7 Ways To Get Ready For Finals That Don't Involve Pulling An All-Nighter
As a college junior, I've had my fair share of finals seasons. As a peer educator, I've mentored a variety of students who approach finals in many different ways. Through my own experiences and through listening to theirs, I have learned and employed a multitude of methods. As a result, I have been able to witness what works, what doesn't and what sort of does.
Here are seven ways to make finals week easier for yourself:
1. Don't wait until the night before to study.
I know this sounds obvious, but it's not. Many students have a habit of underestimating the amount of material they have learned during the entire semester. If you have a professor who is gracious enough to give you a final that only covers what was learned since the midterm, then consider yourself lucky. Regardless, reviewing your notes on a consistent basis is always a great way to ensure you will retain some information.
2. Create questions for each lecture and try to answer them.
An easy way to do this is to take the section headers of handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc. and just rephrase them into questions. For example, if the section header is “David Hume's Philosophy On A Higher Power,” you can easily rephrase this into a question that reads, “What is David Hume's philosophy on a higher power?” When you sit down to answer the questions you create, you will have to come to terms with what you don't know.
Another way to do this is to try to create questions that are similar to the questions the teacher has given on previous exams. This method is slightly more complicated and nuanced, as you need to have already taken an exam from this professor to do this. I would recommend doing this for the final exam, since at this point, you'll have probably seen at least one exam from your professor.
When you try to answer these questions, you will find out what you know, don't know and sort of know. As a result, you will have a better understanding of what you need to be focusing on during your studies.
3. Form study groups with people you trust.
I strongly recommend forming study groups with people in your classes who seem to have a strong handle on the information. It sounds judgmental, but it's really important to study with people who are trustworthy in the sense that you can be sure they will stay on topic and won't diverge too often from the material at hand.
If you are easily distracted, then study with one person instead of a group. Talking about material is so incredibly important, as it forces you to articulate what you have learned. In doing so, you'll realize what you don't know. That's when your study partners can hopefully fill you in. Don't be afraid of reaching out to people you might not normally talk to; you might end up forming relationships you didn't anticipate.
4. Create a timeline.
If you know your final is on May 20, then you should probably start studying soon. It sounds early, but it's never too soon to start working toward a good grade, especially when the cost of education is so high.
Make a plan for yourself that specifically states what you will have studied by a certain day. For example, chapters five through eight of your psychology textbook should be reviewed by the end of the first week of May. It sounds like a lot, but it will be a whole lot more if you wait until the night before.
5. Practice self-care.
Make sure to take care of yourself, even if it's only through small breaks every few hours. In keeping with that, make sure you get the proper amount of sleep. For people aged 18 to 25, this number is usually somewhere between seven to nine hours. You really don't want to walk into those exams feeling groggy, or so hopped up on caffeine from the lack of sleep that you can't even focus.
Another way to practice self-care is to simply reward yourself for your achievements. Going back to number four, if you do complete the intended review of those first five chapters, then buy yourself something you've been eying for a while (within a budget, of course). Go out for a movie. Hang out with friends. Just remember not to stress yourself out.
6. Recognize that having access to an education is a privilege.
While finals season is enormously stressful for so many people, recognizing that the source of all this stress is in and of itself a tremendous privilege will help you contextualize your struggles. Not many people get to consume so much knowledge on a consistent basis.
The fact you are even able to learn so much and be assessed on it is a privilege that many in this country — and this world — do not have. So, don't take any of this for granted and understand that your presence in a higher institution of learning in the 21st century is only possible due to the hard work of your predecessors.
7. Have faith in yourself.
It's a clichéd thing to say at this point, but it's clichéd for a reason. You are probably smarter than you think. If you follow the previous steps, there's really no reason for you to get stressed out about whether or not you know the answers. Engage with the material. Love it.
Find ways to make it applicable to your life. Ask questions. When it's time to take those looming exams, they will not feel like such gigantic stressors because you will know you did the hard work. Now, go forth.