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Finals Season Fast-Approaching: Studying Tips and Tricks

Midterms may still be raging on for some, but there are officially only four weeks left of class before finals season commences once again. While for some four weeks seems too far away to even begin to think of studying, starting early (although maybe not this early) is one of the few studying tips I’ve rounded up here to help you do your best on those last few tests separating you from your summer plans. 

1) Leave the library 

Once classes end, it’s tempting for some to pack their bags and head over to McLennan to study, and suddenly, it’s days later and they still haven’t left the same corner and after spending all their money on Uber Eats and Foodora their bank account is about as depleted as their motivation to keep studying. Besides, spending all day at the library tagging your friends in Facebook memes with your textbook open next to you is still spending all day tagging your friends in Facebook memes. Studies have proven that changing up the location you study in helps memory retention because your brain automatically associates cognitive subjects with background objects and therefore improves your knowledge capacity on the subject. Now you can associate the mitochondria with both the wasted yellow glow of the overhead panel lighting of the library and with the cars passing by the window at the front of Starbucks. 


2) Stop pulling all-nighters

When you have a big test the next day and you feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day for you to study for your psychology, linguistics, and sociology classes, it’s easy to decide that pulling an all-nighter is the ultimate solution. But, as you can probably guess, it’s incredibly unhealthy and won’t help your retention of the information at all. Studies show that pulling an all-nighter actually creates similar effects in your body to alcohol intoxication, and we all know that it’s impossible to remember where you put your phone and ID after you’ve had a few drinks, let alone any material for your exam. Chances are you’re going to end up falling asleep in the middle of the next day anyway, so you’re better off sticking to a normal healthy sleep schedule at night and studying during the day. Besides, it’s also been proven that sleep improves memory performance, so stock up on those zzz’s!


3) Review daily instead of cramming

While your inner “I wrote this ten-page paper the night before it was due and didn’t fail” college self is probably scoffing at this one, it’s been proven that cramming is actually bad for memory retention. The problem is that cramming has become programmed into our system since a young age when we learned the material in school for a test and then moved on to new material for the next test and forgot all about the old stuff. While cramming may be good for gaining expertise on the material, it quickly disintegrates when it comes to retaining any of that expertise. Instead, practicing spaced retention of the material instead is far more conducive to long-term memorization, meaning you’ll actually be able to remember all the information from the entire semester for the test and in the future when you need to come back to it for something else. Long-term reviewing is also far less stressful than last minute cramming so you won’t have to sacrifice your mental health in the last 24 hours before your exam. 


4) Test yourself and get feedback

Everyone learns differently and this will vary from person to person, but overall, actually creating tests for yourself of the material is far more effective than just reading over the notes. Not only does coming up with test questions force you to actually think through the material and improve your knowledge of it, but testing yourself forces you to face what you don’t know and can’t answer. Even better is having someone else test you so that you can’t cheat yourself out of what you don’t know and they can give you feedback to help you retain the information better. Ask a friend to help you out and offer to do the same in return so you both gain something from the study session. 


5) Focus on the important stuff

With multiple classes all coming up with their own assignments, tests, and deadlines it’s easy to bet bogged down in massive amounts of information. But being able to filter through all the unnecessary extra details is paramount towards surviving finals season. Write down your classes in order from easiest to hardest and split up your studying time accordingly. Make sure you know what’s actually going to be on the test too so you’re not wasting time studying something from before the midterm when your professor told you the final was only on what you learned after. Don’t spend so much time reviewing the information that you already know. Review it briefly and then spend the bulk of your time understanding and learning the stuff that you don’t know or understand, because that’s likely going to be the material you’re testing on. 


Finally, remember to breathe. Finals season is hard for everyone, but don’t forget to put your mental and physical health first. Those are far more important than getting an A on your biology final, no matter how much you try to tell yourself otherwise. Best of luck!

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Steph is a second-year student at McGill University, who splits her time outside of Montreal equally between the sunshine of Texas and the snow-capped Rockies of Alberta. When not studying or writing blog posts she enjoys making home films of her friends and their adventures, creating a ridiculous amount playlists on Spotify, or binge-watching Jamie Oliver's cooking channel (all with endless cups of coffee in hand).  Follow her personal blog for sporadic posts and videos about the current state of her life, her Spotify for playlists that can apply to every aspect of life, her Instagram for up-to-date snapshots of what she's doing, and her Twitter for pictures of cute pups and other relevant, overcaffeinated content. 
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