While I took finals before I came to the University of Rochester, college finals are a completely different experience. Here are some general tips to help you prepare well for these types of exams!
1. Take care of your body
I have seen many students spend hours upon hours at the library studying the week before exams start. While you will probably need to study quite a bit for your college exams, it is also important to get lots of sleep—and I mean eight hours a night. Maybe you got by on less than six hours of sleep during the semester, but when you have three-hour exams that may require a lot of reading and writing, you are going to want to be very well rested and focused. Taking care of your body is essential. People tend to sacrifice their physical health for school, but eating well and sleeping are vital to success.
2. Study what you don’t know
This may seem self-evident, but my eighth-grade earth science teacher passed this little bit of advice on to me back then and I have found it useful to this day. Sometimes it is difficult when you start studying to figure out where to start—and for me that is figuring out what I don’t know, so I don’t waste time rewriting/rereading notes that I am confident with. People tend to study what they already know as a way to give themselves a false sense of security, so they feel like they do actually understand the information. When I start studying, I like to study with friends and talk things out so I can figure out the information I don’t understand. Or I flip through my notes and jot down everything that I do not get. If a class you’re taking holds a review session, then it may be helpful to go to that as well. All of this may give you a starting point for figuring out what you don’t know.
3. Don’t cram
The majority of students have crammed at one point in their life and there are times when it works. Maybe you crammed for every other exam in that class and it worked out fine, but don’t expect cramming to work for your final exam. Professors may put a question on your exam that he or she has never asked in the past. To put it simply: start studying early and be efficient about it. Make a study schedule if necessary, and give yourself plenty of breaks. Cramming will not put the information in your long-term memory and you never know when you will need this information from this class again. It could be next semester or maybe for a career one day.
4. Be positive and relax
This can be very difficult. A wonderful aspect of the University of Rochester is that we are not a cut-throat university. Students here are passionate about what they are studying and take their classes very seriously, but they are not overly competitive. Nonetheless, students still get very stressed during exam time and it can be hard to stay positive. Make sure you support your friends and let them support you. Take time out of your study schedule to go out to eat with your hallmates and talk about something other than exams. Go to study breaks hosted by Greek life organizations or your class council. Maybe you need to go for a walk around campus and listen to some music. Finding a moment of peace is key to the study process and living at college—don’t get to caught up in exams to remember what is most important.