Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

With finals season upon us, everyone is buckling down to put their nose to the grindstone and try to finish strong. I’ve worked as a tutor at my university for a year, and have seen lots of unhealthy, unproductive methods of trying to absorb material. While lots of different methods work for lots of different people, these are some methods that save my grade every time. It takes time, but the end result will hopefully be worth the dedication!

The first step after learning the material and before studying is to start with a practice test. (there are some good ones online, or create one from the material from class or the textbook.) If there’s a problem you don’t know, don’t look at your notes yet. Give it your best guess and mark it as problem area. If you struggle with time management, always start with the easiest problems so you can save time at the end for the time-consuming problems instead of spending all the time on those hard problems and having to rush through the easy problems at the end, which usually leads to avoidable mistakes. After the practice test, review your answers and make notes on which concepts you need to spend the most time on. It’s important to review everything, but if you know something really well don’t waste too much time on it!

Create a personalized study guide that emphasizes the concepts you struggle with; if it’s vocabulary then make some flashcards, if it’s a formula write out some practice problems or find some online, etc. Using an active recall method (flashcards, visual aids, etc.) is a super effective method to be able to memorize a topic, but different things work for everyone! Dedicate some time every single day leading up to the exam reviewing it. Even if it’s just ten minutes that you can give, doing a little every day will cement the concepts into your long-term memory. If you’re stuck finding ways to study a concept, go to your professor or a TA to ask what the most effective way to study for that exam would be.

After spending some time studying, the next step to understanding is teaching it. Find a friend, your pet, or even just use a mirror, and walk through the concept, speaking out-loud, like you’re teaching it to a child. When you’re able to clearly explain a concept to someone else, you’ll know you really understand it. 

Once you feel more confident in the material, take another practice exam (and mimic the conditions of the exam- if it’s a closed-note timed test, do that when practicing) and check your answers. If there are still parts that you’re stuck on, go to office hours, ask a friend, or look for reliable teaching resources online. It’s okay to ask for help! If you don’t see a lot of improvement in the second practice exam, maybe try changing up your study methods or study with a friend or a tutor. Don’t give up hope; confidence is a huge key to doing well! Good luck!

Emily is a sophomore neuroscience & behavior major on the pre-med track at University of New Hampshire. She loves all things medicine, music, and art related, and when she's not studying she can be found spending time with friends, drinking too much caffeine, or watching a comfort movie.