Originally posted April 2014
A guide to getting through the last week and worst week of the semester
I’ve seen a lot of final exam weeks in my day. And for the first time this year I saw finals from an outsider’s perspective, since I’m not currently in school. So I’ve compiled some tips to help undergrads get over that last hurdle without falling flat on their face. Everyone is different and if you have a different way to handling finals that’s all right. I’m just sharing the things I know.
Know when your damn finals are
You would be shocked to know how many people can’t answer “what days are your finals on?” I’m not sure if people are trying to act nonchalant about it, or they really just don’t care but either way it’s dumb. I mean these are tests that can make or break your grades and you can’t commit the words Monday = English Lit into your head? Or just writing it down somewhere you can see it? Not knowing when finals are or what tests you have what days just says you are trying to avoid the thought of taking these exams. But that’s how you get blindsided and then have a panic attack because your exam is 4 days away and you haven’t even looked at any of the class material.
Schedule study time based on course/content difficulty
Once you know when your exams are, you should set a schedule for when and what to study. Obviously, you should study for the classes which exams will happen first and then go from there. But as most college students know, classes are not created equal and therefore do not require the same amount of study time. By the end of the semester you should have a pretty good idea of what you need to do to succeed on an exam in whatever classes you have. Figure out how much time you will need for each class and then plan accordingly, then add a little more time because finals.
Let others know its finals week
I don’t know what’s up with parents/family members, employers or anyone who isn’t in college currently but finals week is like an enigma to them. No matter how many finals you have, no matter how long you’ve been in college (therefor amassing plenty of finals weeks) they don’t get it. You are busy the whole week. Yes the whole week. You have to let all parties know that you will essentially be inaccessible, and you need to be patient regardless of how many times you have to repeat it. Also, do not allow yourself to be swayed by guilt trippers who try to get you to go out/come home early/do favors. Finals are super important and for all the importance every places on school you’d think they’d get it by now.
Take breathers and stress-relievers
Having 5 exams all at once that cover everything you’ve learned in a 4 months is a terrible thing. A terrible, stress inducing thing. It’s important to have a way to blow off some of that built up pressure. After an exam you should take at least 2 to 3 hours to distress and come down the test takers high, especially if you had back-to-back exams. You can take a nap, watch your shows, and go exercise, whatever helps you feel at ease. If you have another test coming up the next day (or even that same night) you should still take time out to breath because you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. If you have a test a final a few days after the one you just took, I am a firm believer in taking the rest of the day as a study free day. If you are burnt out you won’t be able to retain anything productive anyways.
I know sleeping is really the last thing you want to do during finals week. I mean why waste 8 hours asleep when you could be learning everything in the universe instead? I’m personally not a fan of cramming the night before, or the morning of if you’re one of those people but there are time when it needs to be done, like if you are taking a particularly tough course load that semester and there just isn’t enough daytime to get shit done. Here is the thing though; if you try to give up the majority of your sleeping time during finals (like getting 10 hours in 3 days) you’re hurting yourself a lot more than you are helping. You retain much less information, lose the ability to fully concentrate, plus you become a zombified shell of a student who is dead on the inside. So if you can, get your sleep on.
Take the test and forget
I am in no way saying forget everything you learned from your class after you’re done with finals. Don’t do that. I’m saying to take your final, and then forget about that final. It’s done and over with. Don’t go digging through a textbook looking for an answer you weren’t sure of. Don’t talk about how good/bad the exam was and how you knew nothing and the world conspires against you. Save all of that until finals are completely over.
Finals are like war. If you dwell over a win or loss, you won’t be able to focus on the next battle and you can’t win the war. You can celebrate once you’ve conquered all.
So good luck to all you finals weekers out there!