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5 Essential Steps to Cracking Finals

And other tests for that matter! We see thousands of students every day working hard in preparation for their exams. To help out, here’s a list we’ve compiled on some of the most widely agreed upon and scientifically researched study tips for effective, pre-holiday-positive results:

1. Start now. And when you do, turn  off  your  phone.

Phones really like to show off when you get a notification– maybe the screen illuminates, maybe a little blue light starts blinking, or maybe the edge of your phone makes the whole table glow, even if it’s face down! That’s exactly the point, it catches your eye, regardless of what you’re looking at. But that can be problematic when 100% of your attention needs to be on the notes, textbooks, and examples in front of you. This is a common tip across the board!

2. Organize class concepts in a web, and ask yourself how each linguistic phenomenon, biochemical principle, and philosopher relates to those you learned before AND after it. You didn’t learn these topics in an arbitrary order!

According to USA Today College, linking new information to things you already know will help you form associations in your mind. This way, if you can’t recall something specific right away, you can walk your brain through a web of course topics until you eventually reach an answer to the question at hand. This is the part where you may need to break out the fun, colorful pens and blank computer paper. Help yourself envision what the web might look like!

3. Wear your professor’s shoes. If you taught the course, what would you test your students on? Reflect on what’s salient!

Chances are, your professor spent a lot of time discussing some topics over others. Think back to when you may have asked yourself “Why is my professor going on and on about this…?” and give that day’s notes extra attention! What were some other buzz-topics surrounding that discussion? What do you remember your professor getting most passionate about? If there’s a word or concept that’s stuck with you, then it will, more likely than not, make a grand reappearance on the final exam.

4. Overlearn the material to a point where you can teach it with that eccentric professor-like flair!

The Princeton Review recommends taking on the role of the explainer. Challenge yourself: can you take a concept and, without any notes, explain it to a friend who has never heard of it before? In doing so you’ll probably realize you know more about it than you thought. But more importantly, you may stumble over some of the explanation, which will help you home in on what you need to look over a skosh more.

5. Alternate study spots. Going back to the same booth in the same coffee shop at the same time every day to study is great… but only if you plan on taking your exam there, too. Mix things up! That way you’re prepared for any circumstance.

The SUNY blog and New York Times both reference a study about the importance of switching up your study spaces. “When the outside context is varied, the information is enriched, and this slows down forgetting.” Besides, in the future when you put these concepts and skills in a real-world context, you’ll have to stand and deliver in many different environments. Exercise your brain now so that you’ll become a more agile learner and a well-equipped professional!

Don’t just sleigh ride your way through finals week, SLAY ride with these steps to help navigate the not-so-long road to winter break!

Newman Library will be open 24 hours from now until the end of the semester. View the other libraries’ hours here!

Written by Alec Masella