And while social life, exploring your college town, planning for your professional future, and of course, managing your finances can bring on serious bouts of anxiety, nothing can make you feel as stressed out as your midterms and final exams.
You must worry about finding the time to study, locate all your old notes from the semester, and remember so many dates, definitions, facts, and formulas that just thinking about studying for finals makes your pulse go faster.
Want to learn how to prepare for exams and midterms in a methodical — but no less effective — way?
Read on to score some expert advice on the best way to study for finals.
1. Start Early
If we could only give you one piece of advice on how to study for finals, it would be to start as early as you possibly can.
Not only does cramming the night before, or even the week of your exams make you incredibly stressed out and lead to many sleepless nights — it also means that you likely won’t remember any of the information once the test is over.
If you’re taking midterms, this means you’ll have to study like crazy again when it’s time for the final, and if you’re taking finals, it means you may not be as ready to enter your next year of school or the workforce as you might think.
Cramming has been proven to compromise your recall ability, and doesn’t give you the time to structure the information in your brain so that you actually understand it as opposed to just memorizing it.
By reading the chapter before the professor discusses the subject in class, you will absorb much more information, be able to ask good questions and have a greater understanding than those who didn’t come prepared. Homework will be easier and faster to complete, and your exam scores will be higher without any having to do extra work just by moving the timing of study forward! If possible, try to begin studying, at minimum, two weeks before your exam, and even 4 weeks before them if possible.
This allows you to take “breaks” between your study sessions, which increases your overall information retention. It also lets you study in short “bursts” of 20 to 50-minute sessions — the ideal time for fact retention.
2. Pick the Right Study Location
Part of understanding how to prepare for exams is also about finding your ideal study location.
For example, some people may prefer the motivational environment of the library, where everyone around them is also working, while others may find that the typing, presence of friends, and possible interruptions are disruptive.
You may enjoy studying outdoors, or you may need the privacy/silence of your bedroom or the study lab in your off-campus student housing. You could also investigate the location of study rooms on campus.
Start finding your ideal location early in the semester so you know where to go when exam time arrives.
Also, think hard about whether study groups/sessions with friends are truly beneficial for your learning style.
Though it’s a great way to get questions answered and have peers explain tough concepts to you in a way you can understand, it’s also incredibly easy to get distracted, go off-topic, or decide to end the study session early in favor of something a bit more fun.
3. Invest in Study Guides
One of our top study tips for finals is also to buy or find free resources for study guides relating to the subject at hand.
This way, you’ll be able to clearly plot out which sections to study each day and understand the concepts you need to focus on the most.
Many of these study guides also have practice questions or mock exams that you can take, and those same questions frequently appear on the exams.
In addition to helping you learn what you don’t know, you’ll also be able to simulate the test environment, which goes a long way towards keeping exam nerves at bay. (Try these tips to reduce anxiety and keep yourself calm on test day as well.)
4. Identify Pockets of Time in Your Day
As a college student, we get that you’re incredibly busy.
You have a social life, a job, classes, sports practice, and other on/off-campus activities.
When you’re nearing exam time, look for smaller pockets of time throughout your day. For example, if you woke up just 30 minutes earlier every morning, could you knock out your exam studying for the day, leaving your nights free to go out?
What about that hour between classes — could that serve as an ideal study time? Do you have the room to yourself when your roommate hits the gym? Use that quiet time to review your notes and create study guides.
Make studying a priority and push yourself to get it done as early in the day as you can — because, given the chance to do something other than study later in the evening, you’ll probably pick the more fun activity.
5. Find a Study Method That Works for You, Don’t Follow Someone Else’s Tips
The golden rule of studying for finals?
Find a study method that works for you and follow it.
Don’t try to make someone else’s method work for you. If you’re a visual learner, for example, color-code notecards according to the subject, era, unit, or whatever else works for you.
If you’re an auditory learner, make a recording of yourself reading the facts you need to know and play it while you’re hitting the gym or walking to class.
Finding the right study method may take some trial and error, so start early.
Learning How to Prepare for Exams Doesn’t Have to Be Stressful
We know that mastering how to prepare for exams isn’t always easy — but once you find a method that works for you, you’ll be well on your way to earning that “A.”
Of course, making sure that you have a peaceful home environment to decompress, study in, or even to host study sessions with your classmates in is essential, too.
We can help you to find your dream off-campus student housing while you’re studying at the University of California, Davis.
Whether you want to call Aggie Square Apartments, Fountain Circle Townhomes, or Almondwood Apartments your home, we’re here to make sure you find your ideal living space.
UPDATED: October 12, 2020 Notice: Since this article was originally posted, there have been...
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