As finals season sweeps into the relaxation you’ve had from Spring Break, your first thought is probably “No!” I’m in the same boat! For college students, if you remember how finals in December were, add in some sunshine and subtract snow from the frantic re-reading of chapters and notes…we’re talking about end of the year finals.
With all of my schooling moved online due to the widespread effects of COVID-19, it’s important now more than ever that I plan to study for my finals. I still have to check in with my professors about finals, since I assume, they will either be written or I will have to show proof of progress for the semester, like a final drawing in an art class.
Don’t let finals get here before you are asking what format your finals will be in, how long you might have to take them, and if you will even have finals this year! Check all of your syllabi, see if there has been any change due to online classes, and ask around mid-April if you haven’t heard anything about your finals.
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My main tip for online classes - even if they don’t meet (as in, you have to be on a video chat with the teacher), act as if they do! If you block out your time similar to when you would be in class, it definitely helps with productivity. If your classes are 50 minutes, set a timer and work for 50 minutes on a subject or until you’ve finished the work for that class. Don’t forget to schedule breaks to stretch, get some food, or head outside!
High school students, especially seniors, need to beware of what I like to call the “Summer Sun Captivation” or the pull of summer break. It doesn’t go away - even college students feel it! I think that the stresses of finals only encourage us to procrastinate on studying, no matter what level of schooling you are at. Don’t fear! If you do have finals, let’s put together a plan to tackle them together! I’ll also talk about some strategies and tips to help get anyone through their spring finals below.
First, figure out how much time you will have to prepare. Do you have three weeks or is it crunch time and you have three days? I know I have been in both situations so let’s see what advice I can give you so you will hopefully ace your finals this year!
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If you have a longer amount of time, determine how much material you have to study. Any summaries or flashcards you made during the year will be useful right about now, and if you didn’t make any, don’t worry! You can still study, and if you find yourself missing key terms or forgetting information, put it on a flashcard or two and study that!
For those who have a shorter amount of time to prepare, it’s super important that you are in a place where you can focus! If a TV or your phone is distracting you, turn it off! If you have a study guide for your final, use that to figure out what you personally need to study. Break it down into manageable study sections. Maybe study one page of the study guide each day, if you have enough time (or a page and a half if you’re feeling really focused). If you don’t have a study guide, figure out what you don’t know very well and focus on that. This can include having someone quiz you on information, using Quizlet to find a set of flashcards with relevant information to study, or thumbing through your notes or textbook.
I don’t have a rule of thumb for how much you need to study for a final, but what I try to do is a general review, a specific review, and then drill until the test.
Math or similar class? A general review is reminding yourself of a type of problem, a specific review is attempting a problem or two, and your drill is to complete the problems until you feel confident with the material. English or history? A summary is the way to go here unless you will be tested on small details. A general review is, for me, skimming the material again, pinpointing chapters or figures I don’t remember quite as well as others, and reviewing a summary or a key facts sheet.
Another popular final is written, and I’m thinking a lot of professors or teachers will pull this one out of their toolbox as a way to test their students this semester. First, what are your requirements? A certain length, font size, and your topic or topics. If you get to pick your topic, go with one that you will have plenty to write about.
Whether you have a pre-determined topic or not, you can “chunk” your writing into 100 and 200 word segments. This will help you keep your writing topic focused. It will also get you to your word or page count faster! If you have to use a work, such as a book or an article, pick out what quotes you need to use ahead of time and work them into your essay. I know having a list of quotes ready at the beginning, really helped me cut down on the amount of time it took for me to write an essay.
Also, here’s a tip I’ve learned from experience. You’ll want to do more of your homework (and study) if you get up, off of your bed! I rotate between the floor in my bedroom, a coffee table in my living room, and the desk in my bedroom. Especially when I feel myself starting to gloss over whatever’s in front of me that I need to study. Since the library is probably not an option for all of us to study at, try studying at your kitchen table. If you need some background noise or a change of scenery, study in your room, outside, or even in a sibling’s room!
I know that with everything being pushed online for schooling, thinking about finals can be very stressful. If it ends up looking like you will have a lot of finals around the same couple of days, it can never hurt to ask your teacher for an extension or for a modified assignment if you are feeling overwhelmed. We’re in this together! Good luck with your finals!