The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Finals

I hate to break it to you, but finals are coming. *starts freaking out*

The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Finals

Okay, now let’s take a deep breath, because I got you covered! I have been through five semesters of finals, so I know how it feels to be overwhelmed (and let’s not even talk about what if feels like to be an IB student in a girls’ private high school). I thought I would gather all of my knowledge and experience and prepare this finals survival guide.

Now, you don’t only want to get through your finals but to ace them! And this guide will help you do just that!

STUDY

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Duh, of course, I have to study. We’re talking about finals here!” Trust me, I feel you. But before you plunge head-first into your textbooks, you need to ask yourself a few questions so you can study smarter and save time! What type of exam am I studying for? Is it more about comprehension or do you need to learn things by heart? Is the exam recapitulative (meaning it’s going to cover the entire semester) or is it only covering the classes you’ve had after your midterms?

desk flatlay

Once you have answered those questions, it’s time to actually start studying. Everyone has their methods. Some are visual learners, while others are better when they are reciting stuff. Find out what works for you and get to work! Now is the time to get out your class notes and reread them to get familiar with the topics covered in class. Next, I suggest creating a study guide (or maybe your teacher was nice enough to create one for you) to support your studying. Write down possible questions and answer them to the best of your abilities. Creating a study guide helps me figure out what I need to focus on and what my notes are lacking (if that’s a problem for you, ask someone in your class to help you out! You can also go back to the visual presentations your teacher created or reread the preparatory reading material!).

Read more about studying in this post.

PLAN AHEAD

Surely, by now, you’ve found out that the best way to prepare (or to survive college at all, for that matter) is to plan ahead! Make a study schedule and stick to it. Block out hours dedicated to studying and nothing else! I personally do it week by week. I start off by writing down all of my assignments and final exams in my planner’s monthly view so I can have a pretty good idea of what’s coming and what comes first. Then, I break it down into smaller tasks and see the priority for the upcoming week. Every Sunday, I check up on my monthly view and see what needs to get done. Like this, it doesn’t seem as huge and scary.

Basically, do what works for you! But don’t forget to use your planner and stick to what you have planned!

planner 2015

PRIORITIZE

That kind of goes with the whole planning thing. Sometimes it can all seem a little too much. Between college, extracurriculars, work, and friends, you don’t know where to put your energy. It can all be a little overwhelming. Whenever that happens, I make a list of everything I need to do, or that I’ve committed to, and I prioritize. What’s most important? Don’t be afraid to say no if you think you can’t handle it. Your classes should always stay a priority, even if that means taking fewer hours at work or canceling a few appointments. Don’t forget to think about your health first!

SLEEP

In order to stay on top of your game, you need to get some sleep! Cramming the night before a big exam or staying up all night will do you no good. Not sleeping will affect your performance. For your brain to fully function, it needs to get some sleep! Not only will your brain be more effective, but your body will also feel much more relaxed if you get a few hours of beauty sleep. We should get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night to function properly. And those hours are even more important during finals! Try to get into a regular sleeping cycle, and not only the day before your finals! Sleeping is important when you’re preparing too. Give your mind and body a break, they’ll be thankful!

EAT HEALTHY

I have to admit that this is my weakness. My body is always craving junk food, but even more when I’m under stress. However, feeding your body with healthy food will give you enough energy to give the best performance you can! Your body is kind of like a car. You need to give it the right fuel to make it function properly. Fruits and vegetables are particularly important because they are full of vitamins that will help you stay on top of your game! Each vitamin has an impact on your body’s functions, so make sure it gets them! Proteins are also very important, especially for growth. Make sure you get enough! Snack on nuts or incorporate some meat into your meals. Glucids are what will give you energy in the long run. You can find them in whole wheat bread, pasta, and crackers, among other things.

Basically, make sure you’re getting enough of everything, that you have a balanced diet. However, don’t go overboard!salad

TAKE BREAKS

I think I’ve mentioned how important taking breaks is before, but I’ll say it again: don’t forget to take a break! I know we can get engrossed in studying or in an assignment to the point that we forget to check the time, but taking a break every once in a while is important! It allows your brain to take a breath and think about something else, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Taking breaks increase your productivity. Crazy, right? But how? Your brain can only stay focused for a certain period of time, so at some point, any effort you do to learn something or work productively on an assignment will be worth nothing (or almost). Find the right time slot for you! I personally set myself 30-15 or 60-30 time slots. That means 30 or 60 minutes of work for 15 or 30 minutes of break. I tend to take more breaks when I study than when I am working on an assignment. Find what works out for you! Maybe you’ve heard of the Pomodoro technique, where you work for 25 minutes a take 5-minute breaks. Repeat four times, and then you’ve earned a break of 15-20 minutes! Or maybe you have your own way. The important thing is to take breaks! Your brain will thank you later.

EXERCISE

I am not the biggest exercising fan, but I have to admit it works wonders to destress and keeping your mind and body in the best shape ever! During finals, I tend to stress inordinately (I mean, more than usual), and I need to find ways to let some steam out, otherwise I feel like I’m going to explode! I have acquired the bad habit of stress eating, which makes me gain some unwanted/unneeded weight. With the warmer weather, I can finally work out outside once again. I put some music on and try to run or at least go on walks every once in a while. It helps me stay sane and think about something else for a while, but also helps me avoid gaining too much weight. Experts recommend that you work out at least 3 times a week. Your workout periods should last at least 30 minutes at moderate intensity, or 20 at high intensity. Try to fit it some working out time into your schedule. Even if it’s just 20 minutes, at least you’ll have done something! Your body will thank you for that.

fall run


These are my tips to acing your finals! Now, don’t let yourself be scared because the end of the semester is coming! I know it all seems very scary because you think you won’t be able to handle it all, but trust me – you will get through it! Just breathe.

How do you handle finals? Any tips you want to share?signature[1]

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  • I totally agree with sleep, healthy eating, and exercise. I mean there’s only so much studying one can do, and if you manage to take care of yourself mentally and physically, you’ll be able to succeed on those pesky finals! Great post! 🙂

    • College students often forget that their health plays a big part in their success! I totally agree with you, there’s only so much studying one can do!

  • I love this post, Amelie! I like that you emphasize exercising, since it’s usually the first thing that gets cut when we’re busy. I’m gonna try to make time for exercise during finals week 🙂

    • Thank you Aly! We often forget to take care of our health during finals, and we tend to forget how important it is in order to succeed!

  • AMAZING Tips!!! Wish I read this when I was doing my exams (many years ago).. Have a great week!

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  • Although I am beyond my college years, at least my undergrad years; these are great tips! Exercise and sleep are a few that I didn’t think of during that time frame. I will be starting my Masters in the fall so these will be spot on during finals!

    • People often overlook health, but it’s one of the most important parts of acing your finals!

  • My gosh, I don’t miss finals AT ALL!!!!! I think for me the most important thing is sleep!!

    • Haha, lucky you! And most people forget how important sleep is. I personally wouldn’t be able to perform at all if I didn’t get at least 7 hours of sleep!

  • NM

    The thought of finals still brings me back chills. The hairs on the nape of my neck are currently standing! Glad you’ve included tips we’d usually forget about in the midst of all the chaos!

    • I totally get that feeling! I’m currently in my midterms for my summer semester and just that thought makes me want to shudder! haha

  • Such great tips here! One of the things that helps me to study is to try different mediums of going over the material. I’ll watch relevant youtube videos, rewrite my notes, read my notes out loud. I find this really helps me to retain more of what I’m studying!

    • That’s definitely a good idea!