December 07, 2016

Studying Strategically for Final Exams

As we gear up for finals, Mebbie Bell of the Student Success Centre shares a few tips for preparing for exams.

Do You Know Your Exams? 

Exam time in the Butterdome
With finals just around the corner, what you do really need to know about each of your exams? Many students head into their finals with just a basic sense of what to expect. As a result, they don’t study strategically, and the stress starts to build as they wonder what to expect. Here’s a quick checklist to review as you prepare for each of your exams. 

The more information you have about your exams in advance, the better prepared you can be.


  • What material is covered? This seems obvious, but isn’t always clear. So, be specific and confirm with your instructor which chapters or parts of chapters will be covered in the exam. Will the exam cover extra handouts from class? What about guest lectures, films, or other in-class activities? How are lectures and readings weighted? You don’t want to miss anything, and you also don’t want to spend hours studying material that’s not on the exam.
  • Is the exam cumulative? If it is, make sure you understand how different units or topics are weighted, as well as what your professor means by ‘cumulative’ (i.e. how far back in the course will be covered in the exam.) This can provide you with valuable info as you consider strategies for tackling how to study for, and actually write, your final exam.
  • Find out in advance what kinds of questions will be on the exam, including how many how many there are and what they'll be worth. Don’t assume the format will be the same as the midterm. You want to know the weighting of different questions and sections to plan your exam time carefully. You should try to tailor your preparation to the exam format; your approach to studying for an essay exam will probably be different than for one that is multiple choice. 
  • Do you need to bring anything? Be prepared and make sure you have the exact materials required and nothing more; if you have to bring certain materials, chances are they probably won’t be provided. One tip: bring extra batteries if a calculator is needed. There's nothing worse than running out of power during an exam.
  • How much time will you have for the exam, and when and where is it? Silly questions? Maybe, but every year I meet students who thought they had more time than was actually scheduled, went to the wrong room, or showed up on wrong day. Not fun! So, confirm the date, time, and location on the Registrar’s final version of the Final Exam schedule.
Finally, if you don’t have the answers to these questions, ask! The sooner you ask, the sooner you can come up with a plan for the rest of the term — and put your mind at ease.

Need additional help with prepping for exams? Check out these upcoming workshops from the Student Success Centre