How to survive finals

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Got to love those little circles. Alberto G

It’s that dreadful time of year again

With the fall semester quickly wrapping up, and only 11 class days remaining, the dreadful and stressful time of final exams will soon be here. I’m sorry, but I just can’t sugar-coat it: finals suck. Fortunately, as someone who has written numerous finals over the course of the past five years, I have learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are ten tips for not only surviving, but conquering your final exams.

  1. Study in Advance

While it may seem like your only option is to cram the day before, don’t! Instead, begin studying a couple of weeks beforehand. For each of your classes, dedicate a little bit of time each week to study, even if it just an hour or two. This approach will not only allow you to be better prepared, but will also prevent you from getting overwhelmed right before your final.

  1. Do your Pre-work:

University finals require significant effort and pre-work to be successful. Depending on the course, this pre-work may include practice questions, charts, study cards, essay outlines, and reference sheets. All of this pre-work takes a lot of effort and is time consuming, but these are some of the best ways to study course material. Additionally, if a professor provides you with essay topics beforehand, or allows a reference sheet to be brought in to the exam, use this to your advantage! Set aside some time to make a detailed sheet, or prepare an essay outline. Anything you can do to make a final easier on yourself is well worth it.

  1. Review the Information

With every class, there’s always a lot of info to go over and it is important that this information is reviewed multiple times, not simply glanced over. Although it can be extremely time-consuming to make study cards, this has honestly been my go to review method since my grade nine social studies class (thank you, Mr. Menhart). However, everyone has their own system, whether that is reviewing study cards, making detailed notes, rereading and highlighting sections of your notes or textbook, or forming a study group. Find a method that works for you and stick with it.

  1. Ask questions

There is nothing worse than studying material for a final that you don’t understand. Professors are here to teach and help you learn; that is their job. If you forget, or simply don’t understand the material, ask your professor.  Most professors are more than willing to answer your questions, review concepts, and will usually make time outside of their regular office hours to meet with you. However, it is your responsibility to reach out to them and I would suggest doing so early, rather than the night before the exam.

  1. Take Time for Yourself

There is only so much your brain can take at once. Therefore, it is important for both your mental health and overall sanity that you take multiple breaks when studying. For every couple of hours you spend studying, take some time to do something you enjoy, whether that is reading, playing Just Dance on Wii, baking, watching some TV, or simply going for a walk.

  1. Manage Your Time

Study time is limited and as a result, it is essential that you manage your time wisely. Instead of focusing on information or concepts that you understand well, give more attention to the areas that you struggle with and find the most difficult.

  1. Be Ready for the Day of

Make sure you have the necessary items for writing your exam, such as pencils, pens, calculator, text books, reference sheets and student ID card. Pack everything the night before. That way you won’t accidentally forget something important the next morning. There are also some other items you should consider bringing, like Kleenex, a water bottle and a sweater.  During a final, water is good to have in case you get overheated, or your throat gets dry. Kleenex is good because you don’t want to be that snuffly student who is an extreme annoyance to everyone around them. Additionally, at some point while writing, you may get chilly and will be glad to have a sweater.

  1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

I know that the night before an exam is usually the time when students do the majority of their studying. However, staying up late studying is honestly not the best idea. In order to do the best on your exam, you need your sleep. Turn in early and try and get at least seven to eight hours. It is a lot easier to think and write an exam when you have had enough hours of sleep. To get a good night’s sleep, eliminate all distractions and destress a little bit beforehand. Maybe watch some TV, or listen to music and have a nice light snack such as fruit or almonds.

  1. Eat good and healthy food

In addition to skill and knowledge, writing finals also require a lot of energy and brainpower. It is important that you eat something healthy before writing an exam, to not only give yourself the energy, but also to fuel your brain so that you can do your absolute best.  Although your exam may be later in the day, eating a healthy breakfast is still important. Also, if your exam is later on, make sure to have some healthy snacks throughout the day, especially shortly before you write your exam.

  1. Stay Positive

While it is important to do last minute studying in the few hours before your exam, I would argue that it is just as important to pump yourself up. Go for a short walk, or listen to some good tunes. These types of activities will release endorphins which will increase your positivity and help you focus when you write your exam. Overall, be confident. You put in the effort and work all semester and you can do this!

Best of luck to all university students with your upcoming final exams. On the bright side, once you finish, you can relax and enjoy the wonderful holiday season!

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