15 tips for doing well on your finals

Get used to this sight

The Professors’ Guide blog on the US News & World Report Web site has these tips for students taking final exams. I’ve included the shortened list, but you can read the whole thing here.

Hang in there till the holidays!

1. Count your way forward. Count up from the day the study questions are handed out (or if your prof doesn’t bother with such niceties, a week before the exam) to the day the exam will take place. “Seven days? Then I’ll divide the course into sevenths and study two weeks’ worth of lectures each day.”

2. Shed some commitments. Put off any unnecessary social obligations or family commitments, and trim your work schedule, if possible.

Best-Kept Secret. If you can finish your term papers the week before the last week of classes, it’ll free loads of extra time to study for finals.

3. “Triage” your study time. Proportion your study time to how hard the final is likely to be and how well you already know the material.

4. Figure out what’s covered. Is the final going to concentrate on materials since the midterm or is it going to be a comprehensive or cumulative final? 

5. Decide if it’s going to be a grand tour or lots of local attractions. Some profs design a single, big question or two; other professors give a series of more focused questions, each covering some single issue in the course.

6. Torture the samples. A study guide, sample final, or set of review questions can often furnish questions amazingly close to the actual exam questions.

7. Study with a group only if it makes sense. This works well when your study buddies are at least as smart as you.

8. Cram with the professor (or TA). One of the best—and at some colleges, most under-used—resources is the review session. Here the professor (or sometimes the TA) will give you a window into the final.

9. Leverage your notes (when allowed). Increasingly, professors are allowing students to bring their notes and books to the exam. Be sure your notes are in tip-top shape.

10. Read the instructions—and make a plan.

4-Star Tip. Don’t waste too much time outlining your answers or writing down formulas you’ve memorized.

11. Be sure to develop your answers fully.

12. Make it easy on the grader. You’re more likely to get a good grade if you: make clear which question you’re answering; begin to give your answer in the very first sentence of your essay; show all work in a problem-based exam; and, above all, write neatly.

13. Pace yourself.

14. Don’t panic too soon.

15. Stay ’til the bitter end. There are always problems to be checked over or essays to be added to or proofread.