Classes are done and finals week is here, which means school is finally almost over for the semester. Finals week can be stressful and exhausting, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some organizational tips and resources that can help make the most of your time without compromising your sleep or downtime, while helping you to succeed on your exams.
- Know when and where your exam is taking place. Write this information down in your planner, in your notes for that class or maybe set a reminder on your phone. Knowing this information can help you set up a study schedule and plan out how you are going to use your time to be prepared for the exam.
- Know the type of exam whether that’s multiple choice or essays or both. Knowing the type of questions that will be asked on the test can help prepare your studying. If the test is multiple choice you will likely need to know definitions of important topics, but on an essay test you will need to demonstrate understanding of the concepts as well as connections between them.
- Organize your notes into important concepts, definitions, dates, formulas, and any other categories that make sense for that specific class. This can be done using a color coordinated system that you create so you can easily remember what color goes with which category. This helps you begin to remember the information because you are reading it as you organize. And it helps the process of organizing your study guide.
- Create your own study guide. Some professors may give a study guide for their exam, but it is likely an overview of the test and doesn’t contain everything that will appear on the exam. Using the professor’s study guide, your notes, along with the class schedule can help you organize the information that will be on the exam. You can organize that information into categories as well, for example definitely on the test, possibly on the test, and not on the test. Of course this will mostly be a guess, unless your teacher has directly told you everything that will or will not be on the exam.
- Use your time wisely and take breaks. Organizing yourself ahead of time helps you make the most of the time in front of you. If your test is five days away you can study a chunk of the material each day before that, with a final review session of all material the day before. Breaking up the information can help you retain more of it than if you try to cram it all in the night or morning before the test. When studying take a short break every 50-90 minutes. Use the break to take a walk, change study locations, hang out with friends, get a snack or check your social media (beware of the just for a moment phenomenon where you go to watch one video, but now it’s been four hours). Too much studying in a row will just make you frustrated and hurt your ability to remember what you are studying.
- Sleep. Pulling all-nighters during finals week has become commonplace, but is actually really bad for you. Sleeping helps move the information you were studying from short term memory into long term memory so you can recall it on the exam later in the week. Sleep in general is needed to function at your highest potential, and finals week should be a time to be at your best.
There are several resources that can help you study or create a study calendar. Two of the most useful (in my opinion) are Quizlet and Google Docs. (*Disclaimer: Do not rely solely on these resources for your study material. Your notes, the textbook, professor’s resources online, professor, classmates, etc. are also good resources to help you study.)
Quizlet is awesome because once you put the information into the system, it creates games and practice exams to help you learn the information. This is where organizing your notes can come in handy. If you have all the definitions you need for the exam in the same place, you can type the words and definitions right into Quizlet and start practicing immediately. You can also add pictures to Quizlet if you needed them to enhance studying. Sometimes other people have sets on Quizlet already made for your class. Now the hard part is over, you don’t have to type all the definitions. Just be cautious because their system may be different than yours and you don’t want to spend all your time studying definitions if the exam is an essay exam where you need to know the connections between concepts beyond the definitions of them.
Google Docs allows a document or presentation to be shared between many people. You can create one with your class or your friends. Maybe the professor gave you a study guide and you typed it into the Google Doc. Each person with access to the document can add information from their notes or the textbook. Because each person takes notes differently, the information in the Google Doc can usually create a comprehensive description of the concepts that are vital for the exam. Maybe you missed a day of class because you were sick, and don’t have the exact wording from the professor for an important concept, but three other people who are working on your document have that information. Now you have information that you didn’t have before. Again be cautious because each person takes notes differently, and maybe one of the people working on the document doesn’t want to share their notes with on a certain subject.