Finals week is slowly creeping upon us and I'd actually say I'm more excited than nervous. My mindset was a bit off this semester and I'm determined to get back on track for next semester. FInals week is like the last mile of the marathon. The home stretch. While it won't be your last marathon, you get to have this opportunity to reset.
So what if you didn't do so good last time? Acknowldge what you did wrong and then plan out what to do so you'll do better next time. It might not be perfect but at least you're improving. Here are my top 5 study tips for final exams.
1. Get the 4-1-1 on each final you'll be taking
2. Create a safety net
DO NOT: Rely on the final as the only way to pass a class.
Get your grades as high up as you can so that in the worse possible case that you do flunk your finals or get a score less than great, it won't take too much of a hit on your grades. Creating this "safety net" should be done a month before the finals and should be finished 2 weeks before the final exam.
You should not create a safety net while you study for your finals.
3. Make a schedule and to-do list. Actually stick with it.
Creat a to-do list of what you need to study and review, as well as assignments you need to turn in so that you can complete your safety net. The sooner you start studying for your finals the better, but you should shoot for at least 2 weeks of studying prior to the final exam. Once you get the 4-1-1 of what topics will be on the exam, use this information to create your study schedule. Start off with the hardest and the topics you feel least comfortrable with first so you'll have time to ask questions and you won't feel so crammed on time. Even if you feel comfortable with a topic, go over and review it for at least 15 minutes.
Here are the websites I always use for my printables:
Daily, Weekly, Monthly, or Yearly Planners & Calanders
Daily & Weekly Hourly Planners
To-Do List Templates
4. Study guides are not bibles
Most teachers will give you a study guide (if not, make your own) use this in the end; once you feel that you're ready for the final exam. Ask for an extra copy of the study guide so you can fill it out by yourself before the final, if it's a final for an AP class you should also time yourself, then compare your answers to the correct answers on the teacher study guide. This will give you a really good indication of what you know. BUT do not do the study guide "test" right after you're done studying for that subject. Take a few hours to reset your mind so that the information you're putting on the study guide "test" isn't just short-term memory (remembering that the answer for question 6 is B)
Also.. Study guides are not bibles!
Study guides are given to help students know the most important topics that will be tested. Not necessarily all the topics that will be on the final exam. Teachers like to be tricky and sneak a few questions in the exam to see if you actually paid attention in class or if you just crammped the night before the test. Review past topics/units; just not as thoroughly as you might with the topics on the study guide.
5. Taking the exam
Final exams, what I like to think, is 40% preparation and 60% mindset/attitude.
A student who studied every topic a month prior to the test but stayed up late cramming last minute information in their head the night before the exam, didn't eat breakfast because they were too busy studying, didn't bring water to school, and they felt like they still weren'tt ready for the test because they were really nervous. These students are more likely to get lower test scores than student who might've not studied as much as them but prepared themselves mentally and physically.
Mentally as in, reviewing the topics but also believing that you're ready and that you'll do good.
Physically as in, sleeping at least 8 hours (I personally sleep 10 hours), eating a well balanced breakfast, bringing snacks/water, and wearing comfortable clothes.
Funny story... I've been really slacking in AP Biology but determined to get my F up to a reasonable grade, I signed up to take two unit exams this Friday. Which is only two days away. Even funnier (I made this a word if it wasn't already) story.. I haven't read any of chapters for the whole school year and I'm suppose to be up to chapter 9 by Friday. No wonder I have an F. Anyways, I do plan on reading all the chapters by then. Hopefully. So for the students who are in my spot right now, here's my ultimate guide on how to read a textbook. How to get the most valuable information in the least amount of time. Meaning, you won't be reading all the "textbook fluff"
Step 1: Break the Chapter Apart
Textbook chapters are LONG. Really-stinking long and if you're like me, you can not just sit there and read a whole 25-page chapter about cellular respiration and fermentation. That's gonna take like 2 hours man. So intead, chunk off your chapter in a logical way. If your chapter is organized by concepts, go 3-5 concepts at a time. If it's a literature or history textbook organized by paragraphs, shoot for 5-8 pages at a time. After each chunk, give a very short break (less than 3 min.) to refresh.
This method is like breaking your studying hours in 45:15 increments. Where you do 45 minutes of hard work followed by a 15 minute break. This will make the chapter seem less than what it actually is; making you less overwhelmed. Your brain will stay focused longer since it knows there's a break soon. This also is helpful to break of the chapters within the day. So you can do part of it in the morning, part of it during lunch, and part of it after school; rather than all 25 or so pages at once.
Step 2: Read the Objectives (or Overview)
This gives you an outline of exactly what you should know by the end of the chapter. Go over these a few times, comprehend it.
Step 3: Read the Key Concepts
In my AP biology book, there's a key concept review section at the end of each chapter that essentially summarizes the whole chapter. The key concepts are the need-to-know informations. The really important stuff you should have down because they'll be the ones most likely on the test.
