Tips When Studying for Finals
As much as we might hate to admit it, the end of the semester is coming soon. Final exams, papers, projects, and cumulative evaluations of all kinds are critically important for your final grade. We all know how stressful and difficult these exams can be, and we dread them every semester. We will discuss some of the best strategies to study for finals and hopefully, those strategies will translate into better scores.
First, let's discuss something that most students completely overlook, and it actually happens before we start studying. Before we start studying, we need to find a study spot that will prevent us from getting distracted and make us feel comfortable. If we study in an environment with other people who are loud or endless distractions we will not be as productive as we can be. If we eliminate distractions, our mind settles, and our brain is more open to absorbing information. Places like the library or a quiet coffee shop are great examples. Even a small change like shifting from your couch in front of your family to your room may yield significant results. Another aspect of your study spot is your environment. You can play around with different surroundings, as everyone has a different set of preferences that will allow them to be more productive. Being comfortable when studying is key to absorb the information and be able to recall it when it comes to exam time.
Let’s talk about taking notes, the most common way of studying. The process of note-taking is not just set in stone, one way works for all strategy that works for everyone. Effective note taking strategies vary for everyone. Sometimes different note strategies work better for different subjects. For example, you might excel at using flashcards in government but the same strategy may not work so well for pre-calc. When note-taking, we have to decide early on what kind of notes we will take, how we will review them, and the most effective ways of remembering the information and retaining it for a long period of time. I learned a pro tip my junior year regarding flashcards and notes. If you study chunks of information three times a day, for 10-30 minutes, evenly spaced out, during the weeks leading up to the exam, you will remember the information in better detail. It sounds like a painfully generic way of studying, but it really does work and has scientific evidence to support it. I wouldn't recommend doing this with large amounts of information, rather try breaking up the information into more digestible fragments that won't take up as much time. I would also recommend you break apart your subjects as well. Spending too much time on one area or subject will fatigue your brain, and you will be better off switching to another subject with a fresher mind. You can always experiment with different styles of note-taking, such as Cornell. As I said before, a big part of being comfortable when studying is to experiment and find what works for you, not everyone's strategies will work to the same extent for everyone.
The next tip is to stay organized. When it comes closer to finals time, we will all have lots of information piled up in the same places, and information will be abundant. It's important that we keep these things organized, whether they are digital or on paper. If digital, you can organize all your study material into files by subject to keep everything in one place, from study materials to worksheets. For materials on paper, using simple folders is a good way to keep things organized too. Just make sure you can keep track of the folders themselves and don't misplace materials. Having an organized work environment will also relax your brain and allow you to think clearer. A great example of this is if you clean your room for the first time in weeks. When you are finished, and you look at your room, you will feel better and have a clearer mind. The same principle applies to studying. Try your best to keep your work area clean and organized so you know where everything is and you won't struggle to locate things. You can also stay organized by planning out your study schedule and what amount of time you will spend studying each day. As a way of staying motivated, you can also set small and large goals to work toward. The earlier you start planning for your finals, the better prepared you will be.
The last tip I want to address is one that students rarely take time to do. Self-care. We become so overwhelmed with information and responsibilities that we are constantly rushing and moving, never taking time to rest or reflect on what's going on. You should plan out times when you can take breaks to rest and reflect on what you've been doing. In the study method mentioned above, taking 10-30 minutes of studying is perfect, so take the time after to take breaks. You should also do yourself a favor and diet correctly. Eating junk food before, during, and after studying is not good for your brain, and won't do your studying any favors. Eat healthily, see better results. Finally, learn how to pace yourself when studying. Learn the pace at which you work and how you retain the information. It's not a bad idea to push yourself from time to time, just know your limits. Good luck with your finals!