It’s that time of year again — finals! As the semester begins winding down and makes way for summer vacation, procrastination and testing anxiety often step in to test our self-confidence.
We’ve all been there – you’re three pages in to a twenty-page reading assignment, the cursor in your blank essay document is blinking maniacally at you, or you’re just drowning in coffee trying to stay awake through your study sessions. When the weather starts warming up and you’re tempted to hit the beach more often than you hit the books, it can be difficult to achieve the results you’re looking for.
I’m here to share a few tips and strategies that will help you buckle down and start checking things off your to-do list. If you follow these simple steps, you’ll be acing your finals in no time.
Find a Productive Workspace – and Clean It!
I find it nearly impossible to work efficiently in a messy space. Don’t worry, you don’t have to go full-blown minimalist in order to keep your space clean. I know that in a dorm room, the desk is one of the biggest pieces of furniture, often meaning that it becomes a sort of catchall that quickly ends up piled with everything from stray activities flyers to leftover snacks. But trust me, you will feel so much better when you have a nice clean space to work with.
Start by clearing off your desk. Go through any junk that’s lying around and decide what you need and what can easily be tossed with little effect. Try putting any loose paperwork into file folders. Personally, I have a file folder for stray flyers and important information like shuttle schedules. I also like to put together a folder for each of my classes in order to keep all of my syllabus information and assignments in one place.
Your work is only as good as the mind space you are in when you sit down to get it done. If you’re more interested in Snapchat or Twitter than you are in Microeconomics—let’s face it, of course you are—then it can be difficult to get things accomplished, especially when you’re hitting the books for finals. The key to eliminating distractions is to turn everything off. Now, I know what you’re thinking: it’s 2017, and completely abandoning technology is impossible. But here are a few quick tips that will help you focus on what really matters: acing those final exams!
Silence your phone. Trust me, it’s a lot easier to ignore your endless stream of notifications when you have no idea they exist. If you can, it’s also helpful to keep your phone away from your desk.
Install a website blocker. Personally, I prefer BlockSite, which is a Google Chrome extension that allows you to set which pages you wish to block and assign a page for them to redirect to. I like to block all of my social media sites when I start a big research paper, redirecting the pages to my school website to get myself back on track. When you’re all set, all you have to do is switch the extension off and all your favorite sites will be available to you once again.
Take advantage of white noise. We all know that dorms can be totally loud, especially on weekends. While many schools have mandatory quiet hours during finals, it can be hard to get everyone to follow the rules. If there is too much noise filtering in under your door, just plug in your headphones (yes, this time it’s okay to touch your phone) and play some soft noise or non-lyrical music that will help drown out background noise without distracting you any further. Try not to start blasting the latest Halsey song, though, because that can get you into a dance party mood rather than a flashcard-writing mood.
Find the Right Study Method for You.
Not everyone learns in the same way. While I’ll delve a bit deeper into the topics of learning style and studying techniques in the future, here are a few simple practices that will span well across many subjects.
Study Sheets. Try consolidating a chapter’s worth of notes onto one page. It may seem a little crazy at first, but most exams will feature common themes or ideas that are repeated throughout the chapter. Start by noting the main ideas, and then add in any charts, graphs, or explanations that you think you’ll need to fully understand the subject later. Your study sheets can be beautiful or messy, but they should give you a general summary of the chapter without you ever having to open your textbook.
“Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Where there’s a Quizlet, there’s an A.”
Quizlet is completely free, and it’s an excellent education resource. It allows you to create new study sets for each test or assignment that you need, and you can make flashcards, take practice quizzes, or even play mini games to help you study for your big exam.
Give Yourself a Break – And a Pat on the Back.
We can’t be 100% productive at all times; however, if you are strategic with your study time, you can get in all of the work you need to complete without ever pulling an all-nighter. Take a break every once in a while; your brain will thank you.
Taking a break doesn’t mean slacking off. I know there is a fine line between the two, but there are a few general guidelines you should follow during your breaks in order to ensure that they don’t lead you off-track. First, you should work for about 3-4 times as long as your breaks. I find that a good rule of thumb is to study for 20-30 minutes and then take a 5-minute break. During these breaks, you will have just enough time to get up and stretch, have a snack, or check your phone for that text you’ve been dying to read since you sat down. The breaks will be short enough that they will not distract you from your work.
And there you have it—how to conquer finals like a boss. If you feel totally overwhelmed by your upcoming exams, remember to kick back once in a while and do something you enjoy. Having a movie night with friends or hitting the gym to clear your head will not jeopardize your GPA. In fact, it might give you the boost you need to keep going.
I hope you learned some new techniques that you can use to help you navigate the emotionally stressful whirlwind that is finals. Shoot me an email or leave a comment below to let me know what you think, and let me know if any of these ideas work for you!