8 Pro Study Tips For Acing Your Finals

study tips for conquering finals

Cue the horror movie music and screams of terror. Finals week is here, and as much as we’d all like to just fast forward to summer vacation, we’re going to have to get past this last level. As someone who easily gets distracted by so much as a piece of string on the table, I can definitely say that studying for exams is probably my least favorite thing to do. But when you have multiple exams coming up, you really start to feel the weight of crunch time. You can’t afford those innocent, little two-hour distractions, and you don’t want to be left thinking about all the things you should have done to better prepare for your tests. Finals week is especially important if you’re a graduating senior. We all get to the moment where we say, “it is what it is at this point,” but for some, there really isn’t anymore room to say, “fuck this” and let whatever happens happen. A good grade on your finals could be the difference between a D and a B- if you haven’t been doing so well during the semester. It can also be the difference between straight A’s and that one A- to kill your 4.0 for the semester. No matter what your situation is, here are my study tips to help you conquer finals week.

1. Change up your study spot. 

We all have that one spot on campus where we can study all day long. As much as I love sitting in the couches at Starbucks under the dim lighting, with an iced white chocolate mocha in front of me, the same environment can become very mundane. Maybe the 4th floor study lounge of the math building was a little too quiet and it drove you bonkers the other day. Maybe your room was a little too warm for you to concentrate. Make things a little interesting by moving your study group to different places on campus. If you study in the library on Monday and Tuesday, try studying in a college lounge or learning center on Wednesday.

How To Ace Your Finals

2. Set a study goal for each day. 

Do you want to outline the first five chapters in your chem textbook today? Do you hope to start and finish your history class study guide? Goal-setting is a huge advantage because it helps you create a direction for your day. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have sat down knowing that I had to start doing work, but had no idea what I should get started on first. This will help things feel less overwhelming so you can get everything done — less time wasted on trying to organize yourself. In another blog post, I talk about how to create an effective study schedule, so you should definitely check that out for more tips.

3. Use highlighters. 

Forget about underlining with a boring pen or pencil. Highlighters add some color to your notes while helping the key information stand out to you better. So when you refer back to your notes later on, instead of reading every word from top to bottom your eyes will only glance over the highlighted aspects. And if you feel the need to highlight every single word in the textbook…you’re doing highlighters all wrong. Extra pro tip: create a color-coded key. Highlight vocabulary words or key terms in blue, key dates or formulas in yellow, key people in pink, and so on.

4. Come up with pneumonic devices. 

Pneumonic devices can often be clever, hilarious, and sometimes perverted, but, hey, whatever helps you remember key phrases from the textbook! I have relied heavily on pneumonic devices in the past. I also feel that they’re a more active way of reviewing information because you force yourself to think of ways to remember certain things rather than just repeating the information in your brain over and over again. What’s the silliest pneumonic device you’ve ever come up with? Let me know in the comments! 

5. Make up songs related to the material. 

When I was a Health Science major studying for my bio final, I needed to remember the Krebs cycle, but there were just so many steps to keep engrained in my mind. So, I looked up fun songs on YouTube and ended up finding the Krebs cycle sung to the tune of the infamous cup song! Mind you, it didn’t sing out every single small detail, but it helped me remember the major aspects of the cycle. Two years later, I still remember parts of the song by heart! You never know what will stick.

6. Email your TA. 

Your TA is a student just like you, and he or she was in your shoes just a year ago, so they know exactly how you feel right now. They also have the insider tips on doing well on exams. If you haven’t buddied up to your TA over the course of the semester, now would be a good time to reach out through email and start asking questions. Most TAs are extremely nice and will go out of their way to help their students. If you ask them to meet with you one-on-one, they’ll likely make the time in their own busy schedule. Your TA is a valuable resource, so make sure you actually get in touch with them before it’s too late.

How To Ace Your Finals

7. Attend the review session. 

I know your days of sitting in stuffy lecture halls are over (for this semester at least) but sometimes review sessions can help you go from confused out of your mind to on your way to getting a solid A- on that final. Attending review sessions also gives you the chance to ask your professor any last minute questions you might not have thought about before. Extra pro tip: cover at least part of the material before the review session so you can ask for clarification on anything that came across as confusing.

