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How to Put Your Best Foot Forward for Finals Week

As students wrap up the end of the semester, many are getting ready for finals! Studying for a load of exams at the end of the semester can be overwhelming and challenging. Luckily, there are a couple of different ways students can study for exams and get ahead of the workload.

  1. Find what works for you. If you’ve had the joy of previously experiencing a finals week, take note of what worked for you and what didn’t. Everyone learns differently! By doing what works for you, you can put your best foot forward.

  2. Make a plan. By creating a schedule, students have an understanding of what’s to come and can prevent any mishaps such as forgetting to do a task. Within this plan, make room for yourself!

  3. Study early and often. Studying ahead of time allows students to better process information and prevent burnout. Doing this leaves time for you to attack all of your classes and dedicate time to those that are more challenging.

  4. Take breaks. The number one thing my psychology professor shared my freshman year was the importance of breaks and sleep for successful studying! Sleep allows the brain to process all the information you just absorbed, and breaks improve your concentration. So, if you can at all avoid it, skip those all-nighters! Make sure to get a good night of sleep and dedicate time towards your favorite leisurely activity.

  5. Change up your environment. Taking a walk or finding a new place to study can be so valuable for endurance and brain function. A study by the Applied Cognitive Psychology Journal found that changing your environment while studying improved memory retention (Phelps, 1995). It can be difficult with COVID-19 to find a new environment, but even the walk to your living room or a nice rock outside will suffice.

  6. Study your notes. Remember those notes you took all semester? Use them! Reviewing information that’s in your own words makes it easier to recall past topics. Make sure you didn’t miss any major topics and cross-check those study guides as well.

  7. Quiz yourself. Finding different ways to recall information will make sure you understand the topics fully. Oftentimes, we remember the things we learned more recently and forget the topics from the beginning of the year. Leave a little extra time to study those topics from the first eight weeks.

  8. Teach what you’re studying to your roommates. Professors, teachers, and TA’s have reminded me time and time again, if you can explain these topics to an 8-year-old, you fully understand it. Being able to teach what you’ve learned shows that you fully understand the topics and haven’t just memorized them! Memorization can be a useful technique, but full cognition ensures you’re ready for any structure of the question.

  9. Eat a healthy meal. It can be easy to skip a meal in the name of studying! Food is a source of energy, nutrition, and it is brain food. Take time to eat a full meal and stay hydrated!

  10. Take care of yourself! Finals can be a huge source of stress and anxiety, and people that practice self-care have reduced stress, a better sense of well-being, and increased cognitive ability. Therefore, amid finals, it’s essential to leave room for YOU!

Finals can put so much pressure on students, it’s understandable to be overwhelmed and intimidated by the coming weeks. Hopefully, taking these tips into account can relieve some of that anxiety and provide students with alternative methods to cramming! Sometimes cramming is inevitable, it’s nothing to feel guilty about! If it comes down to cramming for a test, take it one step at a time and focus on the important topics. Take a deep breath, you got this.


Murnane, K., & Phelps, M. P. (1995). Effects of changes in relative cue strength on context-dependent recognition. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 21(1), 158–172. https://doi.org/10.1037/0278-7393.21.1.158


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