How to prep for finals

Rachel Forman
Rachel Forman
May 18, 2023

I will admit, the idea of sitting in the classroom for 2+ hours taking a final exam after a long rigorous semester can be hard. However, being prepared can be extremely rewarding. Some of the best advice I can give you is to prepare in advance. Here are a few ways I prepare for the most stressful week of the semester.

Take a break.
For starters, breaks are a necessity no matter who you are. Your brain can handle only so much. One of my biggest tips is to use the 10-2-5-10 method. Study for 10 minutes, then take a two-minute break and you do this five times. After the fifth cycle, you can take a 10-minute break. 

You can alter this method to your needs! But the biggest tip is to be distraction-free for the whole 10 minutes of studying.

Get organized.
Being organized is a powerful study tool that some people don’t take advantage of. Organization can look different to many people. Here’s what has been useful to me:

  • Have each class outlined in a folder with the relative notes
  • Keep these notes neatly outlined and next to your study station
  • Sort through and prioritize information that is important or you need more time to study.

Taking these steps will allow your brain to focus on the material that you have in front of you instead of all the scattered information around you. 

Plan ahead.
Planning ahead is very important. For me, if I have three classes and one final on each day Monday-Wednesday, I would start studying four weeks in advance — one week for each class, then leaving the final week for review. I would start studying my class that has the last final in the first week, and then switch each week to the class with the next final.

Study with classmates.
Study sessions with classmates can be very rewarding. It allows you to collaborate and exchange ideas by discussing concepts together. In my freshman year, I stayed up super late in Hanson with a couple of friends studying for hours using the white boards to draw out our thinking. If it wasn't for those sessions studying with friends, I don't think I would have ever passed my chemistry course!

Visit office hours.
The first time I decided to set up an office visit with a teacher, I was terrified. Not of my teacher but of asking for help. However, as soon as I walked in, everything changed. My professor was super useful and helped me understand the material so much better than in the traditional classroom. 

Office hours in general are a great resource to use all year, but during those last couple weeks, they become crucial to understanding all the material. My biggest advice, start early! Professors are way more likely to take the time at the beginning of the semester rather than toward the end as there may be other students in need of help.

Find a study spot.
Study spots are essential. Everyone is different when it comes to studying. Some like it loud, some need it completely quiet; find a spot where you feel comfortable. Find a place where you can be free from distractions and be productive. There are many places on campus that are great study spots, including the fishbowl, second floor of the library, the Brew and so on. Finding the place that you are comfortable will help you be the most productive.

Switch it up.
Reading a textbook is not my favorite thing. I am very much a visual and hands-on learner, so it's important for me to switch it up every once in a while. Some good ways of adding variety to your studying can be as simple as switching locations, reading out of the textbook then creating a quizlet or flashcards, or quizzing others around you if you're working in a group.

Eat well.
One of the most important things when it comes to finals is eating. I remember being in the dorms, and kids being so overwhelmed because of finals. But as soon as they ate, the anxiety went down. Your brain needs a well-balanced diet to function, and not eating or snacking can be trouble, especially when it comes to studying.

Get good rest.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get proper rest. Sleep is one of the biggest necessities in life, especially during finals week. Staying up all night will do no good. Go to bed at a reasonable time and wake up early. Let your brain get the sleep it needs to function and be completely focused.

Have fun!
Everyone needs a stress reliever. That can be playing a sport or calling family and friends. During finals week, it's important to take time for yourself that isn't class-related. For me, I use my time wisely by playing lacrosse with my teammates and calling my family. Those calls mean a lot to me and my mental health.

They are great resources that allow you to relax and remember that finals are just a test and not the end of the world. So my advice is find an outside source that makes you happy — either a sport, friends, family, and add that into your busy week. Even if it's for 10 minutes a day.

Finals can be stressful, but these 10 tips can help. Just remember to breathe, and you got this. Good luck!

Rachel Forman
Rachel Forman

Rachel is a senior from Saint Charles, Ill., majoring in communication studies and business administration with a marketing concentration.