Study Tips to Make Finals Less Awful

Finals week is coming up, and it seems like the semester just started a few weeks ago. It’s almost time to count the time left in the semester by days rather than weeks. It’s one last push before a glorious winter break. But before that, we need to survive finals.

I like to think that I’m a pretty good studier. I’ve certainly gotten better over the years that I’ve been at E-town. Here’s a few methods that I use to make sure I maximize the effectiveness of studying.

Be Prepared

It’s maybe a little too late for this one, but try to avoid procrastinating if you can. As someone with a lot of anxiety, I usually do most of my work way ahead of time to try to resolve some of that feeling of looming dread. In general, this means that I’m pretty on top of things. So if you can, try not to leave things for the last minute, because you’ll only be more stressed.  

Rewrite Your Notes

Rewriting isn’t the most effective form of studying, but I like to do this because it’s a good way to (a) review the content that I learned in class a day or two ago; and (b) typing is a lot easier to read than my chicken-scratch handwriting when I want to go back and look through them again. I print all my retyped notes and keep them in a binder with syllabi and other relevant papers.  

Flashcards!

I love flashcards. Bonus points if the pen ink is color-coded based on the subject. It’s aesthetically pleasing and makes me feel like I have my life together. Plus, testing yourself is the most effective method of studying. Write those flashcards and use them to test yourself in the days prior to your exam.  

Minimize Distractions

Now, I love a good Facebook notification that sends you spiraling down a rabbit hole of stalking your old middle school friend. Unfortunately, this is an excellent way to avoid studying. Personally, I just make sure any potentially distracting tabs are closed. If I’m really having trouble focusing, I’ll put my phone out of reach. I haven’t personally used this, but there’s an extension for Chrome called StayFocused where you can enter the URLs of distracting websites and set a timer. Chrome won’t let you access those pages until the timer is up.  

Change it Up

While flashcards are my primary study tool, they can get boring. When this happens, I usually re-read my notes; that’s when my typed, legible notes come in handy. I find reading less mentally taxing than testing myself, so it’s a nice way to still take in some information without tiring myself out too much.

Take a Break

Okay, I’m pretty bad at this one. But breaks are important. Especially sleep, which helps you to encode information into your long-term memory and recharge your brain. I know some people like to study and take breaks frequently, but I personally prefer to study for a while and then take a longer break.  

Catastrophize  

This is a technique that I learned from my therapist, which suggests that you almost embrace the anxious thoughts about failure. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” So, friend reading this, what’s the worst that could happen if you fail a final? It might make you feel pretty bad in the immediate aftermath, but will it ultimately have much effect on your life? Probably not anything significant.  

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

Catastrophizing has helped me logic my way out of some anxious thoughts, but sometimes it’s not enough and I’m still full of worried thoughts. It’s important to not beat yourself up over some perceived inability to logic your way out of the problem. Anxiety, as with other illnesses, can't be cured by deciding to not be anxious.  

Ultimately, remember that finals is one week in a long life stretching ahead of you. No matter how it goes, your life will continue.