Finals, or as many students commonly refer to them as, “Fuck I Never Actually Learned (this) Shit.”
I know I’m not the only one when I say that the time between the last day of classes for the semester and the day of an exam is when I actually learn the material I’ve been taught all semester. Half-kidding, half-serious.
If you’re a procrastinator like me, or better yet, one that prepares all semester (I swear I try, but life happens and before you know it, it’s December). Regardless of what your study techniques are (or are not…is procrastination a technique?), finals tend to bring out stress in everyone.
You know – acne, restless sleeps, upset stomachs, moodiness, active bitch face (it comes out of its resting position during finals), etc. If you aren’t familiar with any of these physical manifestations of stress, then maybe you’re the girl (or boy) that has a meltdown in the middle of Target in front of a child you don’t know, snap at the Starbucks barista who forgot to use non-dairy ingredients and now you’re going to die, or just mope alone on your bedroom floor. Whatever your reaction, know that it happens to the best of us.
Fear not, I have some tried and true tips on how to survive finals.
Make a plan of attack on how you’ll master the material based on how many days between now & the exam(s).
I call these “countdown checklists,” because there is a finite period of time to accomplish everything. I write down specific tasks, by class, and then spread it out over my study period. Tonight I went through the syllabi for each of my classes, as I’ve learned those are the best ways to understand the order in which a class is taught (and likely to be tested). It also helps to create a “big picture” summary of what the class is about.
Ask for help early-on in your studying if you don’t understand a major concept (email the professor, phone a friend, you get the gist).
Waiting until the night before an exam to study (or try to learn a difficult concept), will not only leave you frustrated and stressed out, but you might not have enough time to master the material.
Lay it all out – notecards, outline, flowchart, drawing on a whiteboard, whatever works for you!
I’m a visual person when it comes to learning (like so many of you out there), so for me, I find it really helpful to lay out all the information in logical patterns (like for my Wills & Trusts class, it helps to make charts to understand how inheritance works, rather than just talking it through (if you’re an auditory learner, maybe talking is more beneficial to you).
Take care of yourself – no really: sleep & eat well, take a break from staring at a computer screen, & know that all you can put forth is your best effort.
Finals are stressful enough, you don’t have to make it worse by not taking care of yourself. Something as simple as penciling in a hot shower because you’ve been wearing the same thing for two days and you’re fueled on coffee and dry shampoo…it can be life-changing.
Remember to pace yourself throughout your exams (if you have several). Turn off social media if you’re easily distracted by it (I turn most of my chat notifications on silent until I’m taking a break from studying and want that turned on). Try to fuel up on healthy food instead of junk food, as I’ve been told that makes your brain work better (but here I am eating sugar cookies while typing this and not studying for finals…).
The night before the exam, stop studying. Go to bed early & have a decent breakfast in the morning (I’m not a huge breakfast person, but I never like to go into an exam starving, especially if it’s an early one; if it’s a long exam, bring snacks (if permitted, water, tissues, earplugs, a pencil sharpener, computer charger…whatever you might need). You’ve got this.
Anywhoo, in the interest of getting back to my own studies, I hope these tips are helpful to someone out there preparing for exams. Also, know in the grand scheme of things, an exam is not determinative of your self-worth and value as a person. Yes, it’s important to pass these things to get degrees and whatnot, but don’t lose yourself in the process.
Spoonie Adventures in Books, Beauty, & Bullshit
I'm a twenty-something year old recent law and business school grad living with a chronic health condition. Follow along on my shenanigans.