Finals can be extremely tricky. Trust me, I know.
At my high school we didn’t have to take them. If you had only one excused absence, no unexcused absences, and at least an A in the class you were exempt from taking the final exam. At the time I really loved this, ending my semester a week earlier than everyone else’s…. until I got to college. Final Exam exemptions don’t exist in college and I was in for a rude awakening. My Freshman year I really struggled with how to prepare for cumulative exams including information from the entire semester.
While I’m fairly certain that no one likes finals, I have developed over my past four years here at Benedictine, some ways to make the end of semesters a little less stressful:
- Start Early….. Like really early. I know this isn’t exactly what everyone wants to hear but it honestly is the easiest way. Learn it the first time you go over it in class and then for the final, you’ll just have to review your notes. I do this for every test and save serious time studying for each exam. Making note cards for each individual exam means you’ll already have notecards for all of the material on the final.
- Start Early…. I know I just said this one but I can’t stress it enough. Not only does starting from day one help you to not have to cram at the end and instead allow you to just review the material, it ensures that going in to the final you already have a great grade. I probably use this strategy most of all. You know finals are going to be hectic as you’re trying to finish projects and papers as well as study for sometimes 5 cumulative exams…. having to ace all of those finals in order to get the grade you want is a lot of unneeded stress and quite unrealistic. Instead I work relatively hard all semester long to ensure my grade is as high as I can get it going in to the final. I once only had to get a 60% on the final to keep my A in a class. Now that is relaxing!
- Opt for the paper/project… This isn’t an option for all classes but if you can get away with just doing a final project or paper take it! Something you can start working on way in advance makes it much more manageable. You often know about final papers at the start of the semester. Knocking them out in advance means you can put it aside and come back several times, get external resources/help, and sometimes even have the teacher proof it for you before you turn it in. Science majors don’t often have this luxury but if you can get away with more final projects and less final exams go for it!
- Study groups…While study groups are always a good idea throughout the semester, during finals time they’re even more important. They help you stay motivated and yet at the same time help to facilitate a more relaxed environment. Be cautious of too many study breaks when working in a group however. Another great advantage of study groups is that they might have something in their notes you don’t or perhaps they are better able to explain something in a way that helps you to understand a topic more than a teacher’s way.
- Go to all review sessions…. professors are often willing to hold review sessions before exams including for the final. GO! I have found this is often where teacher’s will let it slip if something isn’t on the test. Sometimes it is during these review sessions that they reward those who came with an extra hint such as what topic the final essay is on!
- Ask others… it’s not a bad idea to ask friends of yours who have previously taken the class what the final is like. Format, general difficulty, and even material covered are good to know but be wary; professors do change their exams so don’t ever completely neglect a topic that wasn’t on last year’s final.
- Sleep…. it’s vital. I know staying up all night to add study time may seem like the way to go but it isn’t. Without sleep you cannot form new memories. Make sure to take naps and get a good night’s rest before the exam. They say that sleeping an hour right after you learn something new is the best way to retain the material!
- Hydrate and Eat right… the last thing you need finals week is a cold!
- Finally… Relax!…. Though grades are very important, they aren’t everything. The point is to learn a lot. Whether you got the grade or not you learned a lot that you didn’t previously know. This is going to help you in your other classes and hopefully in your career. If you stress out about grades too much you risk blanking or being overcome by test anxiety. Just relax and be confident!