How To Ace Finals Week

My first semester of college was nearly finished, with Christmas break shining brightly on the horizon. The only thing standing between homemade Christmas cookies and me was the dreaded Finals Week. Having never experienced such an intense test of academic ability, I was pretty nervous. How could professors expect me to remember every little thing I learned over the semester? Why is one, two-hour test worth almost half my grade? Fortunately, I made it through my first Finals Week and I have soldiered on to survive five more. Here are a few Finals Week secrets I learned along the way.

Do Not Procrastinate

I never had a procrastination problem, but I know plenty of people who do. These people are the ones carrying around the most stress during Finals Week. Cramming a semester’s worth of material into your brain is hard enough, and trying to do it 12 hours before an exam is nearly impossible. Take the initiative and start studying early. Your stress level will go down and your final grade will go up.


The types of finals you take in college will vary. Some may be cumulative and others may cover only a month of material. You will run into multiple choice tests and short answers. You might even get a take home final or an open book final (the best kind!). Take the time to determine which of your finals will require the most preparation. A cumulative calculus exam will probably require more studying than a take home English final essay. When it comes to open book finals, do not let the access to your entire course material fool you into not studying before hand. Remember you have a time limit, and blindly flipping through your notes can do more harm than good.

Plan It Out

Prioritizing your finals and planning out your study time go hand in hand. Lay out a schedule starting at least two weeks before you finals, allotting time for each subject. Have your schedule posted somewhere so you can glance at it often to make sure you are on track. I would not recommend spending more than four hours on one subject. Short, thorough study sessions are better than long ones that can bore you and illicit distractions.

Take A Break

Preparing for finals does not mean you have to devote your whole life to studying. It is actually beneficial to take a break once in a while. Allow yourself 10 minute breaks here and there throughout your long study sessions. Use these breaks as time to get up and move around; do not just flip open your computer and check Facebook. I also recommend taking a few longer breaks to fit in meals and a workout. If you take breaks, you will feel more alert and energized, allowing you to better retain information.

Stay Healthy

It may be tempting to pull an all-nighter before your 7 a.m. final (yes, they do exist), but getting adequate sleep during finals is very important. It helps your brain recharge and boosts your information retention. I will not condemn the coffee addicts, because I am one myself, but make sure to include a lot of water and healthy meals during Finals Week. Avoid the fast food and junk food trap. I personally enjoy apples and nuts as snacks; they are nutritious and the crunching keeps you awake. Remember to take a break and get yourself a full breakfast (really important!), lunch and dinner.

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Caitlin Furin

Caitlin Furin

Caitlin Furin is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in journalism and strategic communication. With an interest in social media, she can often be found exploring the Facebook walls, Twitter feeds and Pinterest profiles of big brands. Her laptop and iPhone never leave her side. Outside of school and work, Caitlin can be found enjoying a good TV show or two and spending time with her friends and family.
Caitlin Furin

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