The perfect plan for finals preparation

May 3, 2021 — by Jason Cheng
Photo by Jason Cheng

We’re winding down to the final stretch of the school year, with the dawn of summer on the horizon. Yet, the relief of summer break is often eclipsed by the stress of the most difficult period of the entire year — finals.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. With careful preparation and the right mindset, finals week will hopefully feel like any other week of the year, and you’ll breeze right through your exams with an edge over your friends.

Of course, most classes this year are shifting to final projects rather than tests, due to the remote learning format. With that being said, many of the preparation methods are still very similar.

Specifically, it’s important to get started early. From personal experience, procrastination and cramming don’t work for major assignments, so be sure to follow a detailed schedule with ample time to master the material – doing anything under a time constraint is a nightmare.

Moreover, make sure to allocate the right amount of time for studying each subject. You want to achieve a balance between studying subjects you’re already comfortable with and those that may need more practice, so don’t spend hours on something you already understand.

When studying for tests, it’s super helpful to handwrite whatever notes you have — writing, rather than typing, forces your brain to remember it better. I know it’s a lot more effort, but it seriously goes a long way. Try to keep your notes organized as well — you don’t want to build up a pile of junk on your desk to sift through every time you sit down to study. 

You can even study with your buddies over Zoom which comes with its own benefits and drawbacks. It’s often refreshing to hear other people’s ideas on a topic, but it’s easy to lose focus when working with friends — proceed with caution. 

The last few weeks preceding finals week allow you to hone in on your study habits. It’s important to stay consistent and follow a set schedule. I personally set aside a certain time in the evening to study with minimal distractions, but you can choose whatever time works best for you.

At this point, many of your classes will no longer be teaching new material, so the time you usually set aside for homework can be replaced with extra study sessions, if you have the extra motivation.

Still, be sure to take breaks in order for your brain to operate to its full potential. Try to take your eyes off the screen and do a physical activity or read a book — it really helps your productivity later on. Background music can also make a study session feel less empty, but don’t compromise your studying by blasting EDM or hip-hop. 

Don’t compromise your health for studying either. Try to maintain a disciplined sleep and workout plan so you can be wide awake when pushing through your studying grind. Investing in a standing desk may help to avoid cramps from sitting for hours at a time as well. 

Finally, on the night before exams, get a good night's sleep. An extra hour of sleep goes a long way, and whatever you try to cram in will likely have a minimal effect. Still, it’s important to glance over your notes to remind yourself of everything you’ve covered in the past few weeks, without burning yourself out the night before (speaking from experience). 

On the day of your final, make sure you’re hydrated and energized. Focus less on the results or future consequences and more on the test in front of you, removing any mental distractions that may hinder your test-taking abilities. 

No matter the result, be proud of yourself. You’ve gotten through another school year of ups and downs, so treat yourself to a summer break of relaxation — you deserve it.