How to Study for Finals?

Preparing for finals? Ace all your exams by learning how to study for finals with this article.

TCM Staff

21st October 2021

Your final exams might be the most stressful part of your college career. If that’s true, there’s no shame in it. It’s normal to feel some stress and anxiety around this time, as final exams put a lot of pressure on college students. Proving you retained an entire course within a one- or two-hour exam is daunting, and you might not have the slightest clue about how to study for finals. You might be wondering how to study for finals in college — what are the best study tips for finals, and how can you ace your exams. 

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If you’ve left studying to the last minute, you might be thinking: “how to study for finals in a week,” or even “how to study finals in a day?” We have news for you: there are differences between highschool and college, including for final exams. 

Luckily, there’s an art to preparing for finals, and plenty of helpful tips for studying for finals to help you get through this stressful time. 



How Long Should You Study for Finals

Study hours vary from student to student, depending on the exam subject and student’s strengths and weaknesses. You should prioritize more study time for some exams over others based on:

  • Weight of final average
  • Difficulty 
  • Date

If one exam is worth 50% of your grade and the other is worth 20%, you should make sure you spend a little more time studying for the exam worth 50%. At the very least, start studying for that one sooner. If your strengths are in math but not English, you should account for extra study time for the English exam. And, if one exam is in two weeks and another is in three weeks, you should start studying for the sooner one. 

How many hours a day should you study for finals? Generally, studying for more than 12 to 14 hours in one go, otherwise known as cramming, isn’t a healthy study practice. Study for a few hours every day or every other day, and break up the time with small, 5-10 minute study breaks

 

Two students preparing for finals in a classroom

15 Study Tips for Finals

Final exams are most stressful if you’re unprepared. Follow these helpful study tips for finals to tackle exam season with ease. 

 

    1. Be Organized

Keep your life schedule, including school, social, and work commitments, organized. Try to account for all the time you spend each day, and to make note of any deadlines. 

Consider using a phone app calendar or a simple pen and pad to keep track of:

  • Homework and assignments deadlines
  • Planned study sessions
  • Exam dates
  • Study schedule

Staying organized can help you find more time and greater clarity and calmness in your day-to-day life. 

 

    2. Talk to Your Professors

As you study, you may find some concepts difficult to grasp. Or, you might be wondering what the scope of the final will be. In that case, don’t be shy and talk to your professors and TAs. Visit office hours and get as much information as you can about your exams and the material on them. A bonus here is that you’ll score participation points. 

 

    3. Start Right Away

How to study for finals in a day? Well, ideally you should have a week (minimum) to study for any given final. Print your exam schedule and post it somewhere easily accessible so you’re aware of your timelines. Then, plot out time in advance on a calendar to study for each one, giving yourself at least a week’s worth of study time. 

During finals week, you should still study for your exams despite the tight scheduling. Is it bad to study before an exam? A few hours before: perhaps you can take a little bit of time to recap important concepts. Ten minutes before: trust us, just have a glass of water and mentally prepare yourself to take the exam.

 

    4. Find Balance in your Subject Material

Instead of studying all day for one exam, consider switching things up. Separate your day into study sessions for two or three exams if you notice yourself losing focus with one subject. It might just be time to read about something different. 

 

    5. Study Smart

Focus your study style on the exam style. For example, multiple-choice exams demand knowledge of concepts and definitions. Essay exams demand strong communication and delivery of that knowledge, with evidence and examples. 

 

    6. Join Group Study Sessions with Friends

Joining a study group not only keeps you accountable for studying, but it’s also something to look forward to. Adding a social aspect to studying helps you feel more connected, and your friends might even know the answers to questions you might have about the material. 

Another great strategy for study groups is to teach the course material to your friends. Helping them understand a concept actually allows you to reinforce the material you already learned. 

 

    7. Take Regular Breaks

Long study hours don’t help you remember everything you read. If you don’t take breaks, you’ll forget the material you read. Try the Pomodoro Technique, which rewards 25 minutes of concentrated work with a short, 5-minute break.  Or, study for two- or three-hour intervals before taking a longer break to unwind, have a bite to eat, or do something you enjoy. 

