Declassified Finals Survival Guide

Final exams are quickly approaching, and for many students, this means all-nighters, cramming sessions, and trying to recall topics learned at the beginning of the semester.

It can be a stressful time of the term. You might be calculating how much you’ll need on your final to pass the class, or you might be taking this time to kick up your feet, knowing that even just getting a 30% on the final will guarantee you’ll still pass.

Either way, exams weeks are a trying time for all university students. In order to maintain your physical and emotional well-being during your finals period, here are some tips and tricks for optimal survival!

1. Get enough sleep

6-8 hours is the gold standard, especially when our brains are harbouring such crucial and important information. While studying for your exams, be sure to keep your circadian rhythm normal.

In order to do that, try to go to bed and wake up around the same times each day so that your body naturally falls in sync with your sleeping patterns. Remember to get plenty of sleep the day before your exam. This ensures that your brain is fully rested and can be prepared for the next day.

2. Try to avoid studying the night before

This sounds contradictory, right? Don’t study before a huge exam? That concept seems so wrong. However, studies have shown that information introduced to the brain the night before an exam has negative effects on recall.

If you’ve ever gone into a test and can’t remember anything you studied the night before, this is exactly why. Your brain usually retains specific details best when the information is spread out over a period of time.

Trying to cram things in right before your exam becomes redundant, because your brain only remembers a fraction of that information.

3. Make a (realistic) study schedule

An example of a Google Calendar study schedule

One of the most useful tools is a calendar to block out your study times so you can dedicate specific portions of your day to each topic(s) in each of your classes.

Be sure to be realistic and consider time for self-care, spending time with friends/family, and taking time to rest and be with yourself. Try not to overbook yourself and remember that your brain needs breaks.

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies and overthink how much we have to study, so much so that we can burn ourselves out. Show yourself kindness and do what works best for you!

4. Take advantage of office hours

If you’re ever confused about any of the topics discussed in class or want some clarification on concepts that may be on your final, your professor has set up office hours for this exact reason.

This is such a valuable opportunity that everybody should take advantage of, because it really sets you up for success and helps you to gain a better understanding of the course material directly from the prof or TA.

5. Know your learning style

There are 4 major learning styles that encompass strategies and areas of strengths in our learning. Knowing how you learn best can really help you in your study methods. The 4 types are: reading/writing, auditory, visual, and kinesthetic.

If you’re a reading/writing learner, you recall information better when you write down information and read from your notes. Visual learners often benefit from some type of visual aid like a diagram, flow sheet, or mind map. Hearing recorded lectures and learning from the recall of sounds are all examples of ways an auditory learner may study. Lastly, kinesthetic learners learn by doing; they need to practice a skill or use their hands in some type of way to understand and remember information.

Until I found out about these learning styles, I repeatedly wrote down my notes, thinking that would help me remember information better. Then I found out that I was a kinesthetic learner and everything made sense. If I knew how to apply skills in a real-world sense, I remembered things better during exams.

Want to know what type of learner you are? Take the VARK Questionnaire.

Good luck on your finals!

Whether this is your first university final or 50th, exams can be stressful in unique ways for everyone. Remember to take your time and to do what you feel is best for you.

When you need to take a break, engage in activities that make you happy and can help implement balance between your life and your studies.

You’ve got this!

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