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26 Tips to Ace Your Finals

1. Go to office hours.

It's never too late (unless it's the day of your final, that is). Even if you are seeking clarification on something which, odds are, won't make it on the final, being comfortable with the material in general can enable you to stride into that exam room with confidence. Many professors hold extended office hours in the days leading up to the final and/or during Dead Week-- so take full advantage! 

2. Find a study spot

The first floor of Albertson's Library and the lounge area of the SUB are not "study spots". There are too many distractions. Did you know that the higher up in Albertson's you go, the more serious studiers you will encounter? You can actually gain focusing powers from breathing the same air. You should try it.  

3. Find a study buddy.

Sometimes studying with a friend can make the whole affair seem less dreadful. Note: this "friend" should not be the cutie who sits in front of you in class. That is simply another distractions. A study buddy should be a trusted friend with similar study habits. Or, consider forming a study group with some of your classmates so that you can talk about points of confusion and help one another understand aspects of the material that is less intuitive for some than others. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Whatever you do, though, don't do this: 

4. Eat healthy.

Happy body, happy mind! Snack healthily so that you can maintain your energy: try fruit, granola, and other good-for-you snacks. Avoid energy drinks and sugary foods; although these can give you short-term energy, they may also cause an energy crash. And THAT doesn't help matters at all.

5. Exercise!

Exercise is a critical component to overall physical and mental health. It can also be a great way to relive stress. 

6. Get some sleep.

Sleep is how your brain recharges. Make sure you get 8+ hours the night of your exam, and as much sleep as possible in the days leading up to it. If you are sleep-deprived, you will have less mental capacity to retain information and a reduced ability to maintain your focus. You know what that means: avoid all-nighters at all costs! 

7. Get some fresh air.

A daily dose of Vitamin D can be extremely thereapueutic; go for a walk in the park or read a book under a tree on the Quad. 

8. DON'T experiment.

Now is NOT the time to see if Adderall is your gateway to success. If you don't normally drink energy drinks, don't start now! This is not the time to confuse your body. It's more important to maintain healthy habits and stick to what you know works for you.

9. Don't drink.

Alcohol kills brain cells, and you need them all to pass your finals. Don't even drink to celebrate passing a final if you have another later in the week. Your mind and body will thank you if you hold out a little while longer. After finals are over, go hard-- you've earned it!  

10. Exercise self-control.

Consider skipping out on house parties and late-night hangouts for the next few weeks. Even if you wouldn't necessarily be studying during that time, late nights and drinking are still hard on your body and can tax your energy. Play it safe instead.

11. Devise a study schedule.

You have about three weeks to get it together, so start now and get ahead! Start studying with a more general review to refresh your memory. That way, you can focus on problem areas in the days leading up to the final exam. 

12. Be prepared.

Know the date, time, and location of the exam well in advance of the day. That way, you can avoid any last-minute surprises. Be advised that many professors hold final exams in locations other than the normal lecture hall. Check your email regularly in the days leading up to the final just in case your professor sends out any updates.

13. Play by the rules.

Cheating is wrong. The cost of cheating far outweighs any possible gains: not only could you fail the class, but you could be kicked out of university, period. Academic dishonesty can be a permanent stain on your record. Don't do it! 

14. Be colorful.

Use highlighters, sticky notes, and whatever else to make your study guides extra eye-catchy. This can help you keep your notes organized and stay focused!

15. Know your study style.

Reflect on your learning style and plan a study strategy accordingly. Are you a visual, aural, verbal, physical, or logical learner? Think about what has worked for you in the past and devise ways to maximize your study time. 

16. Find ways to relax.

Deep breathing works for some people. Stress balls work for others. Find a way to help you relax ON THE DAY of your final. Dealing with nerves and last-minute jitters will maximize your ability to recall information and stay focused on an exam. 

17. Move on.

Once an exam is over, there is nothing else you can do. Beating yourself up over a question you missed will not help anything. You will need all of your brain power and energy for your NEXT exam. Once a test is over, mentally move on so you can do your best on the next one. 

18. Attend review sessions.

Think of it this way: review sessions can't hurt. Finals review sessions are often structured to be comprehensive. Even if you don't need help on anything specific, a review session is a great way to refresh your mind on all the material you learned throughout the semester.

19. Take study breaks.

Nobody can focus for four hours at a time. Student attention spans range from a few seconds to about 15 minutes. Anything more than that and you are only kidding yourself. Take frequent but brief mental breaks to help maximize your study time. Warning: if you login to Twitter or open Buzzfeed, make sure you have the self-control to return to studying after a few minutes. Otherwise, don't go there. 

20. Hit the books.

They don't hit back! Oftentimes your textbooks go into much greater detail than a professor is able to during lecture. If you understand the material on a very fundamental level, and not just from rote memory, you are sure to do better on the final. 

21. Prioritize your work. 

Do you have final papers and assignments on top of final exams? Chances are, you aren't going to want to think about anything besides your finals in the days leading up to them. So, plan ahead! Knock out as many assignments and final papers as possible in the next two weeks. Even if the deadlines SEEM far in advance, all that work can add up quickly and add to finals week stress.

22. Get organized.

If you're anything like me, you have notes from two, three, four, or five classes in the same notebook. Make sure that your study materials are neatly organized by class and your notes are arranged chronologically so that your study time can be streamlined and hiccup-free. 

23. Know your professor's tricks.

Does your professor pull exam questions from the homework? Then THAT is where you should look for possible exam questions! Look at old exams from previous years if you have access to them. Professors are actually a lot LESS tricky than they want us to believe...

24. Get comfy.

If ever there was a time that you could wear sweatpants and Ugg boots 24/7, it is during finals week. You should devote your energy towards studying, not your appearance. Trust me, everyone else in Alberton's Library will be doing the same thing. Pajama pants and slippers are also appropriate. Even snuggies are finals week-approved. Enjoy it while it lasts.

25. Set a specific goal.

Need an A on the final to get a B in the class? If you internalize a very specific goal for each class for the semester, you may have an easier time meeting or exceeding that goal. Setting goals can help you stay motivated during your study time and perform better on finals.

26. Stay motivated.

Think of it this way: in three weeks' time, you won't have a care in the world. Keep in mind, however, that you will only feel liked you EARNED your vacation if you try your hardest in these next few weeks. Work hard now, play hard later. It will all be worth it, I promise! 


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Katie Meikle

Boise State

Katie Meikle, also known as Meeks, Meikle or Pumpkin, is a junior and transfer student from Tufts University in Boston, currently studying health sciences at Boise State. Although a Boise native, Katie spent her entire high school career overseas, split between Japan and Taiwan. Katie's writing interests include fashion, healthy eating, mixology, and campus cuties... of course! She loves the great outdoors, traveling, her two dogs, Lexi and Hobbs, days at the beach, walks on sunny days, and her mom's cooking. Favorite quote: don't be a drag, just be a queen.
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