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How to Survive Finals: 14 Essential Study Tips

Finals Week – perhaps one of the most challenging and dreaded aspects of the college experience – is approaching. Despite adversely affecting the mental health of students and reinforcing destructive, antiquated notions that an individual’s worth, thus opportunities, value, and status is determined solely by GPA, universities continue to ceaselessly administer grueling tests, papers, and projects without remorse. Many students suffer from burnout and struggle to find the motivation or effort demanded by an outdated educational system. To alleviate some of the pressure and anxiety, here are fourteen crucial study strategies to practice:

Prepare and review – Early and frequently

Everyone knows procrastinating and cramming for events is harmful, yet we all do it. Try breaking these toxic habits by reviewing and organizing at least a month in advance, not the night before. Divide chapters into sections and go over critical concepts periodically. Make notes summarizing the material and complete practice problems in the textbook. Your brain and body will thank you for your effective use of time later.

Take advantage of resources

Maybe you managed just fine in high school without utilizing course resources and are reluctant, intimated, or embarrassed to in college. Don’t be, as there is absolutely no reason to dismiss additional support, and doing so can prove detrimental. Many professors or TAs offer review sessions that cover essential exam information and answer questions, so make sure to attend. If you can’t, drop by during office hours or email your teacher with specific inquiries. Study supplemental materials to solidify challenging ideas and complete sample tests to understand the exam’s content, pacing, and structure.

Rewrite and reorganize your notes

Physically rewriting material is one of the best ways to remember vital information, as it enables you to relearn content while highlighting central points. Create diagrams, charts, and other illustrations to help visualize the material and develop summary sheets for complex subjects. 

create flashcards/a study guide

Likewise, creating flashcards or study guides with critical matters and sample questions/problems is equally beneficial and can be done on various platforms such as Quizlet. Having a digital version of your notes increases flexibility and allows you to study on the go.

Quiz Yourself

Once you have your flashcards and study guide, it’s time to quiz yourself and master the material. Cover up sections and try to explain them. Shuffle the deck and have a friend question you. If you’re struggling, try different techniques until you find one that works.

Teach classmates

Similarly, explaining subjects to peers forces you to have a solid grasp on the content, so gather some friends and instruct them. Turn it into a game or contest (Kahoot is great) and have some fun with it. 

Ask questions

If you’re struggling to understand certain concepts, don’t hesitate to ask questions, as your professors and TAs are there to help! If asking in front of the class is too nerve-wracking, wait until after or attend office hours. 

organize/attend a group study session

Sometimes we need others to bounce ideas off and keep us motivated, so hit the whiteboards and find a group of equally driven friends and study together. Some downtime is fine; just make sure you’re also being productive.  

find a comfortable study spot

Any study session wouldn’t be complete without a personal workspace. Take some time to either set aside a study-oriented place at your desk or find one around campus. Try the library, student/learning centers, study lounges, gardens, cafés, and other quiet areas. 

remove all distractions, including multitasking

Despite what many may believe, humans aren’t great at multitasking, so ditch the distracting devices (cellphones, TV, speakers) and focus solely on studying. You’ll be amazed by how efficient you are and how much more material you absorb.  

clarify the format, content, and time of exams

Getting to the exam without knowing what to expect would be terrible, so do your research beforehand and ensure you’re clear on the structure, material, and deadlines. Ask questions if you’re unsure and take practice tests to gauge what to anticipate. 

motivate yourself with incentives, rewards, and short breaks

To keep yourself stimulated and engaged, make sure to take a five-minute break every hour and set goals for extended durations such as completing X number of problems or chapters. Once you’ve reached them, treat yourself with snacks, phone usage, and any other relaxing activities before resuming. 

sleep, eat and pace yourself well

While pulling all-nighters is sometimes necessary, try preventing them by ensuring you get adequate rest and nutrition, as sleeping recharges your body and sharpens your mind. Burnout is real, so keep a steady pace and take breaks as needed. 

keep perspective

Remember, your grade doesn’t indicate your worth, as you’re more than a trivial number. Hard work, ambition, and experience better reflect a whole person, and the significance of your GPA will fade in time. Just try your best – that’s what truly matters.

Good luck!!!

Anna van Eekeren is a second-year Entertainment and Media Studies major at UGA with a minor in Film Studies and a New Media Certificate student. She is passionate about the environment, social justice, culture, and media. She enjoys reading, writing, playing video games, listening to music, swimming, traveling, and taking personality quizzes.
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