Friday, November 17, 2017

The Stretch to Final Exams

By James Rebello, Academic Assistant (Work Study student)

Final exams can be a stressful period. However, there are resources to help you succeed. Personally, I always speak to my professors prior to studying. I discuss course content and gain insight on the layout of the exam, and sometimes even areas to focus on! As you begin to think about final exams, I hope this blog post will help you prepare effectively.

Getting Started
The most important part of studying for final exams is making sure you are prepared. Research has shown that having a particular academic goal in mind can help you perform better overall.1 Setting SMART goals will motivate you to achieve and meet deadlines. Procrastination is the leading contributing factor to lower exam scores (typically on the final exam).2 By creating a plan and staying motivated, you can reach your academic goals for this semester.

Create an Academic Plan
An important step to take before starting to study is to make an academic plan. This is the process of creating SMART Goals (where goals are created to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound). Start by writing down all upcoming deadlines for any assignments, readings, and final exams. Using an agenda/calendar or any planning tool to note these commitments will motivate you to be on track! It is also important to set realistic deadlines (i.e. if you take 2 days to go over 1 chapter’s worth of readings, make a plan accordingly).3

Once you have created your plan, and are ready to start the studying process, please follow the steps below:

Step 1: Create an ideal 'Study Environment'
  • It is important to determine where you would like to start studying and what set up works best for you. Some students prefer to study in the library, surrounded by other students in order to feel motivated; others may choose to focus by themselves at home. When you find a place to focus, you can then start reviewing materials. Make sure your space is neat, tidy, and comfortable. Of course, make sure you have all your study materials ready to go!
Step 2: Study Smarter, Not Harder
  • Make sure all your notes for lectures and readings are organized. By doing so, you will have all the material necessary to start reviewing, instead of scrambling last minute and impacting your concentration.
  • Do not memorize! By memorizing you are not learning the material long-term. Try to understand what you are learning, and think of an example to connect the concepts. To test your understanding, see if you can explain the concept to a friend or peer.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice! Make sure you are constantly reviewing exam materials. This could be practicing your math problems or re-reading/writing your English papers or Biology notes.
  • Test Yourself: Try creating ways to review materials by creating flash cards, writing out practice questions, and completing practice exams (if available). Forming a study group can also be a great way to test and review concepts (depending on your learning style)
  • Remember to adapt your study strategy depending on specific subject areas. For example, reviewing for an English course may require a different technique compared to a Calculus course, which requires the completion and practice of various problem sets.
Step 3: Remember to Take Breaks
  • With finals approaching, it can be easy to be overwhelmed or stressed out. However, it is important to make sure you are taking care of your mental and physical health. I find it helpful  to reward myself during final exam season by taking a snack break (in moderation of course!). Rewards in small increments have shown to help individuals reach productivity when completing a specific task.4
Remember, final exams are a great way to strive for better! I hope these tips can help you tackle and overcome exams!

Until Next Time,

James Rebello
Academic Assistant

Resources That Can Help You:
  • Book yourself a 1-on-1 appointment with a Study Skills Peer Coach at the AA&CC to strengthen your skills to prepare effectively for finals (information on study skills can be found here)
  • Here is a tip sheet on time management strategies and ways to achieve academic success
           o    This tip sheet can help you with goal setting for the rest of the semester

*Note: You can register for Study Skills appointments and workshops via

Additional Resources:

1.      Okun, M. A., Fairholme, C., Karoly, P., Ruehlman, L. S., & Newton, C. (2006). Academic goals, goal process cognition, and exam performance among college students. Learning and Individual Differences, 16(3), 255-265.
2.      Balkis, M., Duru, E., & Bulus, M. (2013). Analysis of the relation between academic procrastination, academic rational/irrational beliefs, time preferences to study for exams, and academic achievement: a structural model. European journal of psychology of education, 28(3), 825-839.
3.      Lawlor, K. B. (2012). SMART Goals: How the application of SMART goals can contribute to achievement of student learning outcomes. Developments in Business Simulation and Experiential Learning, 39.
4.      Ariely, D., Bracha, A., & Meier, S. (2009). Doing good or doing well? Image motivation and monetary incentives in behaving prosocially. The American economic review, 99(1), 544-555.

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