Upperclassmen on how to prepare for finals. Graphic by Haley Morkert.
ZOE MILLER | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The end of the school year is less than a month away, which means the most dreaded week of the semester is quickly approaching: finals week. Nothing can send college students into a full-blown panic quicker than those two words. Professors are beginning to wrap up class material and students are beginning to question how they will possibly remember everything for a cumulative exam. This begs the question: what is the best way to prepare for finals?
Everyone studies in different ways, but there are a few study methods that seem to be the most effective in terms of studying for large exams.
Maddi Eary is a senior English and race, gender and sexuality studies double major. Having completed seven semesters of finals, she has mastered the art of effective study methods.
“I studied for 50 minutes, and I took a 10-minute break,” Eary said. “So you need at least a full hour for your session. If you set a timer for 50 minutes, and then not let yourself get distracted … it goes by much faster.”
The method Eary is referring to is called The Pomodoro Technique and can be done at a variety of time intervals. When it was created, the idea was to study for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break, but the main goal is simply to split a large task into smaller pieces that are more manageable. The amount of time spent studying can vary depending on what works best for an individual. Taking a break at the end of a period of studying will hopefully provide more motivation to stay focused.
While studying outside of class is very important, paying attention in class is also crucial. Beyond just writing down what is displayed on the PowerPoints, there are other ways to be prepared for any question a professor may ask.
Alex Stencel, a senior political science major, said paying attention to bolded and underlined words is essential. Along with this, paying attention to what the professor is actually saying is equally significant.
“A lot of the time the teachers will use what they’re saying in class on exams,” Stencel said.
Stencel said it is important to take note of the information professors are adding in addition to what is on the presentation. Not only will this make the material easier to understand, but it will make certain there are no surprises on the exam.
Another key study method Stencel mentioned is reviewing past assignments and slides posted on Canvas. This includes past exams, homework and projects. Reviewing can help refresh old material, while also reminding students what they missed and what needs to be studied again.
Timing and good notes are crucial for an effective study session, but what is the best way to go about actually retaining all of the information from class?
For many students, this tends to be a difficult task. Flashcards are helpful for vocabulary but do not necessarily help in understanding concepts. Looking over notes also tends to be ineffective. Most content requires a study method that will help students truly understand the concepts mentioned in class.
Yara Batista, a senior biology major, uses a creative and effective approach to studying large amounts of material. Batista said that she uses her notes and the slides from professors to create her own study guide. This allows her to predict what questions professors may put on the exam, and test her ability to answer the questions.
“I think if you can teach something to somebody, that means you know it really well,” Batista said.
If peers and friends are willing to endure it, explaining concepts from class to someone is an effective way to check for a full understanding of the material. Quizzing classmates is also an easy way to test knowledge of the material. Batista uses the combination of these study methods to productively prepare for an exam.
The environment chosen to study in is crucial for a productive study session. Some people prefer to study in complete silence, while others prefer a noisy coffee shop. Not only do coffee shops provide students with easy access to excessive amounts of caffeine, but the ambient background noise has been proven to enhance the effectiveness of studying. Testing these options out and seeing which works best will help optimize the study routine.
If complete silence is the most effective studying atmosphere for a student but they wish to escape the confines of a tiny room, Batista said the Science Library and Irwin Library are both great options. The libraries are typically very quiet and have many individual study rooms that will allow students to focus without any background noise.
“I have noise-canceling headphones on and tell my roommates to leave me alone,” Eary said.
If a student prefers to stay in their own room and study, investing in a good pair of noise-canceling headphones might help. Eary is able to stay in the comfort of her own room without the normal noise distractions that come with having roommates.
If a student prefers to study with background noise, Starbucks and the Butler Brew are both options on campus with plenty of tables to study at. There are also many forms of audio that can improve concentration, such as brown noise, that are said to help reduce external stimuli.
’Twas the night before finals
Putting off studying until the night before is not recommended, but there are a few things that can help reduce stress and improve exam performance.
“I prioritize sleep,” Eary said. “It’s so helpful because then your brain has time to absorb all the information.”
Eary said she aims for nine hours of sleep a night. While nine hours of sleep might not be attainable for everyone, trying to go to sleep early and allowing the body to rest will be beneficial the next day. Sleeping is scientifically proven to help the brain absorb information and recall memories, so close out of Quizlet and get in bed.
Eary also said that she likes to do something “self-care oriented” the night before an exam.
Making cookies, watching a good movie or ordering a favorite food are all ways to ease the mind and reduce stress for a few hours. In the midst of finals, self-care is essential to staying mentally and physically healthy.
“I’m usually up studying and then when I do go to sleep, I don’t worry about it at all in the morning,” Stencel said.
In a nutshell, reducing stress is one of the best ways to prepare right before an exam. Stress can lead to a lack of concentration and an overall poor performance on the exam. This is easier said than done, but trying to relax for at least a few hours can go a long way.
There is no perfect method to studying for finals, as they are inherently designed to be difficult and test knowledge of content over an entire semester. However, there are many ways to improve study methods and mental well-being during preparation for finals.
Ultimately, finals are only one week out of the whole semester. Eary said as long as students are working hard, they should try not to stress too much about their exams.
“At the end of the day, you’ll probably still get a degree,” Eary said.