Final exams are just around the corner, and whether this is your first semester or you are a seasoned pro, college finals can be the most challenging time of the semester. This means managing your time, using effective study strategies, and handling stress by taking care of yourself is on the agenda.

Managing your time: Prepare in advance and set priorities.

The process of keeping track of what you need to do is simple, but it takes practice. Keeping a calendar that contains your “to do” list and all important deadlines allows you divide your time across your classes. It’s helpful to determine how urgent your study priorities are. Using a quick number system allows you to see what you must tackle first. Label urgent items with a “1.” Important but non urgent items get a “2.” Unimportant items get labeled as a “3.” You will need to check in with your calendar every day because your priorities will evolve.

This systematic process allows you to schedule time for and keep track of your class priorities. As you get closer to your final exams, this system becomes that much more important. In the weeks leading up to those exams, for each class find out…

  • What type of test will it be? (multiple choice, short answer, essay…)
  • How much of your grade will it be worth?
  • What will be covered? Some professors will provide you with an exam review and some will not. In either case, prepare your own written review of relevant topics, textbook chapters, past exams, and assignments.
  • Decide how much time you should spend on each class every day leading up to the exam and put this information on your calendar; remember, several short review sessions are more effective than one-panicky-night-before-cram session. As you complete your study, cross of topics as you go.

Effective study strategies.

If you routinely use the SQ4R method, now is the time to use the “Review” step.

Flashcards are one of the best ways to revise your notes and they are great for learning definitions. Flashcards are portable allowing you to take them wherever you go – on the bus or waiting at the doctor’s office, for example. You have the option of creating a flashcard with paper and pencil or using one of the smartphone apps available today.

Group Study is a great way to review information and boost recall. Talking about different topics with your classmates will help you think more deeply about the concepts, and will help you understand the material better. It’s understood that concepts you can teach to someone else means you have learned that concept at a deeper level. As a bonus, you might share a few good laughs with your peers which is a great stress reducer.

Take care of yourself.

  • Make sure you get enough sleep each night so you can focus and study more effectively the days leading up to your exams.
  • It’s important to take scheduled breaks. A healthy study session lasts approximately 50 minutes followed by a 5-10 minute break before you dig in again.
  • Getting regular exercise helps you perform better in your studies. A 30 minute daily walk relaxes your body and boosts memory and mood. Why not give it a try?
  • Strive to maintain a healthy diet. Opt for snacks and meals that have a combination of complex carbs and protein. Food choices like this give your brain and body energy and you will notice that your alertness and your ability to concentrate get a boost.
  • Lastly, remember to breath. Take some deep breaths whenever you notice your tension levels begin to rise. A few deep belly breaths calm your nervous system so you can focus.


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