5 tips for getting through final exams

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: December 8, 2022 9:00 a.m.

Making a plan, seeking help, and getting rest are just a few ways to make sure you conquer your finals this semester.
Making a plan, seeking help, and getting rest are just a few ways to make sure you conquer your finals this semester. Photo credit: Unsplash

Like most of your fellow students, you’re probably dreading final exam season. Seeing those chairs and desks stacked up in the hallways near the gyms can really put a pit in your stomach, but there are some things you can do to make the experience a little less stressful.

Here are a few tips you should consider!

1. Make a schedule

It can be overwhelming looking at your final exam schedule, especially if you’re taking a full course load. You know you have to start studying, but you may not know where to start.

One of the first things you should do at the start of every finals season is write down in your calendar which final you will study for on each day. Even if it’s just a one hour time slot, seeing it in your calendar can help you stick to a schedule and allow you to budget your time effectively.

Interruptions will happen of course and you may need to make changes to the plan, but having a simple structure to start with makes a big difference and will help you feel more confident heading into finals season.

2. Find your perfect study spot

Everybody has their own way of studying that works for them, especially when it comes to where you study. Some people like studying in a public place like a coffee shop and others prefer to get their studying done at home or in their dorm.

If you’re often easily distracted and need to focus on studying for a tough final, try getting out of the house. You may find that just the act of leaving your home and going to a different place can flip a switch in your brain and put you in the studying mindset.

Whenever you need pure silence and no distractions, the fifth floor of the library is a great spot. It’s a dedicated silent zone and there’s plenty of desks tucked behind the bookshelves so you don’t have to worry about noisy conversations or a lot of people coming and going.

If the library isn’t cutting it, you can try to find an empty study room somewhere around campus. The sixth floor of the Education Building or main floor of the Centre for Kinesiology, Health and Sport are good places to start.

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Studying with a classmate is great way to make sure you’re studying the right things. Photo: Unsplash.

3. Form a study group

If you’re preparing for a final in a course that you are really struggling with, try to schedule at least one group study session with one or two classmates well in advance of the final. This will allow you to compare notes, make sure you’re studying the right things, and ask each other questions about topics you’re not sure about.

During your final, a question or topic may come up that you can specifically recall going over with a classmate. For some, it can be easier to recall face-to-face conversations rather than pages in a textbook.

4. Get some help

If you require some more formal help, sign up for a free tutoring session. The U of R’s Student Success Centre offers free tutoring services, which can be extremely helpful. The tutors are patient, willing to meet as much as you need, and they are most often students themselves, so they understood how to break difficult concepts down so you can understand them better.

If you only have a quick question, try reaching out to your professor first. Most professors have dedicated office hours for drop-ins or they will do their best to help via e-mail. They may not be able to answer everything at all times, but it’s always worth reaching out.

The pressure of final exams can really take a toll on your mental health, but there’s help available for that too. The U of R provides plenty of free mental health supports for students and the Mental Wellness Hub is a great place to start.

5. Take care of yourself

Some students will pull all-nighters the night before a final, show up looking like a zombie, and tank the final because they were too tired to remember what they learned. Cramming throughout the night can work for some people, but this approach is definitely not recommended.

There’s nothing wrong with the odd late night study session, but there comes a point where being too tired can make you lose your ability to retain what you’re reading, and you actually end up doing more harm than good.

Final exams aren’t just a mental exercise – there’s a physical component too. You want to walk into your final like you would for a big game. If you take care of your body by being well-rested and eating a healthy meal (not too heavy) beforehand, you’ll give your brain the best chance to perform the best it can.

Good luck – you’ve got this!