How To Successfully Tackle Final Exams

You’re nearly finished with your first semester of college! You’ve adapted to new professors and people, navigated your class schedule, and there’s only one thing standing between you and the finish line:

Final exams.

Finals don’t necessarily need to be feared. Yes, they might seem intimidating and they’re certainly nothing to blow off until the night before (trust me, nothing good will come from that), but there are things everyone can do to get the best grade possible on their exams. Begin by asking yourself these questions:

What do you need to study?

Chances are that your professor will clue you in on where the exam questions will come from. This may include class notes, the textbook, extra readings, or anything else he or she assigned throughout the semester.

If you’re not sure what you should be focusing on when you’re studying, it couldn’t hurt to ask your prof.

Be careful, though: you should know how your professor runs the class by now. If he or she has made it clear that the final exam will cover all of the material taught throughout the class, take that into consideration.

He or she may not be able to give you any other hints. In that case, you’ll just have to start at the beginning and review everything you’ve learned.

However, if the professor has made it clear that you’ll only need to focus on specific sections or chapters, asking them to repeat them shouldn’t be a problem.

How do you need to study?

Do you study better when you have flash cards? Does silence or music playing in the background help you focus? Do you need to be chewing gum or sipping coffee when reviewing your notes? Can you concentrate sitting at your desk or do you need to be outdoors?

Find what works best for you and set it up.  It’s surprising how the little things can make a big difference.

Above all else, you’ve got to make sure you have the books, notes and papers you need to study. If you’re missing anything, asking a classmate to let you copy notes / lend you the book is always an option. Some professors post their lecture notes or slides on the school website. If this is true for your class, printing out the notes can’t hurt.

When should you begin studying?

The answer to this one is simple:


The earlier you start reviewing, the higher your grade will be. That’s it, plain and simple.

I’m not just quoting my professors on this one; four years of finals has taught me that cramming for an exam that big will only earn you a lack of sleep and a very big headache.

I recommend starting your reviewing about two weeks before the exam (or earlier if you feel like you have a lot of ground to cover). If you start early, there will be plenty of time to stop in to your professor’s office to ask questions. You could even form a study group with some of your classmates.

Some helpful hints:

I’ve found that if you study for a while and then sleep on it, you’re more likely to remember the information later.

Also, it’s important to make sure you get enough sleep during your final exams. More important than studying?


If you deprive yourself of sleep, you’re not going to be working at full capacity. In other words, you won’t be able to retain as much information as you would with a full night’s sleep. Listen to your body. If you’re falling asleep over your European history / biology / psychology book, go to bed!

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Ana Koulouris

Ana Koulouris

Ana Koulouris is a senior at Benedictine University in Illinois pursuing a degree in writing and publishing. When she is not at work in the Office of Admissions or on the university's newspaper, she can be found writing short stories, reading anything and everything, and spending time with family and friends.