13 Tips to Help You Ace Your Final Exams

Female Student Studying in Residence Hall
Where did the semester go? It only seems like yesterday since you’ve returned to campus and set foot in your new classes. You might be feeling a sense of dread when it comes to your upcoming final exams. We won’t lie – final exams can be demanding, but they don’t have to seem insurmountable. All you need to do is prepare for them ahead of time as best as you can. Here are 13 of our favorite tips to help you get those high marks on your final exams (with the least amount of stress as possible):

Start Studying Now

You might feel tempted to put off reviewing your notes or working on your papers until the last minute. Resist the urge! Cram sessions and hastily-written papers are more likely to earn you lower scores at the end of the day. It takes time to craft solid term papers, and it takes time to retain, remember, and recall important information for your many classes. If you haven’t begun studying, now is the time to get started!

Get Plenty of Sleep

Let’s say that you’ve been procrastinating on reviewing your notes or finishing your project. “That’s it,” you might think, “I’ll have to pull an all-nighter or so to get this done.” Not so fast – sleep is absolutely vital to your health! Catching quality z’s helps you focus and allows your brain to consolidate and digest important memories. We’re talking about slow-wave, non-REM sleep, not a scattering of (bear)cat naps! Up your snooze game by taking care of your sleep hygiene: avoid caffeine and sugar in the evenings, put away those smartphones and laptops an hour before bed, and stick to a sleep schedule, if you can help it.

Student Studying in Holman Library
Find (or Create) Your Favorite Study Spot

Your environment also matters when it comes to studying efficiently. It’s often quite hard to review your notes or write a strong draft of a term paper in a chaotic atmosphere. Find a quiet place on campus that’s free of both clutter and distractions. You could get a strong study session in Holman Library, the Hub, or even in your dorm hall’s study lounge. Rather study in your room? Try to create a little nook dedicated to acing your exams!

Keep Others in the Loop

Communication is key when it comes to success, finals or otherwise. If you’re living with roommates or family members, let them know when you plan on studying or if you need quiet time to prepare for your exams. They will appreciate the heads-up, and you will benefit from minimized interruptions!

Curate the Perfect Playlist

Want to really zero in on your studies? Take just a little bit of time to put together a playlist of excellent study music! Research has shown that music, especially classical music, helps increase your focus, improve your memory, and improve your mood. Head over to your favorite music streaming service and put some Beethoven, Mozart, or Debussy on in the background! Not a fan of classical? No sweat – your favorite instrumental pieces, soundtrack tunes, or video game music will also do the trick!

Get Rid of Distractions

Speaking of focusing, it’s awfully difficult to focus when you have your social media accounts open on your laptop or your smartphone next to you. Even if you aren’t actively engaging with your smartphone, studies have shown that its mere presence can hinder your concentration. Do your brain a favor – put your smart devices out of sight and stay off social media while you study. You’ll find that your focus will greatly improve!

Fuel Up with Healthy Food

We know – assuaging your stress with sweets and caffeine sounds like the perfect answer to help you stay focused, but doing so will leave you jittery and feeling worn down. Keep your mind sharp and your body strong during finals week with a healthy, balanced diet rich in whole, organic foods. Switch out the chips for nuts or carrot sticks, get plenty of protein, and stay hydrated to keep your mind and body working at full capacity!

Student in Hammock on Front Lawn
Take Breaks and Move Around

You might feel tempted to pull an all-nighter to write up your papers or cram for your exams, but in the end it’ll do you more harm than good. Give your brain a well-earned rest by taking short breaks as you study. Make sure you get up at least once an hour to stretch, take a short walk around campus, or watch a funny video. Don’t forget to look away from the screen for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes to reduce eye strain as well!

Draft Up Sample Test Questions

Want to think like a professor and ace your upcoming finals? Come up with some questions you might think you’ll find on your exams, answer them, and quiz yourself throughout the upcoming days! Doing this will help you pare down the truly pertinent information and show you the areas in which you thrive or might need to spend extra time reviewing.

Utilize the Whiteboards

Trying to balance some tough chemical equations? Want to practice diagramming sentences? White boards are your friends! Use a white board in your room or venture over to an empty classroom in PAC with a classmate to practice equations or quiz yourselves without referring to your notes. Writing out the information you need to know can test your knowledge and help solidify it in your mind in time for the test. Just be sure to erase the whiteboards when you’re done!

Teach Someone Else

Still using those whiteboards? Step into the role of professor and teach your roommate, classmate, or friend the concepts and information you’ve learned in class this semester. Take turns instructing one another, referring to your notes as little as possible. Short on time or space? Quizzing your Bogey plush in your dorm room can work just as well!

Take Part in Stress Fest During Finals Week

Nothing helps you de-stress like enjoying tasty food and laughing with your friends! Be sure to join the fun on campus during finals week this year to take the edge off your worries. This includes loads of exciting events such as the much-loved annual midnight dodgeball tournament from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Monday and Tuesday!

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Are you just not understanding some of the material you’ve been taught throughout the semester, no matter how hard you try? Don’t wait – ask for help! You can start with your classmates, of course, but you’d be better served reaching out to your professors. Take advantage of office hours now to ask thoughtful questions and gain the answers you seek. Not only will this help you in the short term for preparing for finals week, but it can also build a solid relationship as you progress in you college career. Don’t feel intimidated – our professors want nothing more than to see our Bearcats succeed!

One last thing: remember that finals week is not the end of the world. This, too, shall pass. Hang in there, Bearcats – you’ve got this!