Getting ready for finals does not need to be the anxiety-inducing, painful process that so many of us make it out to be. Being a great test-taker is about learning how to maximize your time, so start planning now! Just a little bit of extra preparation will help you learn and retain more for test day. Read on and good luck!
1. Make the TIME to study
- Count forward from the day the study guide or questions are handed out to the day of the test to put your plan into effect. For example, “Seven days? Then I’ll split the test material into seven parts and study about two weeks’ worth of notes and reading each day.”
- Schedule every hour of every day of your study plan, including breaks. Now’s the time to hunker down and hit the books. Whether it’s a physical or online calendar doesn’t matter—what does matter is setting clear and realistic goals for the hours of time that you do set aside for studying. Also, remember to set aside time for social networking and gaming (they don’t mix well with study time).
- Draft your study plan 3-4 weeks before the test. We all know that it’s smart to set aside a little time each week to go over your course notes—but so is eating lots of vegetables. It’s hard and takes practiced discipline over time. Meanwhile, it’s important to account for lost time by making a plan now. If you have to shed unnecessary commitments in order to create more hours for studying, this is the time.
2. Use the TIME wisely
- Prioritize your study hours. If you are better at a certain subject or you know that one final is going to be easier than another, then you can spend more time on the class that you slept through half of. Take this into account when planning your study schedule. Also, make sure to take breaks and rewards in the form of snacks and exercise, which will help you stay motivated and keep your mind fresh.
- Clarify the content and format of your finals. Will it focus on material taught since the midterm or will it be comprehensive or cumulative (meaning on everything taught since the first day of school)? Will it be comprised of short-answer, essay, or multiple-choice questions? A combination of these? Knowing this info will help you set goals in your study calendar.
- Take advantage of study guides, review sessions, and your own notes. If your teacher holds extra review sessions, go! They will often drop clues and hints to what might appear on the exams, or use certain examples over and over again in a study guide. Most importantly, though, figure out how you study best. Try rewriting or summarizing your notes and/or the chapter instead of just re-reading them.
3. Apply the TIME well on the test
- Get a good night’s sleep. We know you have heard this one before, but it’s true. Sleep reinforces memory and cognitive retention, so whatever you are staying up cramming for is going to end up competing with your brain’s fatigue on the day of the test. Overdoing it on caffeine and energy drinks can only make the situation worse, so try to naturally energize yourself instead.
- Develop your answers fully. This is especially important if your teacher allows you to have a cheat sheet or notes on your final. Pretend you are writing for someone that knows NOTHING about the topic. This makes it much easier for them to give you a good grade because you are being extra clear!
- Stay until the bitter end. Proofread your answers or add extra details to your essay or short answers. Teachers notice when you make an extra effort!
With just a little bit of time on your side, you will surprise yourself with how much you know and retain for test day. Your formula for finals success is easy: TIME x 3!