March 01, 2017

What You Can Do Now to Prepare for Finals

With final exams around the corner, Mebbie Bell, director of learning resources at the Student Success Centre, shares the best ways to plan your time now to make the exam season go smoothly.

Even though you may still be in the midst of term assignments and midterms, you can take productive steps to get prepared and focused for finals. The following tips will help make your final exam period as stress free — and academically successful — as possible.

Confirm your exam schedule. Double check the date, time, length, and location of each of your exams on the Office of the Registrar's 'final' version of the final exam scheduleIt’s unusual that an exam date would change, but sometimes the exam locations do. Then, check these against your course outline, eClass postings, and in-class information. If the information does not match, contact your instructor immediately. Double checking these details in advance will help you avoid unnecessary stress on exam day.

Know what to expect. For each exam, you should know what material will be tested, the type and number of questions, and what you need to bring. This checklist will help you fine-tune what you need to know. Then, review your course outlines, eClass postings, and class materials.  Even if the exam is still a week or two away, ask your instructor about anything that is unclear. And, be specific with these details so that you can be strategic about how you study. 

Make a plan. Set aside some time now to plan how you want to spend the rest of the term. Grab a monthly calendar and your course outlines to plan, one class at a time:
  • List all upcoming due dates for assignments and your final exam.
  • Make a list of the themes/topics you need to cover for the final.
  • Estimate how much time you need spend on each topic (e.g., 3 hours for unit 2 in Psyco 105). Focus on individual, smaller topics within course sections or units to make planning this time easier. While you may ideally want 50 hours to review that really tough class unit, remember that you may realistically have less time — especially when you need to balance your overall study time between courses while maintaining your well-being.
  • Then, schedule these blocks of time on your calendar between now and when you write your final exam. Break up larger topics into multiple study sessions, and aim to complete your review at least a day or two in advance, so you have time for extra review.
Make every day count! Even if your final exams seem far away or you feel you have so many things to do before you start studying for finals, aim do something each day to help you prepare. For instance:
  • Think about what you are already doing in your courses that is helping you prepare for your final examination. Whether you are working on a lab report, prepping for a quiz, or submitting a paper, ask yourself what you are learning that you can carry forward to the final exam.
  • Work strategically with your class notes. Review them each day after class, add information from the textbook, or identify questions that could show up on the exam.
  • Do practice questions from the textbook, exam registry, or instructor.
  • If the exam is cumulative, review old midterms or quizzes.
  • Note questions you have about course materials, then meet with your instructor or TA to discuss them.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but each small step helps you get set for successful exams!

Interested in more strategies? Check out our exam strategies workshops or meet with a learning strategist.