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Study Tips for Finals



College might seem like a marathon, but each semester or quarter can feel more like a sprint, with the syllabus as the starting block and finals week as the finish.

The good news is that you learn a tremendous amount of new information during those weeks. The bad news is that, before you can ride off into the sunset of class break, you have to Remember. It. All.

Finals week is when the library is aglow 24 hours a day, full of students with their noses in books or laptops, possibly on the verge of a freak-out. It’s exhausting to be sure, and the stakes can be high, especially for students whose financial aid require that they maintain a minimum GPA.

But while finals week can be taxing, it doesn’t have to be chaotic. These study tips for finals can help you plan, prepare and tackle each test with confidence.

Creating Your Own Study Guide


If the philosophy holds true that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else, then creating your own study guide could be a great way to teach yourself.

Consider using the teacher-provided study guide as a base that you customize, or start from scratch and organize the materials in the way that works best for your learning style.

Perhaps pictures work better for you than words, or you visualize one type of graphic better than another.

To get far ahead of the study curve, consider starting your study guide on Day One of class and add to it as the semester goes on. By the time finals roll around, you may only need a quick review to be prepared.

Finals with Friends


This one of those study tips for finals that probably should come with an asterisk, because studying as a group can be successful—or not so much.

It depends greatly on the people in the group and their study habits, ability to focus, and determination. If you find a dedicated group of like-minded students, it can be a great way to talk through difficult concepts (philosophy or ethics class, anyone?), quiz one another on terminology, or work together to solve complicated equations.

One study found that learning as a group was associated with higher engagement, motivation, and self-efficacy, which in turn had a positive link to grades.

In other words, a solid study group has the potential to create magic—and maybe even A’s!—but if you’re not feeling it, you may want to fly solo instead.

Attending the Review Sessions


Whether they happen during regular class time or as an addendum, test-review sessions can be an easy way to both affirm what you already know and remind you of concepts you may have forgotten along the way.

And, if the professors or TAs leading the review are the same people who wrote the test, it could be a good opportunity to get a little insight into the exam form or even the questions themselves.

A test review can also go a long way toward easing anxiety by not only helping you focus on what to study, but how to study it. (And for bonus points, learning effective study skills can apply to other courses, too.)

Dividing and Prioritizing


The average person can only hold seven pieces of information in their short-term memory at once, give or take. (No wonder students facing a mountain of tests and final projects can feel overwhelmed.)

The good news is there are several approaches for getting over this mental hurdle, including a growing trend known as chunking.

It works by combining separate pieces of information into a larger chunk that you’re already familiar with. For example, an area code that you’re familiar with isn’t three separate numbers, it’s one piece of information. The more chunks you create, the more information you can fit into those seven information slots.

Another approach to consider is prioritizing study topics either by deadline or toughest subject matter. If you had the most trouble with chemistry, for example, you could spend the most time studying for that final.

It’s possible to break it down even further per subject by focusing on the items you know will be on the test first.

Taking Care of You


For many experts, this is the most important of all the final exam study tips, because all the prioritizing, chunking, reviewing and flashcarding in the world won’t be of much use if you fall asleep and miss the exam.

In fact, a recent study found that students who slept for eight full hours did better on their finals. And another one showed that a good study session followed by an equally good sleep session can improve recall, focus, and problem-solving skills.

In addition, some emerging research points to diet having an impact on how the brain and body functions. More and more research indicates a relationship between the foods you eat, and how well your brain performs.

Nutrition is personal, but there are certain foods that may help with brain function , including salmon, eggs, and leafy greens.

For more information on creating a healthy diet, check out Choose My Plate , which is run by the United States Department of Agriculture. Here, you can find interactive tools and tips, as well as the full federal nutritional guidelines for Americans.

Last but not least, it can be a good idea step away once in a while to stretch your legs and focus your eyes to the distance.

One popular productivity method with built-in breaks is called sprinting (there’s that track and field metaphor again), which involves going all-in on a task without distraction for a set amount of time and then completely stopping for a set period. It’s promoted mostly for professional work environments, but can be applied to studying, too.

During breaks, consider hitting the reset button by meditating, taking a walk, eating a healthy snack, or even taking a quick nap. Spending the time rejuvenating your body and mind could help make the next study session even more successful.

Studying Up On Loans


College can be fast-paced, exciting, and full of achievements, but it can also be expensive. And while much of today’s news focuses on the trillion-dollar debt crisis crisis facing graduates, there’s also an argument that student loans can help give students the money they need to focus on academics without having to worry about things like affording food.

Student loans are available from either the federal government or a private lender. While we feel strongly that you should explore all your federal aid options first—including loans, grants, and work-study programs—if you find yourself coming up short, we may be able to help. SoFi private student loans have competitive rates, flexible repayment options, and no fees, no matter what.

Learn more about private student loans with SoFi.

Learn More


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