5 Tips for Acing Your Finals

Yes, it’s that time of the term again: finals week. Finals week inspires a special kind of anxiety that plagues all students to some degree. Even students with perfect GPAs and detailed study guides grow apprehensive as their exams loom ever closer. Here are five simple tips to help you reduce your stress and boost your scores as the term comes to a close.

1. Study early, often, and briefly

Even though some of your schoolmates might boast about their last-minute, all-night cram sessions, know this: Multiple studies have shown that “spacing” (the opposite of cramming) is an effective way to enhance test performance. In addition, spaced studying won’t raise your stress levels. Clear a half hour or so every day to review your notes and keep the material cycling through your brain. Studying for small amounts of time each day will help you realize which parts you understand and which you need to revisit.

2. Find a review group

Studying can quickly become tedious, and the temptation of socializing can prove dangerous after time amidst piles of books and lecture notes. This is a difficult inclination to fight, so use it to your advantage instead. Invite your peers over to review notes and then quiz each other on the material. Study groups can push you into areas of review that you’re not as confident about, and affirm or correct your understanding of the test material. Studying independently is still important, but review groups are an entertaining and social way to change up your study sessions.

3. Write, do not type

Technology is so ingrained in our lifestyle that the idea of an “old” method trumping a technological one rattles us to the core—but learning is one area where technology lovers occasionally have to accept the wisdom of past ways. According to a study by Psychological Science, students who took notes with laptops showed lower levels of recall and understanding than their handwriting counterparts. Download the slides from the lecture, but sort through them with a notebook on your lap—and, of course, take notes!

4. Care for your body

When it’s time to sit down and complete your final exam, don’t allow heavy eyelids to foil weeks of prep. Pencil in an entire evening of sleep for the night prior and, if you have an exam in the morning, wake up with enough time to make yourself a filling, nutritious breakfast. If your test is later in the day, eat well all day, instead of weighing yourself down (mentally and physically) with fried foods and frozen pizzas.

5. Care for your mind (by giving it a break)

Yo’ve been preparing for weeks. You have memorized your flashcards and taken notes on all of your lecture slides. You are confident in your performance. Before opting for one last study session, take a break. Allow your mind time to recuperate by delving into something other than academia. Exercise is a great option, as is meditation, yoga, or listening to music.

Finals week can be difficult, but always keep that light at the end of the tunnel in sight—a brand new term is not far away. Good luck!


This article was written by Schuyler Durham

Schuyler Durham is a professional tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. He received his bachelor's degree in journalism from University of Oregon in 2014.

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