How to Prepare for College Finals

For most students, finals week is incredibly stressful. Final exams aren’t like standard tests. You have to use the entire semester of knowledge you’ve gained in each class to pass. Not only that, but you have to take several of them all within a short period of time. The grades you receive can carry a lot of weight on your college transcript.

It’s common for students to become anxious during this time as they cram to get ready for this important milestone. That’s why it’s so vital to have a strategy in place to prepare yourself for college finals. In this article, we will take a look at our top ten tips you can utilize to get ready to ace the finals and ease any stress you might be having.

1. Don’t Pull an All-Nighter

All-nighters fueled by energy drinks and power bars are common occurrences among many students. However, it’s always a bad idea—and that’s not coming from your mother, either. It’s been scientifically proven that staying up all night to study can impair your memory and reasoning skills for up to four days afterward. That means lowered grades along with lower resistance.

Additionally, not getting adequate amounts of sleep is linked to REM sleep disorders, which can really mess with your memory. If you want to be at peak performance, getting enough sleep is vital.

2. Maintain Good Study Habits Throughout the Semester

If you have been attending your classes regularly and paying attention to the course materials, you should already be well-equipped to handle the finals. Reviewing your notes often throughout the semester can keep the critical points at the forefront of your mind. Organize your time in the weeks prior to the finals to go over the relevant materials. Most students find that studying for finals 60 to 90 minutes each day leaves them well-prepared when it comes time for exams.

3. Give Yourself Some Mock Exams

Each of your textbooks likely contains many exercises and questions that aren’t even covered during your lectures. Take advantage of the money you’ve invested in these materials to use them as study aids. Set aside an hour or two to answer some of the questions as a mock exam. This way, you can see where you need to focus more of your efforts. This can also help with your confidence level as you prove to yourself that you probably know more than you thought you did.

4. Recruit a Study Buddy or Two

A little healthy competition can keep you motivated and make your study efforts a lot more interesting. Make a plan with a friend or even several to go over the materials, compare notes, and quiz each other on any particularly challenging concepts. The added brain power will boost your efforts and benefit everyone. For even more fun, turn the event into a potluck or ice cream social.

5. Make Your Own Study Aids

One way to ensure you remember the information you need to prioritize for your final exams is to take each principal subject and get creative. Make your own colorful flashcards to help you recall important dates and concepts. Come up with some silly acronyms to help you memorize the materials. Cut photos out of magazines or draw pictures. Visual cues can be quite helpful for many students. Don’t worry if your methods seem silly. As long as they help you remember, that’s what counts.

6. Take Frequent Breaks

A sure way to experience burnout is to charge full steam ahead without taking any breaks. However, your mind needs rest to reset itself. Make sure you put in adequate time to study but take a break every hour or two to get a snack, listen to a podcast, or watch some comedy. Anything that gets you off the subject for a little while will help you to refocus when it’s time to hit the books again.

7. Clarify Tough Questions With Your Professor

If you are struggling with some particularly hard concepts, now is the time to talk to your professor. Don’t be afraid to go to him or her with your questions and ask for help. After all, they want you to do well on your exams too. Make an appointment at least three days before finals to visit during office hours and clarify any issues you are having. You may find this visit is all you need to take the edge off any pre-test jitters you’re having.

8. Prepare for the Morning of Your Finals 

You’re going to want to get a good night’s rest and avoid any partying or distractions the night before each test. Have a decent dinner and get to bed early. In the morning, get up and eat a healthy breakfast. Listen to some relaxing music and even take a walk to get the blood flowing to your brain. Think positively by envisioning things that make you feel empowered and happy. Believe that you have done the best you can to prepare and go into your class with confidence.

9. Take as Much Time as You Need

Take all the time you are allowed for each exam. If you have time left over, go back and review your answers and look over any that you are unsure about. Make sure you haven’t left anything blank and that you have followed the instructions to the letter. Be careful about second-guessing yourself, though. Typically, your initial answer in a multiple-choice scenario is the correct one.

10. Give Yourself a Pat on the Back!

You made it through a lot of hard work, so give yourself some credit. Now would be a great time to splurge on a movie or a massage to reward yourself for a job well done. Not everyone has the chops to do what you just did. Take note of whatever worked so you can use it next semester and then take a break from academics and do something just for you.