How to create a game plan for final exams

It's never too early to think of a game plan as finals week approaches. 

Finals week begins on May 6, but it’s never too early to plan and study for final exams.

Whether you’ve started studying or not, chances are there are parts of the finals process that you could use some tips on.

Simple things such as making a game plan, attending class or looking at old exams can make the finals process more bearable, said Steve Kirkindall, success coach from the Division of Student Success.

Start planning now

Industrial engineering sophomore Cindy Cruz usually waits to study until four days before an exam, but she has realized that it doesn’t work for her.

“It just doesn’t cut it in engineering,” Cruz said.

It’s OK if you haven’t gotten into full-on study mode yet, but you should at least start planning by asking yourself some important questions, Kirkindall said.

How many exams do I have? Are they cumulative or chapter-based? What exam do I feel most prepared for? Which one am I worried about? These questions can guide your planning process.

Kirkindall said if a student starts now, they should start with the exam they feel the most confident for.

“You get into study mode,” he said. “Things begin to click because you’re familiar with the material. You don’t want to start studying for finals and hit a wall on your first day studying.”

Study in chunks with the five-day study plan

Aerospace engineering sophomore Julian Orona said he struggles most with memorizing all the material he needs for his finals. In past semesters, he usually crammed all his studying during finals week.

Kirkindall recommends students ditch cramming everything into their head all at once and utilize the five-day study plan instead.

This can be altered to a student’s preference and class schedule, but this example is best if a student is taking four courses.

On day one, study for your first class for two hours as chunk one. On day two, introduce new material for your next class for two hours for chunk two. Then, review chunk one for 30 minutes.

On day three, move on to your next course and study the material for an hour and a half for chunk three. Review chunk two for 30 mins and chunk one for 15 minutes. On day four, move on to your last course and study that material for an hour as chunk four. Then review chunk three for 30 minutes, chunk two for 15 minutes and chunk one for 10 minutes.

The final day, no new material should be introduced. Review chunk four for 30 minutes, chunk three for 20 minutes, chunk two for 10 minutes and chunk one for 10 minutes.

Utilize more than just the test review

The test review is a good starting point but not the only study material a student should be using, Kirkindall said.

They should also incorporate textbook problems, articles and videos related to the material as well as old exams into their study sessions. It is especially helpful to take note of problems you missed on an exam, he said.

Go to class

Attendance isn’t always required by a professor, but students should attend class until the end of the semester.

A student can’t hear a professor’s inflections on a specific topic or ask a peer a good question by reviewing notes from a friend or PowerPoint slides.


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