Finals are coming up soon, and you may be wondering how best to prepare. Of course, you've actually been preparing for finals all semester, so you've already got a head start. Now you just need a plan so you're ready to go in there on exam day and show the professor what you've learned.
The first step is to get organized. That means organizing the materials you'll need to study for each class - notes, books, old exams. It also means developing a plan for your studying. You'll want to break things down - make a list of what you need to cover, and the days and times available. Then work backward from the day of the exam to set up your study schedule. You'll also want to plan your most difficult tasks for the times you're most focused - whether that's morning, afternoon, or evening. Be sure to include a break every hour or so, just a few minutes so you can get up, walk around, and stretch your muscles before going back to work.
The second step is to prepare mentally. Identify the areas you need to focus on, and the ones you've already got down. Try different ways of reviewing the material - write out note cards, ask yourself questions, read your notes out loud, or teach someone one of the concepts. If you have questions related to a certain concept or homework assignment, be sure to clarify with your professor or TA after class. Many instructors and teaching assistants list their office hours on the syllabus for you to ask questions related to class materials. Some instructors also allow students to schedule an appointment for learning consultation.This may also be a good time to set up a study group, so you can work together and bounce ideas off each other. Be sure to make use of the following campus resources:
- SMART learning commons tutoring for math and science courses: https://wiki.umn.edu/SMART
- Writing consultation: http://writing.umn.edu/
- Multicultural Center of Academic Excellence (MCAE): http://www.mcae.umn.edu/acadsupport/
- Campus libraries also have extended hours during the final week: http://www.lib.umn.edu/about/collections
The third step is to prepare physically. It may seem that you don't have time to take care of yourself right now, but remember that your mind functions better and more efficiently when you're in good condition. So make sure that you're getting enough sleep (at least 5-6 hours a night). Eat regular, nutritious meals. Don't give up your exercise routine, or start taking a walk around campus every day.
The fourth step is to manage your stress. Time management is stress management, so let that motivate you when you're tempted to put off studying. The more prepared you are, the less stressed you're likely to be. Instead of negative thinking, try coaching yourself into success. Remember that you're here for a reason, and each exam is part of achieving that higher goal in your future. And be sure to take a little time each day to talk to friends and family, to have a laugh, and most importantly to breathe!
For more ideas, check out the Self Help section of our web site.