By Roqui Clinkscales (Liberal Arts, Class of 2019)
Finals are here!!! Projects, papers, exams, oh my!
Now, I know what you’re thinking… this is nothing to be excited about (and I second that emotion). Layer on top the fact that we are facing one of the most unsure times of our lives, and I bet you feel like you’ve come to a complete stop at Wits End Avenue. In short, it has been a challenge!
So, today I am sharing with you the study hacks that I am using to rock out these last few weeks and end my semester on a high note.
No matter if you are in high school or college, take these steps to get those A’s and B’s!
It’s never fun to try to study the night before an exam. That only brings on stress which in turn distracts you from being able to study at all.
Be ahead of schedule in setting the dates of these finals on your calendar, knowing how long the tests are, and what you will need to know come exam time.
Prioritize Your Time
There are some exams that we feel we will do well in and then…there are the rest.
Do an assessment on the level of difficulty and study accordingly. If you have an exam in English and theoretical physics in the same week, make sure you know the tougher material and it will serve as a smoother transition when it comes time to work through the easier material.
Organize Your Notes
Pull out what’s important and incorporate it into your review. Highlight key terms and concepts and write it in a way that is informative and answers the problem or question when it shows up on the test.
Organize it by three columns:
- Definite: Information that’s a definite feature on the exam,
- Likely: Information that is probably going to show up on the exam, and
- Maybe… Or Not: Information that may is less than 50% likely to show up show up on the exam.
That way when the exams hit, you will have the essentials down to memory.
Customize Your Studying to Exam Type
Is it an essay? Oral exam? Multiple choice? Knowing the format of the exam will help you determine how you will need to study and answer the questions.
For example, with multiple choice you would need to know the definitions of key terms.
For essays, make sure you understand concepts and can explain them in writing. Be ready for those tricky essay prompts with multiple questions! Review examples from your textbook and be ready to drop them in your essay to show you really know your stuff.
With oral exams, it is a test of your communication skills and ability to articulate that understanding to an audience so be sure to practice in front of an audience (action figure or stuffed animal collection?) or a mirror to get past those hard parts of your presentation.
Form an Online Study Group
Of course The Fates will not allow us to meet in person safely, so the next best thing is to gather some classmates and do it the new fashioned way!
Set up a virtual meeting and break your studying into parts for you and your partner/group to work through. Working in groups can help make the feeling of studying less daunting.
However, group work isn’t for everyone, so determine first if studying in groups is something that works for you.
Ask TONS of Questions
Teachers know best! Don’t skip out on asking important questions concerning the test and what type of material they will be focusing on.
If there is something you didn’t understand from class, now is the time to have your teacher explain it again.
Ask how the test will be formatted, if you are allowed to use notes/readings, and whether or not it will be during class time or one that you will turn in on a specific date. These questions make all the difference on how to better prepare!
Set up a meeting with your teacher or send a formal email to get those questions out the way before the big day.
No Study Guide? Make Your Own!
If one is not provided for you, create a study review sheet with the information that is sure to be featured on the exam and study that!
In one of my experiences, I had a teacher who would not allow us to write notes in her class. She would breeze through her presentations and no one would have a chance to copy the information. Students would try to take photos during lecture but that was not allowed either.
When word got out that our first exam was approaching I panicked! I was not sure how I would study for it without knowing what to look for and without proper notes. But, the teacher did give us a paper with a list of terms and people to study.
From there I made my own study review sheet. I took the class readings and a bit of online research and organized my review. I started with terms and definitions, moved on to the prominent people in the field and how they contributed and so on until I had a complete review of the whole class!
Studying and organizing can be draining, and before you know it, your eyes have given up and you’re suddenly seeing two of everything. Sorry science fiction fans, we aren’t a society of robots just yet!
So, take 15-30 minutes away from the studying and planning to do something that kindles joy. Whether that may be:
- answering your texts,
- taking a moment to cook something for yourself or your family,
- watching an episode of your favorite show (no binging, though!),
- taking a refreshing walk,
- dancing to some music
All of these things can reduce anxiety and really reset your mood!
In those times when I start feel groggy, I like to take a few moments to switch things up so when one of my senses have been exhausted I take a moment to give them a rest and use another one of my senses.
Have a Family Member or Friend Quiz You
Use the review sheet and have someone quiz you. If you have no one around, quiz yourself! This is a sure way to remember information rather than simply reviewing it.
Make flash cards or an outline to review daily. Take a few moments to quickly look at a term or concept without reading the answer. Set the paper down and try to remember the meaning of that term or concept before returning to the paper.
If you got it right then keep doing this exercise with ones that are a bit harder so that they come easier to you.
If you got it wrong, then keep practicing this method until you can remember the answer without looking at the paper and move on to another one!
The most common mistake that students make while studying for finals is feeling like they need to pull all-nighters. It does not work!
Similar to not taking breaks, not having enough sleep can negatively effect your memory causing your ability to retain information to weaken.
Make sure that you are getting at least 7 hours of sleep so that your brain can process the material while you catch those much needed ZZZ’s.
No matter what, stress is a natural part of finals. Identifying this is the first step in knowing how to handle it.
Finding methods that work for you is the key to getting the best outcome during exams which saves so much time and energy when you are able to study effectively.
It also feels pretty good to be able to walk (or log) into the exam room with confidence knowing that you were able to devise a game plan, retain the information, and stay focused.
And if all else fails just relax. You’ve been gearing up for this all year. You got this!
💙 💛 Roqui
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