What a lot of students fail to realize is that studying for finals isn’t some unexpected event that pops up and ruins two weeks of your life. No one can admit to not knowing they were coming since it is in the first week of class when you are informed that a final exam will take place, and what its weight will be. Decreasing the stress associated with the finals preparation process has to start early, and below you will find out exactly what you should be doing to make sure you study less and get the grades you want.
A big source of frustration and anxiety for me and other students during my undergraduate years was large courses, with even larger curriculums that just seemed impossible to fully prepare for, no matter how much time or effort was put in. Well, after a year of university something became clear to me – although a massive amount of material was presented as study material, it was obvious not all of it could possibly fit onto the paper for a 2.5-3 hour exam.
There had to be a way to know what was the REAL meat-and-potatoes of the course, and what didn’t deserve my time. Nothing is more frustrating than spending an hour memorizing and fully understanding a concept, only to sit down for the exam, pick up your pencil, and realize that the professor opted to skip over that concept and give preference to something else. This brings me to an essential pre-game technique I use.
Record the final lecture prior to the exam
I have found that every final lecture before the exam is the prime time for professors to divulge their hints and preferences for what they will be choosing as major focuses. A lot of students skip this last class since they assume it will not contain any new content, and simply be a ‘review session’. This may be true, but if your undergraduate professors were anything like mine they want to reward the sparse crowds in the finals days of the semester by letting you in on real value – that is, them pretty much saying, ‘Study this!’. To make sure you don’t miss a single drop of value coming from these types of lectures, be sure to actually record it. I use my phone because it has enough capacity to last an hour or so, and it pretty much does the job like any other recorder would. Using the actual recording to tailor the length of your study sessions will make studying for finals a lot easier than those that are trying to make sense of frantic scribbles.
Actually, do the readings during the term
Your professors probably tell you this, and you probably ignore them. Or maybe you have good intentions at the beginning of the term but they waver as academic fatigue sets in. Either way, putting in 30-45 minutes to actively read relevant course material when your workload is low will pay off in the long run. Rushing through weeks of readings, even if done effectively will not be nearly effective – and as painless – as doing them earlier in the term.
On that note – try to actually do well on assignments prior to the final
Again, it may seem like the conventional knowledge you’ve heard from your professors and TA’s, but that’s probably because it holds true. Setting yourself up for success requires putting in the effort on assignments that can be admittedly much easier to score higher on than a two or three-hour exam. You can always access the professor, or a TA for an assignment help to get hints and time, whereas you don’t have those luxuries in an exam setting. So definitely use that as fuel for getting awesome grades on assignments earlier in the term – think “if I can get an A on these two papers, it will make the midterm and final SO much less stressful”. This will help you decrease some of the stress, and helps avoid a do-or-die situation.
Part of overall success is based on creating conditions that are ripe for success and in the case of preparing for finals that mean knowing what to study, and decreasing the pressure to succeed (while still succeeding). Implement these ideas early and you should be able to set yourself up for a significantly easier finals season, and much better grades.