16 Ways To Actually Study For Your Finals

Want to hear a horror story? Of course you do. We all do–it’s 2017, after all, which is basically an IRL horror story, at this point. Anyway, here it is–It’s finals season. I know–it’s scary. But you’re prepared, right? You are, I assume, planning on studying when you get home from school this very day.

But we all know how it goes. When you’re in class, you realize how behind you are, and you pledge that, as soon as you get home, you’re going to hunker down, break out the books and YouTube tutorials, and study your materials until you’ve fully mastered it. And you want to! You really do! But when you get home, something happens. Or, rather, nothing happens–you need a snack. You need to clean your room. You need to go for a run. You need to catch up on every single HBO Original Series you’ve missed over the past year, and put different filters on one selfie to send to your friends so they can tell you which one to put on Instagram, and you need to personally edit Colton Haynes’ Wikipedia page, because if you don’t do it, who will? And then it’s midnight, and you’ve done nothing, and at that point it’s too late to start studying, anyway, so you just go to bed. We’ve all been there! But, fortunately, you don’t have to remain indebted to this formula, since studying for finals is actually a lot better if you take a more simplistic approach to it. Find out what you need to do here:

1. Take the time to learn how to study the right way:


I mean, don’t wait to do this until the night before you have an exam or anything. But if your main method of studying is aimlessly highlighting random passages in your readings, you’re probably not going to get the results you want, even if you do it for hours. Instead, read up on studying techniques to find some that work for you and ask your teachers what they recommend doing for their tests, too.

2. Create a studying ritual for yourself:


If you feel good about your studying setup, you’ll feel good about studying in general. Don’t spend a ton of time on this–too much preparation is just procrastination–but taking the time to make sure you feel settled in will almost certainly pay off.

3. And make sure your studying area is a place you feel happy in:

You know, a clean desk, minimal distractions, and supplies you like (we’re into Yoobi’s new coral collection, but that’s a personal choice for you). Basically, if you feel happy, you’ll feel good about studying.

4. Break down your studying into 25-minute intervals:


Not everyone can study for hours at a time, but pretty much anyone can study for half an hour. Commit to a 25 minutes of studying (set a timer if you have to) and reward yourself with a quick break when it’s up. You might find that you don’t even need it after the time is up, in which case you can skip that particular break, but knowing that a break is soon will help you focus.

5. Learn how to do “active” studying:


That is, not just re-reading material and going over old class notes. This stuff (which is usually referred to as “passive” studying) can help, but only up to a certain extent. The best way to master your material is to take an active approach–that is, creating flash cards, explaining the material to yourself, or even just re-writing your notes. It sounds like a lot more work, but you won’t have to spend as much time on it, and the payoff is better than just reading and highlighting notes.

6. Try making a mindmap:

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with c2 preset

If you have a test coming up in which you know you’re going to have to link certain concepts together to prove you know the material–which would usually be in an English, history, sociology, psychology, etc. exam with an essay section–try creating a mindmap. This is basically just picking a main concept that you want to focus on and linking quotes, themes, and related concepts to it. This is a great way to make something that can tend to feel nebulous feel a bit more tangible.

7. Recognize things that make it hard for you to focus and learn how to deal with them:


If you’re feeling discombobulated in any way, you’re not going to have the best studying experience. So, jsut focus on some techniques you can use to feel slightly more balanced.

8. Know how to use Google:


Google shouldn’t be your main source for anything. But if you’re in a pinch, you should definitely know how to make the most out of it.

9. Redo old homework assignments:


I can’t say for sure, but there’s a pretty good chance that things that appeared on your homework assignments are also going to show up on the test. So, if you’re looking for something extra to study, try re-doing your old homework–this will help remind you of old concepts that you forgot you learned earlier in the semester and also remind you of things you struggled with, so you know what you should be paying more attention to.

10. Record yourself explaining your notes and listen to them:


Is this a little…extra? Probably! But it works–just record yourself explaining a certain concept that you’re going to be tested on and listen to it when you’re walking around. It’s cringey to hear your own voice, sure, but it can help lock in concepts that you’re not totally sure on.

11. Use a study group:


Don’t use it for 100% of your studying. Don’t use it as a social group that might study sometimes. But using a study group every now and then can be a great way to compare notes and review material that you might not have picked up on your first time around.

12. Talk to your teachers:


Listen–your teachers know their stuff. They’re making the exam that you’re going to be taking, after all. Going to them and asking what you need to be focusing on (while making it clear that you have been studying and aren’t just trying to get a free review session out of them) can be pretty helpful.

13. Make sure you know when your exams actually are:


This might sound obvious, but finals can sneak up on you–as soon as your exams are scheduled, write them in a planner (physical, digital, whatever) along with the time of the exam. If your test isn’t written down, it can be easy to keep putting off your studying until it’s the night before. Having a reminder makes it harder to shrug off.

14. And try and start your studying early:


Obviously, if your exam is tomorrow, it’s already too late for this. But if you can, try and start revising for a big exam a few weeks in advance–it doesn’t have to be anything major, but if you’re doing some active studying, you’ll be in much better shape than if you weren’t.

15. Make studying a priority:


I mean, make your studying a priority to an extent. Don’t cut off your friends, don’t stay up all night every night, and don’t deactivate every social media account you have in hopes that it’ll keep you from getting distracted. (You’ll just find other things to distract yourself with, after all.) But placing some gravity on studying for finals is important, because final exam season is a temporary thing–you can see the end in sight, so skipping a party or a Netflix binge sesh will be worth it if you perform well on your exams.

16. Sleep:


If you’re not sleeping, you’re not going to perform the way you want to. So, work hard, but make sure to set a time for yourself that you’re definitely going to go to bed–killing yourself over one exam or essay isn’t worth it, and staying up all night for multiple nights in a row is likely going to backfire on you. Just rest. It’s worth it! I promise.

Do you have final exams coming up? Do you have any tips for studying for them? Let us know in the comments!

You can reach the author, Sara Hendricks, on Twitter and Instagram.

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