Tips for Surviving Finals

With Finals coming up in the next couple of weeks (next week for seniors) we found these great tips created by the Office of Health Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Following these tips should help you get through Finals with your sanity intact.

Ten Tips for Surviving Finals Week

1. Don’t panic (make too much of the final).

The first thing you should do is to check what the final is worth in each course. Remember, it is only one component of your final grade. If it is worth 20% or less, you probably won’t be able to bring your final grade up or down by more than one grade level (e.g., B to B+), unless you perform extremely better or worse than you have on other exams and assignments during the semester.

2. Don’t be too relaxed (make too little of the final).

On the other hand, you should try to do as well on the final as you possibly can. Furthermore, sometimes the final is a big part of your final grade (30% or more), in which case it is more likely to make a significant difference in your final average. It is better not to go into the final with the idea, “I just need to get x number of points to keep my B (or whatever it is) average.” It may not be possible to calculate this accurately anyway, since teachers sometimes compute things like participation grades at the very end.

3. Make time for “renewing” activities.

This is NOT the time to stop exercising or doing other things that you find enjoyable. Pace yourself! You will study more effectively if you spread things out and take breaks. But watch the proportions here. Beware of doing 15 minutes of studying followed by a two-hour break to play a video game!

4. Use an effective study method.

The key to effective retention is repetition, and not overloading your brain (it can only absorb so much in an hour). Whatever you do, don’t do it all in one long cramming session. Which brings us to:

5. Get enough sleep.

Don’t pull an “all nighter.” You will do better if you are rested, and cramming often leads to a superficial and confused knowledge of the material you have studied.
There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as torture. Failure to follow #4 and 5 can lead to writing nonsense on exams. Teachers often fall off their chairs laughing at some of the silly statements that appear on finals.

6. Resist the urge to party on “off” days.

Instead, if you have a break in your exam schedule, use it to get a head start on the exams coming up. This can be a time to catch up on missed reading, or to complete Step 1 of “Immediate Preparation” in my study method. REMEMBER: if you party, you will need to recover! And research has shown that people who engage in high-risk drinking deaden their cognitive skills (ability to recall and organize information, etc.)

7. Arrive on time for the exam.

Be especially careful about setting your alarm the night before. Save yourself the anxiety and embarrassment of arriving late. Needless to say, you may also need every minute of the exam period to finish the exam.

8. Follow the rules of good exam taking.
Click here for some tips on taking an essay exam.

9. Don’t worry about others finishing earlier than you.

This could mean ANYTHING. It often means these students have written a mediocre or poor exam. Take the time YOU need.

10. When the exam is over, let it go!

Forget it! Move on to the next one, or go enjoy the break! If you do have major concerns, make an appointment to see your professor at a mutually convenient time.

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