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How to Succeed in Finals Without Really Trying

It’s that time of year again, we’re two weeks away from the end of the semester and everyone’s scrambling to submit assignments, finish readings, and prep for finals. I personally, am a massive procrastinator. I’d like to think that in my last few years of schooling I’ve perfected my method of cramming. These are some of the things I’ve learned about working smarter not harder, when you’re super behind in all of your classes.


These are methods that I’ve noticed work for me, I am by no means saying they are a foolproof way of getting 100% on every single final. These tips will definitely help you pass, but if you want stellar grades you realistically should have started studying before the semester even began (kidding, but not really).


Before the Final


Study for your hardest exam first. If you have multiple finals in a row, chances are, by the end of that three or four-day stretch, you’re going to have mush-for-brains. For instance, this semester I have couple and family relationships, biology, and chemistry all back to back. If I studied for them all in order, by the time I got to studying for chemistry, I wouldn’t be able to retain any information. Studying for your hardest final first leaves you more brain power for that subject, and you can use your remaining energy to study for your easier exams.

Colour code everything. Not only does it look super pretty, but it will help you keep track of tasks and study materials. I use purple, blue, pink, green, and orange, for my five courses because they’re all really different colours and I have zero chance of mixing something up. I use different whiteboard markers, different fine liners, different Post-its™, for everything. 

Destress before you restress. We are all victims to our wandering minds, and usually when you’re not focused it’s because you’re stressed. We’ve all gone from Courselink to Netflix by “accident” and then watched a solid two hours of television before remembering we have a final tomorrow. If you find yourself straying from your work or having trouble focusing, take a step back. Go for a walk, watch Netflix, make yourself food, have a shower, do something other than studying for an hour. I promise when you come back you’ll feel at least a teeny bit better and you’ll have less trouble focusing.

Sleep, eat, take care of yourself. If you don’t sleep I can promise you that you will not do as well as your fully rested self would. Please get at least eight hours of sleep before writing any of your finals. If you treat your body like crap you will feel like crap and you will write/study like crap. This has been proven by me, myself, and I on many occasions.

Do not cram before your final. I can’t stress this one enough. If you do not know the information half an hour before your final you will not know it. Don’t sit outside the exam room with your notebook frantically flipping through your highlighted readings and PowerPoint slides. Don’t do it. Were you even listening to me? Destress before you restress.

During the Final


Breathe. We’ve known how to breathe since we were 0.2 seconds old, but for some reason we all forget how lungs work when we’re writing a final. Your brain can’t work without oxygen! Taking deep breaths while you’re writing an exam will not only improve your focus, it’ll also help you with your memory recall (source: myself, just now). 

Read the question, highlight keywords, reread the question. Most of the time you get the question wrong because the professor decided to use a double negative on a super easy concept. For some reason, they love doing that. Read the question once, highlight, underline, whatever, any words that might trip you up, and then reread the question. This way, you’ll probably catch the “which one is not false” that your professor snuck in there.

If you don’t know it, just guess. It’s usually c, and I’m really not kidding, I know someone who picked all c on a physics exam and got a 70%.


After the Final


Reward yourself. Do something for yourself to get motivated for your next exam. If you’ve just written your last final CONGRATS YOU’RE FREE!!! Go crazy.

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