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Surviving Final Exams With Your Sanity Intact.

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Final exams can be grueling. Students usually have two primary goals when it comes to finals. First, you want to do well as possible on the exam. Second, you want to get through exams with your sanity intact. Fortunately, both goals are possible with the right study techniques. Here are some study tips to successfully get through finals and stay sane:

  • Ideally, you should have been reviewing your notes, assignments, and exams all semester to avoid cramming the night before the final. Of course, most college students do not follow this rule. Try to start studying for finals at least two weeks in advance. If you are behind in required class readings, you will have a lot of reading to do for finals. Try to learn the material the first time it’s taught. Sometimes, if you pay attention and actively participate in class, you can forgo some of the required reading.
  • Check the finals schedule for your classes and note exam times. Note deadlines for any project or paper. Check for conflicts. If you have two tests that overlap, immediately make arrangements to take one of the tests at an alternate time. If you’re scheduled to work during a test time, resolve this conflict as quickly as possible. Find out ahead of time if the professor will be requiring a bluebook for the exam.
  • Be prepared for some seriously intensive study and plan for it accordingly. Make an ordered list of things to study and projects to complete based on time and importance. Study and complete the projects that will be worth more of your grade first. Without a schedule, it is easier to mismanage your study time. Know where you currently stand grade wise in your classes, so you know how well you have to do on the final to get the grade you desire. Mark out your study plan for the weeks ahead. Don’t try to spend all day studying one thing or you will burn out. Make sure to schedule breaks. Remember that it usually takes longer than you think to write a paper. Some people have more energy in the daytime, while others have higher efficiency during the late hours of the night. Find what works best for you and dedicate your more difficult tasks to high-energy study times.
  • Gather information about the test. Find out what the test will cover. Some finals are comprehensive and will cover material from the entire semester. Others focus only on recent material. If the test is comprehensive, be sure to study old tests and notes. Will the final be multiple choice, essay, true/false, or a combination? For a multiple-choice or true/false test, you may have to know specific details, which requires paying more attention to detail when studying. For an essay test, you will have to study topics in a broader sense because you will have to be more analytical.
  • Stay healthy. Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat healthy during the weeks leading up to finals and during finals week. You’ll do much better if your mental state is good – sleep is essential for this. Exercise is a great break. It relieves stress. Never underestimate the value of a brisk walk. Eat healthy foods to fuel your body and brain. A steady diet of junk food and Gatorade may make you feel sluggish. Avoid caffeine. While it will make you feel awake, it can cause you to be jittery. You don’t want to add any stimulation to the stress and anxiety you are already feeling.
  • Pick an appropriate place to study. A good studying environment will allow you to better retain information, so pick a place that is conducive to your needs. Computer labs and libraries on campus may have extended hours finals weeks – some 24 hours a day. Regardless of where you choose to study, make sure to turn off the TV, don’t even think about e-mailing, and turn off your cell phone – yes, setting it on vibrate is cheating. Remove all possible distractions and interruptions.
  • It is extremely rare, perhaps even impossible, to learn an entire semester in one night. While cramming is not the best way to prepare for an exam, it is sometimes necessary. 44% of students classify themselves as “last- minute crammers”. Only three percent of students surveyed say they “never” procrastinate during finals. If you do cram, do it within 24 hours of your final, so the content is fresh in your head. Review all of your material at least once. Remember, when you cram, your focus is on memorization of the material, not necessarily learning it.
  • When studying for finals, repetition is key. Use the note card system – it is great for memorizing facts and is portable. You can study while waiting in line, while eating your meals, etc. Consider starting a finals study group or at least pairing up with one other person from class. Review your previous tests. Spend most of your time learning what you got wrong.
  • With all the stress and tension that goes on during finals, it can be tempting to get someone else to write your paper, to sneak an answer from the person next to you, or to plagiarize. It isn’t worth it. The consequences of cheating can cost you your college career.
  • Avoid getting to class too early for your final. Time before exams is usually spent engaging in idle worrying. Be aware of your anxiety and use deep breathing or positive self talk to combat it.
  • Don’t talk about finals all of the time. Everyone seems to bitch about their final schedules and how freaked out they are. This adds stress and doesn’t help your situation at all. Let your friends know that you don’t want to hear it – in a nice way, of course.
  • Keep your exuberant behavior to a minimum when you are finished with finals. You may be done, but others may not be. Most residential halls have quiet hours during finals week. Respect them. Do your celebrating away from the dorms.
  • Remember one thing – When it’s over, it’s over. After you turn in that Scantron sheet, there’s not much else you can do. Worrying after the fact won’t improve your grade.

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