10 Tips On How To Study For Final Exams

10 Tips On How To Study For Final Exams

It’s that time again — the moment every student dreads at the end of each semester — to get ready for final exams! Although we’ve previously discussed effective studying techniques that will complement your hectic schedule, learning how to study for final exams deserves and needs special attention. Being that final exams tend to count for a hefty portion of your final grade, it’s in your best interest to adequately prepare for this stressful time of each semester. Thankfully, if you follow our useful guidelines, you’ll be ready to ace your exams in no time!

1) Determine what you’re up against

Not all exams are created equally, and some will demand more preparation than others. In order to make the most of your time, and create a strategic study schedule, you need to analyze each exam’s characteristics. The Academic Services Center at Slippery Rock University recommends asking yourself the following questions before getting started:

How much is the final exam worth?

  • This information is typically found in your syllabus or by asking your professor.
  • As a general rule, spend more time studying for exams that are heavily weighted.

What is the final exam’s format? (i.e. Multiple choice, essay, completion, etc.)

  • The format of the exam will help you determine the most effective method for studying.
    • Multiple choice exams measure your ability to recognize items you’ve previously learned.
    • Completion or essay questions measure your ability to recall information.
  • More effort goes into preparing for an exam that tests your ability to recall information.

Is the final exam comprehensive?

  • Depending on the course and the professor, a final exam can be presented in three ways: material from the entire terms, material presented since the last exam, or a combination of both.
  • Studying for comprehensive final exams will always require more work.

What impact could the final grade have on your overall grade in the class? Are you between grades?

  • Find out what your grade is prior to the final exam. If you’re unsure or the average hasn’t been posted, consult your professor.
  • Determine what grade you need on the final exam to positively influence your semester grade.
  • If your final exam grade will be the deal breaker between getting an A or a C, make sure you spend ample time preparing for it.
    • A high priority final is typically worth 50% of the final grade and contains an essay and completion section.
    • A low priority final is typically worth 20% of the final grade and contains a multiple-choice format.

2) Knowing is half the battle

Being able to answer the aforementioned questions will help you get organized. By the time you answers these questions, you will have probably already received a study guide from your professor. However, please be aware that not all professors provide a study guide. Planning a realistic study schedule is the next crucial step when studying for finals. Middle Tennessee State University and US News & World Report recommend the following tips:

  • Blocking out time for these activities:
    • Classes (It’s extremely important to attend all of your classes prior to the final exam in order to find out additional information).
    • Work
    • Sleep
    • Eating
    • Personal readiness
    • Temporarily putting off other social commitments.
    • Considering the characteristics of each exam and allotting your study time accordingly.
    • Completing term papers before the last week of classes.

3) Staying on track

While a schedule can look great on paper, its success largely depends on your ability to stick to it! This means you have to do your absolute best to avoid procrastination and burnout.

Start by saying no to distractions. Even if you’ve removed socializing from your calendar, it doesn’t mean people won’t try to interrupt you!

If you can, try to study during the day. This will prevent you from letting studying cut into precious sleep time.

4) Location is everything

While the most obvious location for studying is the library, this option might not always be ideal. Overall, your study space should be in a quiet, comfortable location where there are no distractions. Do yourself an additional favor by turning off your cell phone and other social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

5) Methods for studying

Most of time, professors will pull questions from previous tests and quizzes to test your understanding. Reviewing these items is especially helpful for comprehensive final exams.

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford also recommends creating study cards for key terms, concepts and formulas. Then, test your understanding by reviewing the material with a roommate or friend to ensure you can easily reproduce the information on an exam.

Take it a step further by bringing your note cards, tests, quizzes, notes and other relevant information to a study group. This will allow you to compare, and perhaps, discover new information about the exam, as well as helping each other learn the material through detailed discussions.

Be sure to study with classmates who are serious about staying focused and understanding the information. Unfortunately, study groups can easily turn into a “party” at the library.

6) Give your brain some TLC

Almost comparable to cramming for an exam the night before, avoiding breaks during a study session can negatively impact your efforts. The Academic Skills Center at Dartmouth College recommends employing 20-50 minute study sessions, accompanied by a 5-10 minute break, in order to maximize your memory, concentration, and motivation.

7) Take advantage of office hours

A service that most students avoid at all costs, meeting a professor during his or her office hours can work towards your advantage. Not only does it show the professor that you’re dedicated to understanding the course, but it can help you figure out what topics or concepts are most important for the exam. Make it a point to go earlier in the semester in order to capture your professor’s full attention and ask more questions.

8) Optimize your intelligence

Aside from eating a balanced and nutritious diet, certain foods can naturally boost your brainpower. According to WebMD, research has shown that the following foods increase your likelihood of maintaining a healthy brain: blueberries, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, avocados, whole grains, beans, pomegranate juice, freshly-brewed tea, and lastly, dark chocolate! Even if you don’t like everything on this list, eating one or two of these super foods everyday is sure to help!

9) Put a twist on studying

In order to spice up the material you’re reviewing, and even make it relatable, try to get creative! This can range anywhere from drawing diagrams or pictures to turning concepts into acronyms. Although some techniques such as reading information out loud can sound farfetched and awkward, finding different ways to apply new information will help it stick in the long-run! In short, anything that helps you remember information will work. Pick and choose techniques based on your learning style. For more ideas, please refer to the US Air Force Academy‘s list of memory techniques.

10) Stay positive

While studying for finals can seem unbearable at times, it’s important to maintain a positive attitude. The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford recommends reducing your test anxiety by taking breaks when feeling frustrated, exercising, talking to a friend or moving onto a different subject. Rather than beating yourself up, imagine yourself acing the exam! Having confidence in your abilities will get you through the toughest of times, without even realizing it. All work and no fun can be hard on anyone, therefore, make sure to reward yourself when it’s all over.


Arrington, H. S. (n.d.). Final exam preparation. Informally published manuscript, Academic Support Center, Middle State Tennessee University, Murfreesboro, TN, Retrieved from www.mtsu.edu/advising/pdfs/Final_Exam_Preparation.pdf

Duncan, E. (2010). Tips on studying for finals. (University of Pittsburgh at Bradford) Retrieved from http://www.upb.pitt.edu/uploadedfiles/final tips newsletter.pdf

Final exam time management. Informally published manuscript, Academic Services, Slippery Rock University, Slippery Rock, PA, Retrieved from http://www.sru.edu/academics/enrollment/academicservices/Documents/College Success Resources/College Success PWPTS Print Copies/Finals Exam Time Management.pdf

Hyman, J. S., & Jacobs, L. F. (2010, December 10). Top 15 hot tips for finals. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/professors-guide/2010/12/10/top-15-hot-tips-for-finals

Improving concentration, memory, and motivation. (2012). Informally published manuscript, Academic Skills Center, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, Retrieved from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~acskills/success/study.html

Sorgen, C. (2008, December 18). Eat smart for a healthier brain. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/eat-smart-healthier-brain

U.S. Air Force Academy, (n.d.). Memory techniques. Retrieved from Air University website: www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/usafa/memory.htm