It’s Almost Time for Finals and I need to Study

Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Seth Marsh, CUED-IN Nov 30, 2016

Late nights, junk food, long days, and all-nighters….Aahhh, yes. It’s almost time for finals.

Let me share some study tips to help you prepare for this lovely time of year…


Study less.

Now I know you like the sound of that… Your brain will actually be able to retain more if you study for shorter periods of time. For instance, plan to study for 30 minutes instead of 4 hours. The trick is that those 30 minutes must be 30 minutes of undistracted, solid study time – cell phones, TVs, and friends who aren’t studying are banned from this study time.


Study where you are going to take the test.

When you try to remember information your brain is going to access the information better where you first learned it. I had a professor once tell me that in college he studied for a test at Hardee’s. When he went to pick up the test the teacher said he could take the test anywhere he wanted. So, guess what? He went back to Hardee’s and aced the test! If the classroom where you’ll be tested is open then utilize that space to study.


Get some alone time.

Although studying with friends and fellow classmates can be beneficial, make sure you get some private studying time as well. Compare notes with other students in the class so that you know you understand the concepts then go find your own space to study. Obviously, if you do study in a group, try to make that time as focused as possible. If your friends aren’t staying focused on the task at hand, ditch the group, study for 30 minutes on your own, and then join back in on the fun.


Make a schedule for your study times. 

Check out your syllabus and set aside study time for all the tests on the schedule. About one week out before the test is probably a good time to start studying (that way you should have most or all of the information). Yes – I mean actually write it into your planner and treat it like it’s a mandatory class. That way you won’t be surprised when you realize you have a test the next day and haven’t studied for it.


Turn it off.

Though you may have convinced yourself that listening to music or having your favorite show on helps you study, chances are you’re wrong. Anything else that vies for your attention is ultimately distracting a part of your brain from fully absorbing the information. If you truly can’t stand quiet or if you’re trying to block out other sounds, at least choose music that doesn’t have lyrics.



But really – get some sleep. Though it may be a cool badge of honor to talk about how much sleep deprivation you’ve sustained to study for a test, all-nighters and shortened sleep times are actually completely unproductive. Your brain does this magical (OK, not actually so magical) thing when you sleep where it solidifies the information that you’ve taken in during the day. You’d be better off studying hard for 1 hour and getting a good night’s sleep than studying 7 miserable hours through the night with no sleep. Not to mention that this kind of sleep deprivation is going to make your next several days remarkably unproductive as well.


Go back to the ol’ pen and paper routine.

Take some time to write out what you’re studying. By this I mean pick up a pen or pencil and physically write out your notes on a piece of paper. This physical action will help get the information in your brain MUCH better than just reading the information on a screen or a page will.


Acronyms and acrostics are your friends.

If you have a list of things you need to memorize, come up with a word they could spell or a phrase to represent each item in the list. Outrageous words and phrases are OK – in fact, you might be more likely to remember it that way.


Hopefully these tips will help you as you enter into the homestretch of your semester. Just remember – you’re in college to learn. So put good effort into preparing for your tests. And right on the other side of finals will be a well-earned break. You can do it!