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Finals: Make a Study Plan Now & Avoid Cramming Later

As long as you’ve got the willpower to finish up this semester successfully, you’re well on your way to being home free for the holidays!

Mckenzie Nevins

October 20, 2014

Finals: Make a Study Plan Now & Avoid Cramming Later
It’s getting towards that time of year – that time when the threat of exams begins to appear on the horizon and all of that first-semester fun begins to fade into reality. Don’t panic yet, though – there are some easy things you can do to keep studying from turning into a late-night cram session the night before your test. As long as you’ve got the willpower to finish up this semester successfully, you’re well on your way to being home free for the holidays!

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Here are some tips to help you prepare for your finals:

Tip One: Divide and Conquer

A planner is a really good item to invest in when you’re shopping for school supplies, and if you don’t have one already then it’s definitely not too late. Planning is the number one requirement for getting studying done on time without also completely sacrificing your social life. Writing down what you need to do each day in a planner can help keep you on track, and the physical act of writing things also helps with memory, so you’re less likely to forget.

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Reviewing the last 12 chapters of a textbook sounds super overwhelming, so take it one step at a time. Review one chapter a day, for instance, and you’ll have the whole thing done in twelve days. If you have less time than that, you may have to double up, and if you have more time you can spread it out. The trick is to start as early as possible so that you don’t have to do as much each day.
The same thing holds true with review questions and practice problems. Divide the amount that you have by the number of days you have between now and the test. This absolutely cuts down on the load. In fact, it works for regular homework, too.

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This semester I had to read a 33-chapter book in two weeks. By reading three chapters a day, I had the whole thing done in 11 days and still had plenty of time to be with my friends. It sounds better now to do no studying for a few days and have more time to socialize, but believe me, a week from now when you’re cramming everything in and have no time at all, you’ll regret it.

Tip Two: Make the Best Use of Your Time

To be perfectly honest, there’s a lot of time in our lives that we waste. For example, I’m an early riser, and it only recently occurred to me that I waste a ton of time in the morning before breakfast that I could be using to get things done so that I have less to do later. Think about it. Most activities happen later in the day or evening, so getting homework and studying done as early as possible frees up that time (and this doesn’t mean at 6 am, it just means closer to the beginning of your day as opposed to the evening). Soon after class I’m usually still in the “school” mindset, so that’s a good time for me to get things done. Perhaps your schedule is different, so plan your studying time around that. This doesn’t mean that you should only focus on school and not take breaks, either. Sometimes breaks help you to focus more when you come back; just try not to take them excessively or for too long. One or two breaks are usually sufficient.

Tip Three: Get Sleep

It sounds counter-intuitive – most people stay up late studying – but sleep actually helps memory and brain power. This is another good reason to get your studying done as early as you can. It’s been proven that “sleeping on” things you’ve studied helps your brain to categorize and memorize the information easier. If you’re having a really difficult time memorizing something specific, look at it right before you go to bed and you may find that you remember it better after a few days of doing this.

Tip Four: Know when Enough is Enough

Strange as it seems, there really is such a thing as too much studying. Cramming everything in right up until the moment that you sit down to take the test causes more panic and increases the risk of you blanking on everything you’ve learned. It’s something that I learned from theatre. The day of an audition, it helps me to not think about or practice what I’m going to be doing at all. I’ve had weeks to do that already. Now I just need to be confident in what I know and do a great job. Do the very best that you can to study well and memorize all of that information during the weeks leading up to the test, but on the day itself make sure that you give yourself a break. Put the books away, and be confident that you’ve done the best that you can to prepare yourself. In the grand scheme of things, college exams are really only a tiny thing, but they’re still stepping stones to achieving your dreams. That’s why you came to college in the first place, isn’t it? Plan well, work hard, get rest and it’ll be fine. If you weren’t more than capable of this, you never would’ve been accepted!

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