Hey guys! Now that finals are getting scarily close for me, I thought I would share some tips and tricks I have learned over the past few years. I go to a school where finals are after Winter Break, which I extremely dislike because that means I have to study during the actual break, but I know my school is trying to change that, so I can’t complain. These tips don’t just apply to finals; try them out on tests and even smaller assessments like quizzes.
1. Start studying early.
I think we all know to start preparing early for bigger and more important assessments, such as midterms or finals. A lot of people, though, don’t start studying for regular tests or quizzes until the day right before! If it works for you, GREAT! Some people are able to study the day before a test and STILL score pretty high. Well, I can’t say I’m a part of that lucky bunch! What works best, for me at least, is to try to study at least three days ahead of time. That way, I’d have more time to really absorb the information. I understand that a lot of you probably don’t have the time I have to start early, but if you can, it’s worth it. For bigger assessments, for FINALS, I start SUPER early, depending on the subject and what I know is going to be on the test. If the final is an in class essay, I can’t really do anything to necessarily STUDY for that, so I’d review any material that my teacher recommends and hope for the best! For actual exams, though, I start prepping my study materials and forming my study guide probably about a month before the actual test. For example, for this semester’s AP biology final, my teacher gave me a handy dandy paper with a list of the subjects that are going to be on the exam. Using that, I started reading the textbook and taking notes on those subjects on a google doc. It’s been about two weeks and I’d say I’ve completed about ¾ of the material on the study guide, and the final is in another two weeks as well. I’d been really productive during winter break in terms of studying for finals and I’m really proud of that. All in all, just make sure to start prepping early, whether it be a regular test, quiz, or especially a final!
2. Don’t study on an empty stomach.
The worst thing is trying to stuff facts and information in your brain on an empty stomach. You’re already not feeling energized because of a lack of food yet you’re trying to push through prepping for a test you have the next day. If this is the case, please put down your textbook and GRAB SOMETHING TO EAT!! Aim for healthy snacks. Instead of grabbing some cookies or some chips and dip, try some veggie sticks, hummus, or apple slices and peanut butter. The options to healthier foods are endless! You’ll feel so much better with brain food in you instead of unhealthy junk.
By saying this I guess I’m kind of being hypocritical. I’m guilty of grabbing delicious chocolate chip cookies when I’m feeling a little hollow myself. I know that it’s extremely hard to go for something healthy when there’s a nice fresh bag of chips sitting right there on the countertop, easily accessible to fulfill your hunger. I’ve been in this situation plenty of times because I’m always hungry (no joke), but just try your best to choose a snack that is better for you and it’ll leave you feeling great both physically and mentally, and therefore will help you with your studies!
3. Have a quiet and organized study space.
If you’re like me and you prefer studying at a desk than on a couch or a bed, make sure it’s nice and organized. If you study at the dining table or anywhere that’s not your personal space, just make sure the space is clear and not cluttered. A messy work space is detrimental to your study process. I personally cannot work in a disheveled area littered with papers and trash so I always keep my desk nice and tidy so that I’m motivated to actually study.
4. Make sure you have all your materials with you before you get comfy.
If you’re NOT like me and you love studying in a comfy area such as a couch, check to make sure you have all your textbooks, notebooks, other study materials, and even snacks, before you get TOO comfy. On the rare occasion that I move to my couch downstairs from my desk for a snuggier study space, I ALWAYS forget something, usually a pencil, and I get really annoyed because I’d have to go all the way back upstairs to grab such a trivial item. It’s even worse if I’m in the middle of my studying that I remember I’ve forgotten something. It disrupts my review process and basically dampens my mood. I sound like such a child complaining about something as shallow as this but hey, I’m telling the truth.
5. Use online material.
I never realized how much the internet really helps with review. It wasn’t until this school year that I started taking more online practice quizzes and tests. It’s fast, simple, and easy. Just search up your topic, type in the word quiz, click one of the links, make sure the site doesn’t look sketchy (LOL) and you’re good to go! Other sites that most people already use such as Sparknotes and Shmoop are obviously great as well.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask help.
If I’m stuck on something, I don’t hesitate to ask my friends who have taken / are taking the same classes. I actually have a funny story to tell you guys relating to this. I have a study buddy for precalc this year (math is one of my worst subjects) and EVERYTIME I have a question or I need to clarify something, I message her for help. But the thing is, after I text her, I immediately realize how to solve the problem I had a question on. So then I go back and text her “NVR mind”. It’s happened so often that it has developed into sort of an inside joke between us! But yeah, don’t be scared to ask a friend, parent, older sibling, or teacher for help. I think it’s always best to ask a teacher but obviously they’re less accessible if you’re at home, unless you have their phone number or you can easily contact them. So I always text my friends, but sometimes I ask my parents. When it comes to getting help from my mom or dad, I assume that they aren’t knowledgeable in the topic I need help on, but I’m always highly mistaken. They end up knowing more than me!
7. Most importantly, TAKE BREAKS.
Please, please remember to take breaks. Breaks are essential to a healthy study routine. You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to take breaks!” To answer that, I’d say that even a quick one minute breathing session can help you get back on track with studying. Remember Tip #2? You can treat getting yourself a snack as a quick break as well if you really want to maximize your time. I like to lay on top of my bed for a minute every now and then while I’m studying to stretch my back and rest my eyes. I also treat my shower time as a relaxing break as well. I have a waterproof speaker in my shower that I use DAILY so that I can listen to music while I bathe myself, which is refreshing and clears my mind. Sometimes I like to reward myself too by indulging in a chapter of a book I’m currently reading at the time as another effective break. Breaks are crucial and necessary to prevent you from exhausting yourself too much. Take it from a person who’s had constant headaches and tired, red eyes from studying for prolonged times without stopping. I’ve definitely learned my lesson!
So that was my advice for preparing for assessments! All of this I’ve learned so far my three years in high school, and I hope they help! Now it’s back to studying for finals…