I go over my homework and previous exams from the current semester. Many times exams from former semesters may have different content or content that is not necessarily covered during your semester. One way to find out what will be covered on the exam is by going to review sessions and asking either the Prof. or the TA.
If you have time also do the exams from previous semesters but don’t assume that the questions will resemble the makeup of your exam. Do them purely for practice.
***YOU NEED SLEEP TO LEARN! This is why studying for the exam the night before and pulling all-nighters doesn't [usually] work. Sleep not only helps your cognitive function, attention span and general health (among other things) but is crucial for memory retention. REM sleep, the deepest sleep, is directly linked to memory retention and learning. This sleep usually occurs during the last 2 hours of sleep, if you cut your sleep short you will miss out on this sleep mode, and will consequently retain less of what you studied. The more sleep you get (at least 7.5hrs or more) the more new information you are able to retain, and thus the greater your capacity to learn will be. A study from Trent University showed that students with sleep deprivation on the 3rd night after learning something new displayed a 30% learning deficit. That means if you party on Friday after a rough week you will lose 30% of what you learned on Wednesday and Friday! If you stay out late on Saturday then what you learned on Thursday is also affected. Set yourself up for success and get your rest!
Surviving finals week really boils down to pacing. Even before the week starts you know how many finals you have and in most cases you can’t wait until the weekend before to start to prepare. First, understand that finals week is a marathon and not a sprint. Most people have between 3 and 5 finals which means you can’t go “all in” on any particular exam. I suggest waking up every day before 10am so that you get solid use out of your day. The worst trap is to think that because you don’t have classes that you can sleep in. In most cases you’ll plan to start at noon, but in reality you snooze until 1 or 2 and before you know it the sun has set and you haven’t really done anything. Waking up early means that you can do all of your studying and still eat well and get decent amounts of sleep.
Also don’t forget to take breaks! The brain has an internal clock that affects its ability to retain information. In the first hour you brain retains between 100% and 80% of the information you study, after the first hour it varies from 80% to 50% and after the 90 minute mark retention is essentially negligible. For this reason it is key to take a study break at least every 90 minutes to make sure your brain stays fresh.
Finals is both my favorite and least favorite part of the year. Here are my tips:
- Wake up early! This will force you to get work done and allow you to get to bed at a reasonable time.
- Give yourself breaks- without them, studying is not nearly as productive as it can be.
- Don't procrastinate! Start studying at least a few days before your exam (if not sooner) so that you can do your best on the final.
- If you attend a Study-A-Thon, make sure you spend the time utilizing your resources and doing what you need to do. A lot of times, people just end up socializing and studying is put in the background. Don't let this happen!
- TIME MANAGEMENT IS ESSENTIAL! Prioritize by your finals schedule.
- Say "no". If someone asks you to help plan, execute, or attend an event that interferes with your study or exam schedule, just tell them! This is not the time to see how much you can juggle at once.
Good luck, and come into 208 to say hello if you need a break!