Step 4: Skim Through the Chapter
Once you've read through the objectives and key concepts, you will now have a good idea of what the focus of the chapter will be as well and what you need to know all together. Now, go and skim through the chapter. Pay attention to:
Also: Don't skip over illustrations. I've seen many of my friends do this. They will not take their time to make illustrations such as graphs, tables, and diagrams if they did not think it was important. Illustrations are visual explanations.
Step 5: Read The First Two Sentences In Each Paragraph
This is an important fact. This is why the fact is important.
Go back and read the first two sentences in each paragraph of the chapter. Usually, the first sentence of a paragraph in textbooks will give you a fact or an idea. The following sentence or two will explain that fact and why it is important.
Following these steps should give you all the need-to-know information and the key points.
!!! It may not give you complete understanding if you don't do previous chapters as some concepts or key points will use vocabulary already defined in the previous chapters.
Go back to steps 2 and steps 3, if you can not confidently give a good summary of each objective and concept then you are not prepared enough for the test.
If you find that you don't understand a concept, do your due diligence and read the whole paragraph as it will go more into details. Go watch a youtube video to have a visual explanation. If it's a certain word, go to previous chapters and see if it has been defined before.
The key word to this tip is enviornment. Not just study area, but rather all the factors around you while you study. This might include the music you listen to before and during your study session, the smells around you, lighting, and more.
Location: It's very typical to see hundreds of college and high school students with their macbook laptop at any given coffee shop around town. Or maybe you know of a local resturant that has a booth in the corner where you can sit alone and study while enjoying your favorite meal. While coffee shops and local diners are popular study hubs for many students, it's also one of the best ways to get distracted.
Understand the way you study and choose a location based on that. If you know you space off very easily, studying at a park might not be the best choice. If you feel the need to get a snack every 10 minutes, you should probably avoid the kitchen table. Where ever your study area might be, make sure you have a backup plan if things get too distracting.
Music: There seems to be a continous debate on whether or not music either helps or hurts your productivity and ability to focus. The answer is completely based on the indiviual. Some might get too distracted if they listen to songs with lyrics, while others might totally snooze out on that type of music. While there's research that shows studying with headphones actully lead to decrease of memory, that's how I personally study. So press shuffle on your playlist and see which suits you.
Lighting: Although Hollywood shows people hunced over a wooden desk studying with only one source of light and everything else dimmed, you'll strain your eyes if you try that. Who even thinks Hollywood protrays life accurately anyways, sheesh. Good, evenly-distrubuted lighting will help keep your eyes open longer. Especially if you're pulling an all nighter. So instead of turing on just your desk lamp, turn your room light on too.
Study Groups: I'm very "in-between" with study groups because I've had sucess with some and failure with others. Whether you choose to study in a group or by yourself should be determined case-by-case. Some people already know off the bat that they get too side tracked when they're in a study group while others love how you can get peer tutoring. But lets keep it real dude..
Feng Shui: Clean up your room, organize your desk, stack up your paperwork in a systematic order. If your environment is a mess, your mind will be too. Now, there are those very rare individuals who happen to actually think better in a messy room but the general public just say that as an excuse not to clean (me included, sorry mom) So when you find yourself lacking motivation, having a hard time focusing, or just really stressed out- go unclutter your enviornment to free your mind.
With finals coming soon, failing a test can really strain your grade as well as your confidence for the actual final. So stock up on your favorite caffinated beverages, here are my two study tips to get you started on becoming the best student you can be!
1. Find Your Motivation
Studying is hard, there'll be moments where you just want to quit and relax. Watch netflix all day, go out with your friends, or just lay on the couch and stream on your phones. When you have to study hours upon hours for 6-7 classes, it can feel like such a chore. Without a good source of motivation, you'll be more prone to giving up. Find something that motivates you enough to get through those tough moments. It can be:
- A certain college you want to attend
- Your dream job
- Not disappointing your friends or family
- Proving others wrong
The more the better, you can even invest in a vison board so you can see your goals every time you open that textbook.
2. Change Your Mindest
Do you snore every time your math teacher opens their mouth? How often do you say "Why do we even need to know this"? Do you believe that you can acheive straight A's? If you're failing a class, is it because you can't understand it or because you haven't worked hard enough to understand it?
Your mindset has a big role on whether or not you'll succeed; not just in academic success but life in general. Once your recognize your two "mindset voices" you'll be more aware that you actually can do anything.
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
Those with a fixed mindset do not believe they can improve on their given talents and skills, viewing challenges not as positive, rather as negative.
RIANNE DEL CARMEN
My biggest goal in life is to just live it. To enjoy every moment and find the beauty in all things. So I write to inspire others. Not to just enjoy life but to better themselves. To become a better student, a happier person, and a more loving human. With tips and stories, I hope to help you through all the rough edges.