How to Create a Last-Minute Study Plan for Finals

Finals season is upon us. Even though you may have already been tested on much of the material that will appear on your finals, you will need to develop a greater understanding of that material in order to earn a high score on the final. Developing a plan to approach your exams can not only help you stay organized as you study, but can also help you reduce some of the stress that comes with reviewing mass amounts of detailed information. But what can you do if your finals are less than a week away? Check out these tips on how to create a last-minute study plan for finals:

1. Develop a list of all of the topics on which you will be tested

A good place to start studying for your finals is to develop an understanding of how much you will have to master and how much time you have to study. Begin by taking stock of each course in which you are enrolled. Which concepts will you have to review? Which concepts are the most in-depth, and which will you spend the least time on? Make a list of review topics for each of your subjects, prioritizing the more difficult and prominent topics.

2. Plan ahead by studying for each subject over several days, instead of cramming

The worst position to be in is to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to cram the night before a final exam. Avoid this by using a planner or calendar to plan which topics you’ll tackle each day. For example, on one day you might study differential functions from calculus, another topic from chemistry, and two additional units from history. Studying all of your subjects over a longer period of time gives you plenty of time to revisit difficult topics and adjust your study habits if necessary. Plus, research indicates that your brain better retains information when it intakes new material over shorter periods of time, rather than an hours-long cram session.

Also, many students may intend to study for, say, math and literature on one day, but end up focusing entirely on one subject, without moving on to the next. Planning ahead helps alleviate this problem. If you know a particular subject will take up a great amount of study time, plan for it. Take into account your needs and test dates to make sure you don’t put off studying for any subject.

3. Take notes on concepts you’ll need to review closer to the test

As you study, take notes on topics that you know will require some last-minute review before your final. Make sure these notes are organized and comprehensive, but are concise enough to review in the day or two before your exam. You can also tailor your review to your learning style by drawing illustrations, mind maps, or graphics if you are a visual learner, for example, or reading your notes aloud if you are an auditory learner.

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4. Complete practice problems for each of your topics

The best way to get ready for a final—especially one that involves quantitative problems—is to answer questions and solve problems concerning the topics you will be tested on. For example, when preparing for a final in your College Algebra class, you should take the time to solve college algebra practice problems that correspond with each unit you are reviewing. Even in non-math courses, like American History, you may come across practice questions to supplement your review. Testing yourself before the real exam is the best way to put your knowledge to use and hone your critical thinking skills.

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5. What to do the night before a final exam

Ideally, you’ve been studying for weeks, but you could also use a last-minute refresher. What do you do? If you listened to our advice and took notes on difficult topics to review, you can use these notes as a last-minute review sheet to hone your understanding. Review your notes and then go to bed early—a rested mind and body help you perform the best you can on test day.

It may seem like finals sneak up on you, but you can control the process with forethought, focus, and review. Start your study plan for finals today, and see the results by test day.