It’s finally April. And while we have been waiting for this month to come since the start of second semester, we all have to pass the last and hardest hurdle before we are finally set free: finals.
But after an entire semester of various classes, how do you even begin to study for your final exam in each class? It seems impossible, doesn’t it? I speak from experience when I say it is tricky to narrow down just what you should study and what you shouldn’t, when to start studying and, most importantly, how to study the right way.
Jennifer Meister is no stranger to the stressful last weeks of university. As an Academic Skills Program Coordinator at McMaster University’s Student Success Center, Meister has helped countless students prep for their final exams so that they do well. Now she’s sharing her 3 tips for studying the smart way, so you can make these last few weeks count and secure a GPA you can be proud of.
“Now is the time to find out as much information as possible about an exam. What format is the exam, and what topics will be covered? Will questions come from lectures, readings, seminars, etc.? What has the professor spent a lot of time discussing, and what themes were emphasized? What resources are available (past exams, TAs, study groups, sample questions, review seminars, etc.)? When is the exam? And what mark can you realistically aim for?”
Develop a Strategy
“Studying needs to be planned, and the first step is to develop a study schedule. This is an actual physical calendar on which you can enter everything you need to do (including class, appointments, meetings, meals, sleep and socializing!), then planning out when exactly when, where, what and how they will study.
Creating this sort of schedule will keep you more organized and on-track (avoiding distractions and procrastination) and will also help to keep you motivated. An important point about this study schedule is that study periods shouldn’t be more than an hour long. It’s best to study in short bursts with frequent (planned and timed!) breaks, to stop the brain from lapsing or being otherwise ineffective. Create index cards with brief study notes in order to make use of short time periods that are otherwise wasted (for example, waiting for the bus, standing in line to buy coffee, breaks between classes). It’s also important to choose a good, distraction- and interruption-free place to study.
Start by organizing notes, putting them in order and making sure no notes are missing. Create less detailed study notes, writing ideas and content in your own words, and focusing on important themes, questions and ideas. This is going to make studying a lot more meaningful and also more structured and manageable.”
“After notes are organized and all information has been gathered, start reviewing the information in an active and engaged way. This involves more than just reading, reciting and memorizing information; ask questions, manipulate information, compare closely related terms and ideas. Show how different ideas are related and how they fit into an overall theme. Come up with examples and try to explain an idea in your own words, by trying to explain it to someone else or writing a short essay. Understand why you need to know something. Asking many types of questions and reviewing content meaningfully will keep you engaged with the material and will provide a deeper level of understanding.”
Exams are always intimidating, but with Meister’s 3 tips, you’re sure to make these next few weeks count. But remember, success in studies is entirely up to you. Meister’s last three tips are to visualize success, keep yourself away from those Negative Nancy’s and to ask for help when you need it! If you have any study tips, share them with us! We’re always looking for more ways to make the upcoming exam break a less stressful one for our readers.