The 5 Secrets of a Successful Final Exam Study Plan are:
- Use your syllabus (it’s the ultimate cheat sheet)
- Create a study outline or use the exam study guide – you can grab my study guide template here.
- Request to review old exams (or at least look at old study guides or notes that you made to prepare for old exams)
- Create a study schedule – block off time to study and be specific
- Keep to your study schedule – don’t let Christmas shopping or a holiday party prevent you from studying
Let’s Look at Each of these Components
Use your Syllabus.
Your syllabus is a gold mine of information. The syllabus outlines the learning objectives for the entire course. This means that you have the final exam study guide with you from the beginning of the semester.
As an instructor, I print out the syllabus and go through the exam and put checkmarks by each learning objective for each question on the exam. I do this to make sure that the learning objectives are being taught and tested (I do this prior to the exam to make sure that I have taught the material).
Go over the learning objectives and begin to make a list of your areas of weakness. To determine your areas of weakness, ask yourself how well you know the material. Do you know the material well enough to teach it to someone else? Can you do that without notes? Can you do it without any additional review? If you can’t you need to review it. The answers to these questions will help you begin to prioritize your studying.
Don’t fall into the trap of understanding the material vs. knowing the material. Understanding it is not enough to do well on the exam. You need to know the material.
Create a Study Outline/Study Guide.
I actually suggest both. If you are given a study guide by your instructor you need to use it strategically. Don’t just start at the beginning and go through it. Spend more time in your areas of weakness. You don’t need to go through the study guide in order.
If you feel like you are weak in everything, you need to prioritize the critical areas. To determine the critical areas, ask yourself the following questions. What are the pieces of information that are foundational that tripped you up early on? Where did the instructor spend more time? What were areas that you didn’t test well on before? Did you find yourself confused by certain topics on the other exams?
Create a study outline using your prioritized list of weakness, study guide(s), and notes. Spend time drafting short answer responses to learning objectives. Be thorough. Create an outline that would allow you to teach the material to someone that doesn’t know anything about it.
Request to Review.
Sometimes that isn’t possible due to policy or time constraint at this point in the semester. You can always ask, but remember that you are asking for a favor and that you will need to be flexible in order to make time for that.
If that isn’t possible, pull out the old study guides or notes. Start with your areas of weakness first. You will have limited time so use any time you get to your biggest advantage.
Create a Study Schedule.
Figure out how much time you have to dedicate to studying each day and block that time off. Ask for time off work and you will need to miss a few things to make sure that you are creating the time to study in your schedule. It will be a lot more fun to enjoy winter break if you are celebrating good grades and not worried about how to recover your GPA or worse. I suggest getting a planner or app if you don’t have one already.
As you block off time, prioritize your classes. Classes that you are in danger of failing or classes that are critical to get into future programs are usually your top priorities. It is always best to not feel pressure to perform in all of your classes, but if you have had a rough semester then now is the time to focus and finish strong.
Keep to Your Study Schedule.
Don’t let anything interfere with your study time. Turn off unnecessary distractions like social media or YouTube. This is dedicated time. Some students need a little background noise. If you think that you do, stop and consider if having music on has served you well in the past. No TV however. When you are switching between snapchat and studying you aren’t really studying you are just wasting your time. Focus is KEY.
Less Stress Means Better Focus
Final exams are not designed as a punishment. The purpose of final exams is for the student to show off what they learn. This should be a showcase of accomplishments. Following these steps will start you on the right path to finish the semester strong. Creating a plan will help to reduce your stress and allow you to focus and be productive. I hope you have a great finals week!