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You Can Do It! Preparing for Final Exams

Dear Ally,

The temperatures are getting warmer and everyone is beginning to think about the summer ahead. In fact, I’m writing this post from my back deck, which reminds I need to change the cover picture for this blog to a more seasonal one. But you can’t let yourself fall into summer mode just yet. There are still a few weeks left and one big hurdle to jump before you’re free: final exams.

Now’s the time to begin studying for finals and working on final projects, not the weekend before finals week. Here are some steps to take now to help you study as efficiently as possible:

  1. Get all the facts. Look closely at the grading policies in the syllabus. Will the lowest exam be dropped or replaced with the final exam, if that grade is higher? Is there any opportunity for extra credit? Can you turn in assignments again for a second chance? What percentage of the class grade is the final exam or project? Is the final exam optional if you’re happy with your current grade?
  2. Do the math. Are you sitting pretty or trying to climb out of a hole? How many points are left in the class? How many of those points do you need to earn the grade you want/need? If it’s too complicated, make an appointment to consult with the instructor. I get so many “what do I have to get on the final to get…” requests that I’ve posted an excel file that allows students to plug in their grades and the desired final grade and it spits out remaining points they need. Hopefully there are still enough points left.
  3. Prioritize certain courses. You’re going to have to up your game a lot if there are any classes where you need to raise your grade, so plan to study way more for these classes than you did previously and less so for the classes that you’ve been able to get along just coasting.
  4. Make a schedule. One of the most common rookie finals week mistakes is to study for classes in the order you have the exams, but that won’t work, even if your finals are pretty well spread out. Study for ALL your classes a little bit every day beginning now. For example, if you have 6 hours of free time tomorrow, plan to spend 2 hours on your two most difficult classes and an hour each on the other two. (Six hours a day sounds brutal, but it will be worth it not to have to repeat a course and much better than trying to spend 18-20 hours a day studying during finals week. I really don’t think 100 total hours is unreasonable either. Right now studying is your job and everything else takes a back seat.)
  5. Study what you don’t know. This sounds obvious, but most students try to review everything if the final is cumulative. If you knew how to do it on a previous exam, you’ll probably remember it on the final, so don’t spend much time on it. Go back and look at what you missed and study those topics in depth, rereading those sections of the book and practicing more problems, even going to the teaching assistant or instructor for help or extra practice if necessary. That’s where you’ll be able to make up the most ground.
  6. Take care of yourself. Continue to eat right, get enough sleep, and practice good hygiene. Steer clear of that friend with the sniffles. You cannot afford to get sick now, you need to be in top form. Stay away from caffeine and sugar as much as possible (no alcohol either, but you’re underage, so that shouldn’t be an issue).
  7. Stay disciplined. It’s going to be really hard to stick to your schedule and keep studying, but remember that it will be worth it and summer is just around the corner, if you can just hold out just a little while longer. Plan little rewards for each day that you keep it up. The hardest will be the weekend before finals week. I don’t know why, but college students always go crazy the weekend before spring finals week. Plan this weekend as a reward for studying continually for the next two weeks, but don’t go hog wild and be sure not to stay out all night because that would ensure disaster.

You can do it! You’ve been working all semester and your professors have been preparing you all semester for this!

Stay strong,

Aunt Sarah

Phil 413


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