Guide to Getting Through Final Exams

Spring showers, thunderstorms, sunshine and 70 degree weather can only mean one thing in Syracuse- it’s almost time for summer. The last few months have flown by and this is my last week of classes before finals.

Creative commons photo by Flickr user leeroy09481
Creative commons photo by Flickr user leeroy09481

Uggg, finals.  Can you sense my excitement? Three months away from the classroom is just around the corner, but today, I doubt you could find a single student on campus who isn’t feeling the pressure of finals week.

There are a few tips to keep your head above water when the month of May starts to roll around, but it might take some extreme willpower to stay on track. I know it does for me.

Make a schedule

After my first year at Syracuse I realized that I needed to rework how I go about studying for finals week.  Writing a paper in one night and then leaving yourself only an hour or two to study for an exam just doesn’t work.  Trust me, I’ve tried.

Creative commons photo by Flickr user Chapendra
Creative commons photo by Flickr user Chapendra

Handwrite a schedule of what day and time all of your finals are.  Then add when you will study for each exam and write each paper.  Hang this up somewhere where you will see it every day.  It will serve as a great reminder and keep you on task.

You can even try using post it notes, one note for each day.  I like doing this and then sticking them to the door of my closet.  Then when that day passes I can take the note down and feel accomplished.

Remember to start early! We all give in to procrastination, but if there is one time a year you need to be on your game, this is it.

Think of creative study aids

When I have an exam with a lot of factual information to memorize, I record myself reading my notes.  I then make this into an mp3 and put it on my iPod so I can listen to it while I walk to class and ride the bus.  It’s a great time saver and I find that if I keep listening over and over, I start to remember the material without much effort.

Study guides are a great way to help yourself learn.  I usually prefer just written documents that I can print out and carry around with me, but I’ve also tried making Powerpoint and Prezi presentations.  These might take a bit more work to actually create, but they’re a great way to utilize video, sound and text in your learning.

GRE flashcards (Creative commons photo by Flickr user Seroj Regmi)
Creative commons photo by Flickr user Seroj Regmi

And of course, there is the always-trusty flash card method.  I like to make matching games with words and definitions.  Learning is always easier when you make it fun.

Talk with professors

I know a lot of my peers don’t like to go meet with professors outside of class, but that’s what they’re there for.  I’ll admit, I don’t utilize office hours as much as I should, but I’ve learned that it’s great to get feedback on papers before you submit final drafts.

Talking with your professors to clarify concepts or just get some advice on how to study or make that thesis stronger will improve your grade.

Sleep and don’t overdo it on the caffeine

I fail at this step every time, but I will keep trying.

You’ll do your best work when you’re well rested and aren’t shaking from that fifth cup of coffee.  As a college student, I may be used to writing papers and studying for exams at three in the morning, but having to wake up and go take an exam on only four hours of sleep is painful at best.

Next week I will turn in four papers, take one exam, and do one presentation.  So far, I have started exactly one of these assignments.  Guess I’m not so great at taking my own advice.  However, my current caffeine-withdrawal headache is a clear indication that I have not yet given in to my coffee addiction.  Maybe I do have some will power after all, or maybe it’s just time for a trip to Starbucks.

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