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Avoiding a Finals Week Freak-Out

Spring finals week always seems a little more chaotic and high-stakes than winter finals week—the weather is nice, the sun is shining, and everyone is pumped up for a long summer.

Laura Magerkurth

February 25, 2015

Avoiding a Finals Week Freak-Out
There are still several weeks before finals fever sets in, but many students are already feeling the stress. Even though in college most classes are just a semester long, spring finals week always seems a little more chaotic and high-stakes than winter finals week—the weather is nice, the sun is shining, and everyone is pumped up for a long summer. That can make focusing on what you have to get done nearly impossible in the moment, when all you want to do is throw a frisbee around or sun yourself on the quad.

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So, in order to make that stressful week a little more palatable, start thinking ahead!
Get the little things out of the way now
If your professors are anything like some of mine, you have upwards of a dozen little assignments that are due in April and even during finals week in May. If you know what they’ll entail, get started on them (or even finish them!) now or during your midterm break.

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Start making your study materials ASAP
While flashcards and outlines are definitely helpful, they aren’t so great when you end up making 300 of them the weekend before a test. You will have spent hours making them when you could have used that time to study! Start making your flashcards and outlines now; that way you can use them to study for quizzes and tests that will come before the final.

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If you want to go a greener route, find a web site where you can make virtual flashcards—they get the job done but you’ll save some paper and money!
If you study best in a group, make a group Google Doc and have everyone outline the topics that they know the best. This is especially helpful if you’ve missed some class periods or if you struggled with some of the material—sometimes all it takes is a fresh explanation to make information click!
Set a timer
I’m sure you’ve heard this one before—in fact, I’m sure you’ve heard it enough that you’re sick of it. It rings true, however, and it’s one that I use all the time for all different kinds of assignments. This may be particularly helpful if you’re a chronic procrastinator. If you set a timer for ten, fifteen, or thirty minutes every day, you’ll end up spending a good chunk of your week studying and the information will stick better.
Use a variety of study materials
Simply rereading your notes ad infinitum won’t do much for you in the long run; eventually your brain will turn off during your study sessions and you won’t end up absorbing any more information than you already had. Videos can be a great resource for learning and retaining information. Check out organizations like Khan Academy for videos about all sorts of different topics, from math to science to vocabulary! There are also student-made videos on YouTube that give mnemonic devices (one of my favorites is the order of the 12 cranial nerves and their functions set to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”). Consider downloading a voice recording app and reading your notes out loud so you can listen to them when you’re doing other things, like cooking or driving. You could also make audio flashcards by asking questions on the recording and then, while you’re listening, answering them out loud. Think about how you best learn and tailor your study strategies to that style: if you’re a doer, try rewriting your notes from memory or drawing out important diagrams and pictures. You’ll retain more information than you would from simple reading and rereading.
Plan a reward
Even though it might seem that the end of the school year is a reward in and of itself, it’s important to think of things to look forward to other than “no more pencils, no more books!” It could be anything from making yourself a delicious dinner to your annual family vacation to simply having more time to read. Make a list of what you’re excited to do once finals are over and refer back to it whenever you’re down about studying!
What are your best tried-and-true finals study tips?

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