so spending a long time on one subject might end up working against you. If you ever are doing long study sessions, make sure to schedule in breaks to get up and move around or to change subjects. Finally, don’t fall behind on your other work. Near the end of year lots of classes are still finishing up and it’s important to stay on top of those classes and tests. Many extracurricular activities also take this time to present what they accomplished over the year. Just remember that you’ve already learned these topics and studying should just be a review.
Join forces with your classmates; it’s always helpful to have different perspectives about a topic that you might find difficult. Furthermore, by working with others, you can ensure that you have a more complete set of notes and study materials. Try to set up study sessions with each other even if you are not confused about anything. Having time to relax with friends in a study setting can help make the finals less intimidating when they arrive and improve your motivation to study. Another helpful resource is your teacher. If you don’t understand a concept, it would be a good idea to approach a teacher by email or during a time when neither of you are busy.
When you’re studying, the most important thing to remember is to prioritize what you study based on importance. Let’s face it; no matter what attitude you enter your studying in, you’re not going to be successful in following the schedule exactly and getting every single thing you planned done. Study the hardest and most important topics first so that you don’t end up running out of time or procrastinating on it. When you’re studying, the first thing to do is make sure that you understand the material. Don’t go around mindlessly memorizing facts and figures; it’s a lot easier to remember things when you understand them. Know the why’s and how’s and the impact that a topic has on the broader scheme of the course. For things that you do need to memorize, use mnemonic devices and other tricks that you can easily remember during the exams. Use the method of loci by connecting each phrase or concept with physical objects in a place you can imagine during the exam, or use acronyms to remember the first letters of each term. Most importantly, vary your methods between different chapters and topics. Not only do different subject require different methods of study, but switching it up will help prevent boredom and make each topic stick out.
Finally, don’t make a big deal out of your finals preparation. You’ve spent an entire year learning the material. Anxiety and worrying about finals will only do one thing: psych you out. Make sure to spend time doing activities other than studying. Play sports, listen to music, work on an art project, read, code, write…anything that will help you relax. Having the right mindset during finals will help you a lot more than studying to the point of sleep deprivation.