Plan a study scheduleIf you already feel anxious and unprepared for your finals, take a deep breath. Set aside an hour or two to plan your remaining days and weeks. Ensure you review every subject thoroughly. This may seem like a tremendous undertaking when you are so short on time, but it can truly help you maximize your hours.
Utilize diverse learning toolsIf you are struggling to commit the necessary class content to memory, try a new tactic. Write a study guide that includes the items you know and the details you always forget. You might also consider creating an outline of the exam topics. Why? Writing information in your own words engages the parts of your mind that allow you to retain knowledge. This is just like teaching the content to yourself a second time, but it is not the only new technique you can utilize. You can also tell yourself a story that includes the information, or draw a picture – in short, any action that does not include reading someone else's words.
Prioritize your timeThis is often the most difficult aspect of reviewing for finals. What subjects or tests are most important? Is it your favorite course, or the one with which you are especially struggling? Is there a project that will require more time to complete? You don’t necessarily need to forego a football game or a choir practice, so long as you schedule time for all of your commitments. This does not, however, mean that you can choose to watch all of your television shows if it limits your available study time. Self-care (in other words, the occasional indulgence) can help you boost your productivity, but use it sparingly.
Set aside ample time for sleepA well-rested brain works faster and more accurately than a tired and sluggish brain. By high school, this should not be novel news. You should not schedule an all-nighter to cram course content into your poor, tired mind. Sleeping, eating well, and otherwise taking care of yourself will ultimately help you work more efficiently. It can even help you perform better on your exams. A quick note about cramming that every student should take in: information stays in your brain for far longer if you revisit it on multiple occasions. If you are interacting with course content for the first time the evening before your test, it is very unlikely to be at your fingertips (i.e. easily recalled) during your exam the next day. When it comes to your final tests, preparing yourself earlier, rather than later, will always be the best possible scenario. But if that time has already passed, do your best not to panic, and instead make the best use of your remaining time instead. Good luck on your exams!
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.