Thursday, December 5, 2013

Study Tips for Final Exams

When I was studying non-stop for the DAT, I about lost my mind looking through all of the information until I developed a system. With finals upon so many people in undergrad and professional school, or if you are going to spend the rest of your decade in school (like me); I thought I’d share a few pointers and hopefully these tips will come in handy if you find yourself in a rut.

For the student that has a week before the exam:
a.       You have SO much time to study. Have a beer.
b.       Make an outline of all the material covered on the exam. This can be as simple as taking a napkin and writing down topics covered over the semester.
c.       Sometimes professors give a topics list, if you have one for the final, use that as your study guide starting point. Just be wary that your professor will likely put an additional topic or two on the exam.
d.       Now, make a detailed study guide on paper or on your computer using your napkin outline and your professor’s study list as a starting point.
e.       If your course was book heavy, read through chapters you didn’t understand, or don’t remember, and take notes.
f.        If your class was ppt heavy, make sure you go through the slides and always expand upon those topics in your notes. If there is a key word on a slide, or a key fact, make sure you can talk about that fact for at least three sentences-worth of information. Reference your book or the internet.
g.       Once study guide is complete, have a drink.
h.      You should have about three days left and for two of those days, memorize the material. You should also look over old exams to refresh information and get a feel for the professor’s questions again.
i.         On the day before the test, find someone (friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate) who will quiz you using that study guide.
For the student that has 3 days before the exam:
a.       You have time. Have a beer.
b.       Did your professor give you a list? Awesome. Use it as your study guide template. Make sure you can talk about all those topics for at least three sentences-worth of information.
c.       If your professor did not give you a study guide, that sucks, but you should make your own. Use previous tests as an indicator of what to expect and make an outline of all topics that will be covered on the exam. However minute they may be. This should take about two to three hours.
d.       Have another drink.
e.       Memorize your study guide for one day and then have someone (friend, boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate) quiz you.
For the student whose exam is tomorrow:
a.       Hello, procrastination. I remember you well J Probably shouldn’t have a drink, but you still have some time.
b.       If your professor gave you a list of topics, USE IT. If not, use notes, ppts, the book, the internet to compile a study guide of everything that is supposed to be covered on the exam.
c.       Make sure when you are going through the study guide, you are not absent-mindedly typing. Really read and understand what you are putting down on paper/or Microsoft Word.
d.       Find someone to quiz you. You won’t know every answer, but it helps.
e.       Don’t panic. This scenario should take you about six hours if done correctly.
f.        Definitely look over previous exams.
Cumulative exams vs. Non-cumulative exams:
a.       Cumulative exams clearly suck more than non-cumulative exams.
b.       If you have a cumulative exam, old exams from throughout the semester are your best friends. You probably don’t have time to read the entire book again while studying, so really search out key topics in notes and exams. If you professor kept talking about a certain concept, he/she will probably test you on it.
c.       It is likely that small details will not resurface on the final. If they do, that’s a bitch move and I’m sorry. I would focus my attention on larger topics.
d.       If you are lucky and have a non-cumulative exam, you have a much easier time deciding what will be on the test. This means, however, that your test will be more specific than a cumulative exam. Be sure you can go into detail about every topic listed on your study guide.
General tips:
a.       I was never someone who could pull an all-nighter successfully. If you can, great, but try and sleep at least a couple of hours. I was always a big fan of studying until 12, sleeping until 5, and then resuming.
b.       Something that always helped me was color-coding. This can be done with both hand-written and typed study guides. Each topic or chapter should be outlined in different colored ink. While you are memorizing and studying and writing etc. your brain will remember what topics are which color. If you get a question about a topic you are a little fuzzy on, think about the color of the subject/specific topic. Because you will remember the color, you might be able to remember facts that pertain to the question that are also that same color. It will give you a larger frame of reference for each question and help tie in large concepts.
c.       Eat something.
d.       If you need a break: work out, watch an episode of Friends (or some other 22 minute show), take a walk, call your parents (or anyone), change your scenery (switch to a different table at the library or go to a new coffee shop), or look at pictures of my puppy.
e.       If you have gone through the study guide and still don’t remember a topic, go back and look at the book or ppt again.
f.        Remember that you could be in a worse situation (think the movie Precious). It truly is just an exam. If you don’t do well, you won’t spiral into some bad-egg life. You will be fine.

Just for fun: Here are some puppy pictures to make you smile!


  1. Wow, definite props to you! I don't foresee taking another final exam in my future, but great tips for those who will be! Umm...your dog? SO ADORABLE! I could never concentrate on studying with that munchkin around!