The Finals Week Survival Guide

With finals week already or almost upon us, you might just about be hitting your breaking point. Luckily, there are ways to avoid this stress and emerge relatively unscathed from the week (believe it or not!). You’re in the homestretch of the semester — make sure you finish it strongly with this finals week survival guide:

Stay organized

Gather all your materials from each class that you’ll have an exam in. This includes class notes, lecture handouts, worksheets, printed-out readings, assignments, and study guides. If you’re going digital, put all documents and PDF files into one folder. Check your syllabus to make sure you’re not missing anything, especially if you had any absences this term.

By doing this, you’ll have all your resources in one place when you go to study. This is also a great time to make a schedule for your weeks ahead, on paper or digitally. Block out your exam times and project due dates, as well as other commitments during that week, to have a clear visual of when you’re free for study time.

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Prioritize your tasks according to your best hours

Think about what times of day you work the best. Is it in the very early morning when no one else is awake? Late into the night after you’ve completed your day? In the afternoon before dinner? Make sure you schedule study time for the hours that you’re the most “on.” If you have a mix of papers to do and exams to study for, you might also consider when in the day you write vs. read more easily. Consider the task at hand when planning for these specific hours.

Vary your study techniques

This can help prevent monotony and provide your brain with different ways to cement and access the information. If you generally just read and reread material, consider rewriting lecture notes or important concepts from the textbook. Make flashcards, which are great to take with you when you’re on the go and whip out whenever you have a spare moment or two. You might also create diagrams, draw pictures, and make up mnemonic devices to help you retain information. Have some fun with it all!

Bonus tip: A recent study in Science Magazine showed that frequent testing practice helps decrease the negative effects of stress students often feel, so continually using practice tests is a reliable method to keep the study material fresh in your mind and to help you stay calm and collected during finals.

Find a study group or study buddy

Don’t underestimate the power of this! Find someone in your class who is studying for the same test, join an already established group, or gather classmates for a group help session before the exam. Whichever way you decide, working with others is a great way to pool resources and share insights that can benefit everyone involved.

Keep in mind, however, that working with someone else can also be distracting; set some guidelines for yourself to keep side conversations to a minimum. If you feel yourself getting too off track, it might be best to return to solo studying, or to switch groups.

[RELATED: 6 Hacks to Make Finals Week Less Stressful]

Seek out comfortable study spots

You might already have favorite study spots: in your house, at your dorm, at your school, at your local library, or in the nearby coffee shop. There might be student centers with late hours that you could check out as well. Don’t be afraid to switch up your study locations, too. Once you’ve worked in one place for awhile, you might need a change of scenery to keep your mind fresh!

Schedule downtime

Some students forget about this one amidst the chaos of finals week, but it’s just as important as the rest. Make sure to schedule breaks in between study sessions. They don’t have to be very long; in fact, shorter, more frequent breaks are excellent for giving your mind and body a rest while still keeping you in study mode. It can be as simple as stretching, taking a walk, getting a snack, or trading a few texts with a friend.

Treat your body well

In addition to taking breaks, make sure you get enough rest and eat well. Try to sleep at least eight hours a night, if you can, and eat a balanced meal before your study sessions — and your tests! This should help you recharge and not get burnt out during a long week of back-to-back exams.

Finals week is inevitably tiring, but it can be less so if you use these tips. You might even want to think of a specific treat — a meal out, a movie night, etc. — to help you look forward to post-finals time and keep you motivated during the week. Break is nearer than you think!


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