Stressed about finals? How to study the right way

Graphic by Seth Walker

In approximately one week, the entire content of your class will be summed up into a two-hour exam, and to emphasize the importance of this final, realize that many professors have made the final a large percentage of your grade (up to one-third). This is one test you cannot bomb. But in order to succeed, you must first prepare. That’s where effective studying comes in handy.

First off, you need to designate study time in not just one but several days. Cramming the night before may have worked in high school, but only because classes do not span over a year, instead, only a few months. Find a way to effectively divide up the material you need to review before the final. Perhaps conquer three chapters a day before the week is over. By distributing your studying material, you will have a higher retention level.

The location of where you study matters. While the cafeteria is nice because you can casually chat with friends and munch on pizza, it’s not the best. Though some may be able to effectively focus in busy environments, the majority of students need a quiet environment filled with minimal distractions. There are several great study spots on campus: The math/writing lab, the library, the student programs study area, the science (S) building, and if the weather is nice, the outside tables in the courtyards.

Once you have established a schedule and location to study, it’s time to get that information in your head! A lot of professors will provide a study guide that you should utilize completely. In the event that you are fortunate enough to have a study guide, break it up in such a way that works for you. Visually, it may be easier to arrange a section for terms and the other side for definitions.

Depending on the subject, a chapter by chapter arrangement is easier so there is space to practice problems and review the information in a chronological order.

The goal is to have a completed study guide. Although I do admit to writing in super small and messy handwriting, I find that finishing the study guide on a separate piece of paper helps to organize my notes better and can easily be understood when referring back to it later.

While you’re in the process of filling out the study guide, look back at your notes, textbook, and online course content. Do your best to thoroughly understand each term/concept. The positive portion of studying is that you’ve already learned the content, you just need to review it and have a good understanding of the material.

In the event a study guide was not provided, talk with your professor after class about the format of the test, what to expect, and how they would suggest preparing. There may be material you will be tested on that you did not even know would be on the test. After some studying hints from your professor, go through your notes and figure out what the biggest topics are and how you can familiarize yourself with them.

Repetition is tedious, but it will be effective depending on what type of learner you are. Keep doing the practice math problems in your textbook over and over to understand how to solve those types of problems on your math exam. Continue hand writing the definitions of the terms on your study guide until they stick in your mind.

Another studying technique is creating and using flashcards. The wait for the bus can go much quicker when you’re quizzing yourself. If you love human interaction, grab a pal and have them quiz you. Perhaps even turn it into a game and see how many flashcards you can get through within a certain period of time. Compare it to that of a friendly competitor. There are even free flashcard applications available for smart phones. The trick with studying is that if you put effort into making it fun, it can be just that!

Whenever I begin to study, everything on the Internet just seems so much more interesting than what I need to get done. Whether it is from Facebook pictures to Skype chats to reading about what’s going on in the world, the Internet is a huge distraction. If you’re studying for a class that does not require the use of Internet, refrain from using it. Lacking self control? Physically turn your Internet off.

It can sometimes be tempting to get up and go searching for food. If you enjoy snacks, prepare some ahead of time. Even though it’s oh-so-tempting to grab the flamin’ hot cheetos and a bowl of ice cream, go for fruits, nuts, or sliced meat. Have a glass of water and a tasty drink by your side. My favorite study snack is a Nutella smoothie (one tablespoon of Nutella, one cup of milk, a banana, and one forth cup of ice).

Don’t let studying be the death of you. Do not sit for more than two hours at a time, and give yourself breaks to step away from studying and allow yourself to be refreshed.

Lastly, arrange a reward for yourself. Besides being motivated to be academically successful, you will have an additional incentive to keep on going. If all else fails, get your friends to root for you to keep on working hard!