For almost all students, finals week is incredibly stressful, and for a good reason. The final exam is the exclamation point at the end of the course, and because you know the difference in your grade that the final exam can make. It often leaves students stressed and frantic.
When I was going through college, I had some classes that I was on the borderline between two grades. I usually felt very stressed when I was walking into some finals because I wanted to maintain the highest grade possible.
One of the challenges of finals week is you have to study for all of your classes in one week. And on top of that, you are often running on less than optimal sleep, which increases fatigue over time. Finals week will test your limits, but if you keep these tips in mind, you will be on your way to a successful finals week.
The first step is studying. Now I know this one is a brainer, but it needs to be said. Hopefully, studying for finals is more about reminding yourself and re-examining what you learned over the quarter or semester. You are not trying to teach yourself an entire term worth of material in one week. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel, and the better you will perform.
Do your best to limit your distractions and avoid checking social media.
A general rule for when you study for finals week is that you should avoid multitasking. When it’s time to study, you should focus on the material you need to learn. So, put your phone on airplane mode or turn it off and avoid using Facebook!
Long periods of studying can be draining, and over time your ability to focus might diminish. For this reason, it is essential to take strategic breaks. And you can use your breaks to have a stretch, go for a walk, check Facebook, text your friends, or whatever it takes to help you recharge and clear your head.
Every person is going to have their study secrets, tips, and tricks. Let’s go over some general guidelines. First, you want to plan out when you have finals week. How much time you think you might need for every course and plan out are the most important things you need to learn.
I already mentioned that you should silence your cell phone, but another thing you want to do is put yourself in a quiet and study-friendly environment. When approaching engineering or science problems, you should start by looking over your old exams and analyzing what you got wrong, why you got it wrong, and study those concepts and practice problems first. Here are some study tips I have found to be the most efficient way to study for exams that require mathematics and problem-solving. They include;
- Find practice problems in your book.
- Attempt to complete those practice problems before you refer to your notes. When you get stuck or don’t know what comes next, then go to your notes.
- Look over your notes and find out where you made a mistake and what you should do next.
- Complete the problem with the help of your notes, and then repeat that process.
The best way to maximize efficiency during finals week is using the weekend before finals week to focus on studying. That will be the one time you do not have to commute to campus for exams or plan you are studying around exams. Use this weekend to isolate yourself in your room or carve out a beautiful section in the library. That might mean you have to decline social engagements like a lunch date or even stay in on a Friday or Saturday night. There will be many other weekends for lunch dates and parties. Spend this weekend studying!
One thing that might be helpful for studying is by studying in a group of 2 to 3 people and take turns explaining problems to each other as if you are teaching it to the other person. Talking a problem out and fully explaining a problem to another person even if they know how to solve it will refine your understanding of the concept. Studying in a group is not required, but it can be helpful. However, you want to be very selective about who you let into your study group.
Lastly, my recommendation is not to exceed three or four people in the group because the study session with more than four people tends to be more distracting than productive.
Despite what you might think, you need to sleep. All-nighters a common practice, and sometimes it is necessary to finish a project before a deadline, but do yourself a favor and get some sleep during finals week. An all-nighter early in the week will only set you up for failure and fatigue later in the week.
If you are fatigued and it’s 3 a.m. before your test, staying up one more hour to solve more problems is likely not going to make or break your grade. Staying up that extra hour might even decrease your ability to recall the information you already studied. You will likely feel fatigued over the week, but you should try and get as much sleep as possible.
Everyone is unique in their sleep requirements, but the general recommendation is adults need between 7–9 to sleep. Whatever enough sleep is for, you usually do your best to get close to that every night. Seven hours of sleep might be unfeasible because of the amount of work you will have during finals week. Get as much sleep as you can.
Besides, ten to thirty-minute naps may give you the boost you need to get through your next study session. It can also improve alertness and memory recall. You should avoid napping longer than forty-five minutes or else because you’ll risk feeling groggy when you wake up.
Lastly, try implementing coffee naps. If you are not familiar with a coffee nap, what you do is drink a cup of coffee right before you plan to take a nap. Set your timer for 15 to 30 minutes, and by the time you wake up, the caffeine from the coffee will start to take effect, and you also have the cognitive boost from your nap.
You need to eat well during finals week. Having to make individual meals during finals can be a considerable inconvenience and time waster. So, planning is the most efficient way to fuel appropriately throughout the week. The easiest way to get through finals week and eat healthy is to prepare ahead of time. Either make your meals for the week or go to the grocery store and buy a week worth of pre-made meals.
By having a little forethought in what you will eat for the week, you will save yourself from the unhealthy impulse. Without going into too much detail and turning this into a nutrition class, focus your diet on food. That will satisfy you and keep your energy levels up. Focus your diet around fruits, lots of vegetables, proteins, and complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and oatmeal. Almonds and nuts are a healthy snack, but just don’t get carried away.
One of the first things that students ditch when they get busy with school is exercise. At college gyms, it certainly seems like everyone stops going to the gym during finals week. When you’re in the middle of finals week, it might feel like you are just too busy to exercise, but even a simple 15 to 20-minutes walk would be beneficial. Short 15 to 20-minutes walks are also a great way to implement breaks into your study sessions. By getting up and moving, stretching, and walking will help give you a brain a break and allow you to come back stronger and recharge. Going out for a light walk will help reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and overall improve your mood. Exercise will give your brain a break it needs from the relentless grind of finals week. Lastly, it will allow you to store more information when you return to the books.
In conclusion, finals week is the time for you to dig a little deeper and finish your term strong. This week can be stressful, but with the proper planning and focus, you can excel throughout the week.