It’s that time of year again, football season is in full swing, the leaves have fallen, snow is on the ground, and finals are looming. This is usually a good time to start gathering your notes together, and getting into finals mood so you aren’t going through a mad rush finals week trying to find everything and cram it in. The goal of this post is going to be to outline a few techniques that I’ve found helpful over the last 4 semesters.
This is in caps because that’s how important I believe it is, there is a very good reason the semester is spread out over 16 weeks, and you have multiple exams; because it’s humanly impossible to cram all of the material into one night before the exam. Start reviewing your notes writing down topics you find confusing or difficult, this way you can formulate a specific and targeted study plan.
If you read the first tip you know how impossible it is going to be to learn everything in a week; this is why you’ve already made a very specific list of topics to review. Now focus on the high yield materials, easy points. An example of this was spectra for my organic chemistry exam last year, each spectra was 8 points, there were 3 spectra, so that’s an easy 24 points boom, it took about an hour to read, understand, and practice spectra. On the other hand something extremely specific like a signal cascade for my physiology exam which may only be worth one or two points on a multiple choice exam, but take several hours to study, understand and memorize isn’t worth it. It would be better to understand the broader concepts of the cascade enough to make educated guesses on those 2 questions.
Everyone and their mother will be in the library tweaking about the same exam, find somewhere else to study. Try to minimize discussions about the exam, and just study. Maintain your confidence and remember that you have been studying and at this point, stressing can’t help you, it can only hurt you.
Don’t memorize; understand
Pointlessly memorizing facts will hurt you, there are hundreds of pages of reading on each exam, don’t pointlessly memorize everything. Memorize selectively and try to understand the general trends so that you only have to memorize trends and will be able to work out problems.
Mix it up
Don’t study all the material you’re having trouble with at once, mix it up with material that you understand well but still need to review for the exam. This will help maintain a high level of confidence; you will feel like you understand something. A common mistake is studying all the things you don’t understand together, this makes you feel like you don’t know anything and makes you feel unprepared. Confidence is very important to have on test day.