8. Start the day off with a positive attitude.

Finals week may be a week of sleep deprivation, but always plan to start the day off in a good mood. If you have to head to Starbucks or take a long hot shower to put a smile on your face, go for it. This will help put you in the mindset for getting work done, and you’ll feel more like you can accomplish what you set out to do. One of my favorite things to do that instantly puts me in a good mood is listening to music while I shower or brush my teeth. I also have a post on how to make your mornings more exciting if you’re interested.

What are your tips for acing your finals?

How To Study For A Class You Don’t Pay Attention In

How To Study For A Class You Don't Pay Attention In

Everyone has that one class that they haven’t really been paying attention in. Maybe it’s super boring and you can’t help but zone out or do something…less boring, like check your email or something. Maybe you use this class to catch up on work from other classes. No matter, finals week is coming up and you’re stuck choosing between momentarily getting your shit together to salvage as much of your grade as possible and pretty much giving up. It ain’t over till it’s over, so trying to salvage the grade sounds pretty appetizing. Especially since you may have the ghosts of semesters past clawing at your door for not paying attention — or is that just regret? If you aren’t even sure where to start prepping for your final, consider doing these things.

1. Form a study group.

The easiest way to obtain information that you’re missing is to collaborate with others who might be able to fill in the blanks. Notice the keyword here is collaborate. Don’t come into a study group empty-handed with nothing to contribute; the other people in the group will definitely be annoyed that you’re basically just there to mooch off of the notes they’ve been taking and not offer anything of your own.

2. Study the main themes outlined on the syllabus.

Seriously, syllabi are sometimes the only things that can help you keep it together and get organized. If you really don’t know where to start studying, refer back to the syllabus. It’ll give you a general idea of what you should look at. You can even use it as a checklist for when you complete each topic.

3. Round up whatever notes you did take in class.

This will be handy if you decide to start a study group. Plus, keeping the notes you did record could help you remember anything else you might’ve heard the professor mention, even if you were taking BuzzFeed quizzes while the professor was lecturing. This is definitely a good start and probably the second thing you should automatically do when studying for anything (the first being to look at the syllabus). For more study tips, be sure to check out my post on How To Have A Productive Library Study Session.

4. Go to the TA’s office hours while you still can.

The TA isn’t as intimidating because they’ll judge you less than the professor will for not knowing the material. It sounds harsh but professors totally keep track of who has their shit together and who doesn’t, and some of them are just more willing to go the extra mile for students who pay attention and make the effort rather than the ones who don’t (can you blame them, though?). TAs are students just like you, so they’ll be less harsh when filling you in. But do them a favor and make their job easier by coming prepared with at least a couple of specific questions about the material.

5. Practice problems that could be on the test.

This is great if you’re in a chemistry, math, or other science-y, math-y class. Usually, professors post previous exams online as study aids so this is definitely a good way to prepare for what’s to come. And if you swear up and down that you can’t solve a single problem on the previous exams, bring the test to your TA’s office hours and go over it with him or her.

6. Go to tutoring.

If you don’t want to constantly bother your TA, go to tutoring instead. Tutoring is also a good way to get one-on-one attention; if your TA is really popular, you can bet that everyone and their mother will be trying to go to office hours for the final push. So if you’re really behind consider scheduling an appointment with an on-campus tutor.

7. Review your previous exams.

This is a good way to reiterate the material that was taught over the course of the semester. Reviewing your own exams will also give you a sense on which topics were crystal clear and which ones you still need to work on. If you come across a question or topic that you struggled with on the exam, put a star next to it so you can review it with the TA or tutor, or ask if anyone in your study group arrived at the right answer.

8. Figure what you don’t know and learn it.

What it really comes down to is solidifying the stuff you kinda know and attacking what you don’t. You have more or less one week (a couple of days if you’re unlucky) to learn a semester’s worth of material, so you can’t afford to waste too much time on the concepts that you’re kind of good at.

What are your tips for studying for a class you don’t pay attention in? 

Related post: How To Finish The Semester Strong, The Ultimate Study Session Playlist

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