Remote learning is a whole new ballgame, but hopefully you’ve gotten into a groove in recent weeks. Just in time for finals!

It’s one thing to figure out how to study effectively while learning remotely, but it’s something else entirely to study in today’s remote learning landscape for exams, which might be proctored or unproctored and much different from any others you’ve taken before. If your professors and instructors have told you that you’ll be taking exams to wrap up the semester, you might be wondering how to approach your study plan. Here are a few tips:

Get the clarity you need about expectations.

By now, your instructors and professors, one hopes, have been in contact with you about what the end of the semester might look like. If not, you should reach out to find out whether you’re having a final exam, alternate assignment or exam, whether the exam will be proctored or unproctored, etc. It’s important to make sure you know what is coming and what has changed in terms of how you will be assessed and graded.

Develop a study schedule.

“Asynchronous learning” means you can do your school work on your own schedule, which has pros and cons. One pro, of course, is flexibility. You can do the work when you want to and around your other responsibilities. One con, however, is that it’s easy to succumb to procrastination. Don’t let your exam study schedule suffer because you’re given more autonomy in how you “go to class” and study. As with a normal semester, avoid cramming, and space out your study sessions.

Be proactive about using the tools the teacher provides.

If a professor suggests using an online quiz platform or pretest provided by the textbook publisher to prepare for your upcoming final, make sure you do so. Studying for finals or end-of-course tests is going to look different this year, no doubt. Get prepared by following instructors’ tips and using the tools they offer, whether those are online review sessions, websites, Zoom discussions with the class, or something else. 

Challenge your assumptions about what works best for you.

You’ve probably heard a lot about “best practices” for studying effectively, and maybe you’ve made some broad assumptions. It’s okay to have a favorite study method, but don’t be afraid to try new things too. If you’ve historically avoided study groups, thinking you work better on your own, set up a FaceTime or Zoom study session for a change. Use your D2L class list and start reaching out. If reading has always been your go-to when reviewing for a test, try flash cards and other methods.  

Change up your study surroundings.

You’ve probably heard before that studying in different places can actually boost your long-term retention of information. A new environment gives you more memory cues to help you remember what you learned where. So, study under a tree in your backyard, or on your porch, or while sitting in your car somewhere. It might just work wonders for your test score. 

Move around and take breaks.

Another tried-and-true study tip applies to remote learning: Space out your study sessions. Studying material over a period of time is always more effective than cramming it into the brain during one long marathon session. And there are lots of benefits of taking “brain breaks” and getting a little physical activity while learning.

You’ve worked hard all school year. Maybe you’ve opted to raise your grade through your final exams. Communicate with your instructors and professors, and give your finals your best effort. It’s time to finish strong and keep your eyes on the future. This might be your most interesting semester of college yet, but remember that you’ll come out stronger.

Thanks to Eric Salahub, an instructional coach at FRCC and recipient of the Colorado Community College System’s Teaching with Technology Award (2019), for his input on this blog.

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