By Tia Braxton
Surviving finals requires more than a midnight cram session hyped up on Monster and coffee. Finals demand cunning, strategy, patience, preparation, and probably a little bit of luck. To put yourself in the best position to succeed, you will have to make some changes. Here are some tips to help you manage your time, study your books, and navigate your way through those final exams.
Managing time can be hard when you are a full-time student with other responsibilities like work, social life, or sleeping.
West Georgia University’s Managing Time pamphlet includes some great tips. The first is to split up your studying throughout the day. The human mind is more likely to get bored studying biology for two hours without a break. When you take breaks, set time limits so those “breaks” do not turn into “never studying again.”
Organizing a to-do list may also help. Managing Time suggests a list with the labels “Must Do Today,” “Should Do It Soon,” and “Could Do. Not Priority Yet.” These three categories might help you prioritize, as might a detailed schedule of your day. If you distinguish your study time from your free time, you can balance your fun, work, and education.
In addition to math, many students tend to struggle with reading, mostly because they do not yet know how to actively read. The Student Development Center at West Georgia suggests a technique called “PQ4R” in their pamphlet, Remember What You Read. PQ4R is an acronym for “Preview, Question, Read, Reflect, Recite, Review.” In short, this procedure includes these stages:
- Looking over the chapter before reading it deeply
- Asking yourself what is important about the chapter
- Reading the chapter
- Asking yourself what the author meant in that chapter
- Answering the questions you asked yourself about the chapter
- Reviewing what you have learned so it stays fresh in your mind
Remember What You Read also suggests to “underline and make notes in the margins if it will help you learn the information more effectively.” Some students think that if they mark up their book, resale value will go down. But Remember What You Read argues that a used book is a used book anyway. So mark it up.
Another suggestion is to not read for many consecutive hours. Again: take timed breaks in between readings so your mind can rest. This rest may include sleeping before you read because you need to be active and attentive. Do not play music in the background as that might distract you. Studying for English, Science, or History using these methods may work. But you first must try.
Final papers require different methods. According to Amy Webb, senior at LaGrange College and Writing Center tutor, for argumentative papers, you should first lay out all your thoughts and start with a thesis statement. Starting with your thesis statement can help you organize the rest of the paper. Be aware, however, that not every writing assignment is argumentative. So be sure to consult with your professor about each assignment’s requirements and directions.
Galileo, not Google
-Amy Webb (’18), Writing Center Peer Consultant
Webb also states that sources are important. “Galileo, not Google,” she says. The library has a whole system of databases and books for your research projects. Librarians will assist you when you need to find these sources. Webb warns that citations and accidental plagiarism are troublesome, so check to make sure your format and in-text citations are correct before you print off that final paper.
Like the PQ4R method, test-taking strategies begin with previewing the test. Many students begin by answering the first question, but a better idea is to look over the whole test and find the questions that you know. According to How To Get Good Grades In College by Linda O’Brien, if the test is timed with essay questions, you should set out your time accordingly so you have enough time to also check your answers. O’Brien also suggests marking the questions that you don’t know or can’t remember so you can return to them. Once you have completed the ones you do know, you can come back to the other question and follow your first instinct.
Multiple choice exams can be grueling but O’Brien suggests, “If you have absolutely no idea, choose (b). It’s the correct answer up to 40% of the time.”
Essay questions can be another struggle. When looking at essay questions, take the easiest one you see and brainstorm. Write your ideas down on a sheet of paper and then, if time is permitted, organize them to the best of your ability. Then, all you have to do is write and go over the essay when you are done. If time does not allow you to finish your essay, make sure to list your points so the professor can see you know what you were doing. The professor may award you with partial credit.
LaGrange College finals begin December fourth and end on the eighth. Start preparing. Time management, studying, and test-taking strategies will help. LC also offers the Tutoring Center, PACE, and the Writing Center. Take advantage of these services so you can survive finals week.
Good luck on your journey!