 

    8. Avoid Distractions

In the digital era, distractions are plenty for college students. A 5-minute phone break can turn into an hour-long scroll session. Here are some study tips for finals to help you keep distractions at bay: 

  • Switch off your phone and email notifications.
  • Turn off the Internet access on your computer.
  • Clear the untidy things from your study area.
  • Do not listen to loud music.

 

    9. Don’t Memorize — Understand

Many students fall into the trap of memorization when it comes to studying for finals. The truth is, you’re not going to memorize every detail of your coursework within a week before the exam. Especially for essay questions, your focus should be on understanding the concepts more than simply regurgitating them. 

 

    10. Eat Well and Drink Water

Eat healthy food and drink plenty of water. Your body and mind will thank you, and you’ll have fuel to keep you focused during your study sessions. Avoid high sugar foods and alcohol close to your study sessions, as both can result in energy crashes that hinder your studying. 

 

    11. Exercise

When preparing for finals, you might feel like you don’t have time for anything other than studying. But, you have to make time for your health so that you can study to your best potential. Exercise will give you more energy to help you tackle your finals.


 

Photo of a student’s computer and notepad on a desk, preparing for finals

 

    12. Get a Good Night’s Rest

You’re probably familiar with the “all-nighter.” We don’t recommend it though, since you lose out on precious sleep hours. Being rested helps you perform your best, both in study sessions and on the actual exam. 

 

    13. Take a Visual Approach

Sometimes long chunks of text are dense and hard to get through in a study session. Try visualizing your study material differently by highlighting certain areas in different colors. You might also consider reworking the content into charts, outlines, illustrations, or flow maps to help you conceptualize the material more effectively. 

 

    14. Quiz Yourself

Test your knowledge by giving yourself mock quizzes and exams. You can also be creative and create flashcards to test your knowledge. 

Pro tip: Quiz yourself with a friend!

 

    15. Find Your Zen

Everyone has different methods of getting into their study zones. For some people, it’s noise- canceling headphones and studying in their rooms. For others, it’s calming, instrumental music while studying in cafes or libraries. Do whatever you need to find a place of peace and calmness to tackle your studying tasks. 

 

Final Exam Study Schedule Template

We know that study scheduling can be tricky if you’re just relying on your mental notes and willpower. That’s why we put together a quick and easy final exam study schedule template, to help you stay on track. 




Week Before Finals

Day of the Week

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Sunday

PRIORITIES

Office Hours for Course 3

Dig Into Difficult Concept for Course 4

Doctor’s Appointment

Course 5 Study Group

No priorities

Course 2 Focused Study Session

Short Recap of Course 1 for Exam tomorrow 

STUDY TIMES

9:00 am: Study Session for Course 1



12:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 1



3:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 5

9:00 am: Office Hours for Course 2



12:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 3



3:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 4

9:00 am: Group Study Session for Course 3



12:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 2



3:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 3

9:00 am: Study Session for Course 1



12:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 5



3:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 3

9:00 am: Study Session for Course 4



12:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 2



3:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 3

9:00 am: Study Session for Course 1



12:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 1



3:00 pm: Personal Study Session for Course 3

9:00 am: Study Session for Course 1



12:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 2



3:00 pm: Group Study Session for Course 3


Finals Week

 

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

Exams

Course 1 Exam 2:00 pm



Course 2 Exam 

3:00 pm



Course 3 Exam 

11:00 am



Course 4 Exam 2:00 pm 




Course 5 Exam 6:00 pm



Party!

Tasks

Short recap study session for Course 2 

Short recap study session for Course 3

Short recap study session for Course 4

Short recap study session for Course 5

     

 

The chart above offers some examples for managing your time a week before finals, and during finals. Feel free to add different time slots for different tasks, as these are just examples. 

 

Conclusion 

When preparing for finals, it’s important to find balance in your routine. Don’t overwork yourself or google “how to study for finals in a day.” Slow and steady is how to study for a final. Pace yourself, take care of your health, take note of the above finals studying tips, and create a final exam study schedule template that works for you!

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