Finals are around the corner which can mean a litany of different things for each person. For some, it’s all-nighters the week of the exam, for others, it’s being responsible and starting to study immediately. No matter what option you choose, the following tips should help in some way or another.
It should be noted that my advice may not be directly applicable to you, as learning styles differ.
First thing to do is to study early. Read the chapters in your book before they are lectured over. After each lecture, go over your notes and make sure you understand everything. If there’s a misunderstanding, go back to the book or lecture slides and resolve your confusion. A lecture is wasted if you don’t understand the material. Once you understand the information, make flash cards so you can solidify your knowledge of the subject.
Study guides are usually given out closer to the exam and can be extremely helpful. If you’re keeping up with your lectures and understanding the information, the study guide will be an incredible tool for narrowing what you need to master for the exam. If you get your hands on a study guide early, bring it to lectures so you can fill it out and ask your professor and peers questions to further grasp the material.
For a model student, the previous advice will likely lead to success. However, non-model students seem to be in higher abundance (myself included). If you procrastinate and need to blaze through the process of learning and being tested upon the information in your classes, the next section may be helpful for you.
When I look at a study guide full of things I don’t know, I do two things first: Number one is pulling up every single lecture presentation for the exam in chronologic order. Go through the slides and write the information as it corresponds to the study guide. Second, go through the blank study guide again, this time with the book. Fill out the questions with information the book gives. To efficiently extract information from the book, focus on reading only the first and last sentences of each paragraph, it should provide the information you’re looking for, or at least help lead you to it.
You now have pages of information which you can compile and make flash cards out of. Once your flash cards are made, go through each one and learn the content.
When I use flash cards, my strategy is to write each answer down the best I can remember it. For the first run through, every card should be kept. Once the cards have all been answered, go through them again, this time setting aside every card for which the answer is written perfectly. You should end with two stacks of cards separating what you do and don’t know on your exam review.
Take what you don’t know and go through the flash cards as you verbally answer the information out loud. Each time you go through the cards, set the successful answers to the side and keep the misses. Repeat this process until you feel confident in each answer, at which point there shouldn’t be any cards in your hand.
After you have verbally answered every card you couldn’t remember before, go back to writing them down. Try to answer each flash card question on paper in an open-ended format and try to be as detailed as possible. If you make it through all the cards, this means you’ve done a good job of learning the information. Focus on retention and go back through the information regularly.
Sometimes this process can be lengthy, so it’s better to start it on the morning of a free day. You may have to sacrifice a free day of your life to study. This strategy will keep you from stepping into the dangerous realm of all-nighters.
All-nighters, or staying up from sunset to sunrise to study, is unhealthy and damaging to your body. These should be avoided if possible. However, if you find yourself in a situation calling for an all-nighter, be the smartest and healthiest you can about it. Eat plenty of nutritious food, move around regularly, listen to positive music and try to be with good people. Stay hydrated as you’ll likely be consuming fairly large amounts of caffeine to make it through.
Be smart and get your work done early because it will make your life easier. If you procrastinate, be smart about your information loading. Don’t pull all-nighters unless you absolutely must. Be about your caffeine intake because sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. Finally, remember not to freak out.