You’ve almost successfully survived your first semester in college. You’ve passed your midterms, learned how to battle the “freshman 15” and even how to party at frats without looking like a freshman. But there’s still one major rite of passage you haven’t overcome yet: your first round of final exams.
You may or may not have taken multiple AP, IB, SAT, ACT, etc. tests during high school, but how do these compare to college exams? And how can you go about studying without a Princeton Review study book? Will these exams cause your grades to plummet?
If it’s your first time taking final exams in college, you’re likely feeling anxious and a little unsure about how to prepare. But never fear, collegiettes, Her Campus has gathered some tips from college girls across the country to help bring your semester to a successful close.
DO make a study schedule (and stick to it!).
A few weeks before your finals, figure out which exams are on which days and when you’re going to study for each. This will help you stay on track by allotting enough time to study for all of your different exams. “Studying over a period of time will help reassure you that you know the material and will certainly reduce your stress,” says Robyn, a junior at the University of Southern California. If you know some exams will be harder than others, set aside more time to study for those tests.
DON’T underestimate the value of mnemonic devices.
It may seem silly, but when you have a long list of words or phrases to memorize, mnemonic devices can be the key to making sure you don’t forget any. For example, let’s say you have a list of nine key terms you have to remember. Take the first letter of each word and create a phrase with it. The funnier, the better! “I like to make flashcards with mnemonic devices because it makes it easier to study things quickly,” says Karen, a senior at San Diego State University. Just don’t forget the meaning behind each one!
DO choose your study location wisely.
Whether it’s your dorm room, the library or a local Starbucks, find a study location that works for you and then call it home during finals week. “It’s important to find a place where you know you’re going to get work done,” says Jordan, a junior at the University of Washington. So if your roommate is too distracting, or the library becomes a (really fun) couple hours of people-watching, relocate!
DON’T try to reread the whole book/books for the class.
At this point, you’ve probably had to read thousands of pages per class (assuming you actually did the reading in the first place). But whatever you do, don’t try to reread the whole book! First, this is a lofty goal and you’ll probably give up a couple of chapters in. Second, even if you make it through the book, you’ll be so inundated with information that you won’t be able to keep any of it straight. Instead, go back over your notes, and then make an outline of each reading or chapter. That way, you’ll keep the most important information fresh in your mind.
DO actually look at your notes again.
Your notes truly are your best resource for the exam, so don’t forget to use them as a critical component of your studying. Even if your professor is nice and decides to hand out a study guide, it might not include everything. Also, looking over your notes is a quick way to discover what concepts or chapters are confusing you. “I usually skim my notes a few times to make sure I know what topics I need to review more,” Jordan says. If you took notes on paper, typing all your notes in one document on your computer can be a useful way to organize all your lessons.
DON’T pull an all-nighter the night before the exam.
You may think that pulling all-nighters is a college norm, and it may be for some people. But it certainly isn’t something that you should do. In fact, Dr. David Vanata, a professor of family and consumer sciences at Ashland University, says students who pull frequent all-nighters frequently have lower GPAs. “All-nighters tend to result in a decrease in productivity and mental sharpness,” he says. Chances are, you’ll probably do better on the exam if you get a few more hours of sleep versus trying to cram the semester into one night.
DO organize a study group with your classmates.
Sometimes the best way to review something (other than staring intently at your notebook for hours on end) is talking through it with your classmates. Get together with your friends from class or send out an all-class email and see who’d be willing to study with you.
DON’T assume you’re already well prepared for the exam.
This is a key difference between high school and college. In high school, you may have been able to do well on exams if you paid attention throughout the semester and did all of your assignments. In college, however, the tests are much more challenging and require that you know all of the information and can apply it to new situations or problem sets. Simply stated, don’t count on winging the exam! When in doubt, study more.