I don’t know about you, but my spring semester has FLOWN by. It feels like just a few weeks ago I was moving into my first dorm as a freshman, and now I’m already going into my second year! Can someone hit the pause button please?? My philosophy professor has been warning us for the past few classes how short the month of April always feels, which is NOT something you want to hear when final exams are on the horizon. Sorry to remind you, but before we enter the months of sun and relaxation, there’s a few exams we have to endure. Don’t panic though! To try and help us prepare for this exam season, I reached out to a few of my girlfriends in STEM. Here’s some of the tips they shared that will help you finish this semester on a good note:
One of the first tips shared was to start studying the material as soon as possible. The sooner you begin, the more time you’ll have to truly immerse yourself in the material and develop a deeper understanding of it. My friend stresses, “Start studying earlier than you think you need to.” Starting at least a few weeks in advance will prevent you from having to cram all of the information last minute, which is an experience I’m sure we’d all rather avoid. After reading this article, try writing a few flashcards or practicing some questions!
Reach out for Help
Another common tip was to reach out to others for help when you need it. Have a question? Ask it! There are many peers and teachers that will gladly answer them for you. One friend writes, “Go to office hours!! Your professors actually do want you to do well and can be a big help!” I know reaching out can sometimes be daunting, but your professors are there to help! Not only will it place you in a better position to succeed on upcoming exams, but it will also help you build better connections and relationships that can open up opportunities for the future.
Find Your best Environment
Where do you focus best? There are many different kinds of environments that you can find around campus depending on your preferences. Like some background noise? Try the Student Union! Need complete silence? The fourth floor of Babbidge Library is the place for you! It’s important to find “somewhere you know you’ll be productive and not somewhere you’ll be distracted.” If you often study in your dorm, try finding someplace new where you won’t be tempted to crawl into bed and fall asleep!
Color Code System
One of my friends shared a highlighting system that she likes to use when studying notes. “I usually like to make study guides and color code them based on what I need to focus on, what I know pretty well, and the middle ground.” If you have lengthy study guides with lots of material to learn, then this method would probably be a good one to try out. Get yourself three highlighters and assign each color to a level of understanding. Then you can go back and make sure you focus on the color that signifies what you understand the least. This will ensure the most difficult topics get the time and attention necessary for you to learn them.
Handwrite Study Guides
With the majority of college students relying on laptops and tablets for notetaking, this tip may come as a surprise. For some, though, handwriting is “much more memorable than typing, especially when it comes to equations and diagrams.” For those in math or science courses with lots of calculations and illustrations to memorize, handwriting study guides may be most beneficial for you. Yes, it may take more time, but time helps information solidify in your memory. Try out the old pencil-and-paper method and see how it works for you!
Find Lessons online
This was a tip that I often find myself using as well. My friend explains, “Look for lecture videos on YouTube if you have trouble understanding a lesson (many universities have lessons online, Harvard and MIT have great and surprisingly easy to follow videos).” Online lecture videos can be great for those topics your own professor just didn’t explain well enough for you. Seeing another person’s explanations and methods for teaching can help you develop a deeper understanding of the material that you wouldn’t have had otherwise. As a visual learner myself, I often use YouTube videos as my main study method. Although not always reliable and of the best quality, they can be helpful sources for supplemental instruction!
Practice makes perfect
As always, the more you practice, the better you’ll get at recalling and understanding the information. One friend shares, “redo practice problems or class work in a separate notebook.” I know it may not sound fun to just redo problems over and over again, but the repetition will ensure the material solidifies within your brain. If you need some motivation, try giving yourself a treat after each write answer, or have a five minute break after every five questions. Whatever encourages you to put in the time to practice the material, do it! You’ll thank yourself once it becomes time to take the exam.
Finally, take a deep breath and relax! Final exam season can be a really stressful time for many, but it’s important to remember that your grades DO NOT define you. All you can ask of yourself is to try your best. There is so much more to you than your academics; never forget that! Relaxing can also be an important study method, as my friend shares “I still allow time to relax before I go to bed, which helps process the information but not be overly stressed about it.” If you have the choice between pulling an all-nighter to study all of the material and cutting a few topics short to get some sleep, choose the latter! Your body and brain will thank you in the long run.
I’d like to thank all of the STEM ladies that shared their tips with me! Hopefully this helps a few readers in their preparation for finals season. Good luck on your exams… summer’s just around the corner!