How to Study for Finals

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year – finals time! Whether you or your student are taking finals before or after winter break, it is never too early to get started… but that can be half the battle.

A common obstacle for students in studying for finals is that a lot of students don’t know how to study. Combine this deficiency with a semester’s worth of material, and the overwhelm can be paralyzing. 

Unfortunately, studying for finals requires a lot of time, so if a student is avoiding or procrastinating, the anxiety, overwhelm, and stress can be unmanageable and the outcomes dismal. 

To alleviate some of the mystery and stress of studying, here is a finals “cheat sheet” to help you or your child get started:

1. Organize your materials

You don’t need to wait until your teacher distributes the study guide. Instead, use your syllabus or your Google Classroom/Schoology/other educational portal history to inform you of where you have been. If you began with Chapter 1, compile all the handouts, notes and assessments from Chapter 1. Do the same for all subsequent chapters or units of study. Create piles and organize the materials in the piles sequentially so that everything is in order.

2. Review your class materials

Once everything is organized, use the materials that you have compiled to review the content. Start at the beginning and focus on one chapter every day (assuming you’ve given yourself enough time to do so). Re-familiarize yourself with the concepts and redo homework problems to test your current understanding. Also, make sure to review old tests and quizzes to see where you made mistakes in the past. Spend extra time on those hot spots. 

When you feel comfortable, test yourself using the chapter review/test at the end of each chapter in your textbook. Make sure to check your answers so that you know you’ve done it correctly. Use wrong answers and mistakes to inform future study.

If you aren’t using a textbook or you have already done all the problems but want more, ask your teacher or search online for additional questions. Make sure that answers are provided because knowing that you’re on track is an important part of the process.

If you’re not entirely sure that you understand a concept and you need a little guidance, check out videos on Khan Academy or use other online resources. Instructive videos abound!

3. Use the study guide as a final assessment

Since you’ll have an abundance or resources to use for study, save the study guide and take it as a mock final. Try to approach it similarly to how you will be tested (i.e. implement time constraints, keep it closed note, etc.). If you adhere to test-like conditions, you’ll get a more honest assessment of your level of proficiency. If you ace it, you’re ready to go! If you make mistakes, you know that you still have some work to do.

4. Use your teacher as a resource

If you’ve started your studying in a timely fashion, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to ask your teacher question. Don’t be afraid to self-advocate, to ask “silly” questions, and to set up as many meetings with your teacher as is necessary to ensure that you feel prepared and confident. 

5. Don’t cram the night before the test

Trust the process. If you started early and worked a little bit every day, staying up late cramming the night before the test will only hurt you. Make sure that you eat nutritious meals and get good sleep during your finals week. Your brain can only perform optimally if you take care of it.

Need additional support?

If you need any additional support in your own final exam preparation process, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at The Chicago Family Tutor. We would love to help!

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