Emergency Finals Guide
It’s that time of the year again. Procrastinators and studious students alike quake as they await the appalling arrival of…
There’s an exam that you need to study for. There’s a paper you need to finish writing. But there’s almost no time to get it all done. You’re desperate, but don’t despair! All you need is an emergency study guide. In times like these you’ll need to take quick action, but as the old saying goes, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”.
Since we don’t want that to happen, let’s get you a plan.
The first step to studying for an exam is knowing exactly what you need to study. To do that, you need to know what your professor will base the exam on. Depending on the professor, it will be based on one of three things:
- Textbook material
- Class exercises
If you have a study guide, use it. If you don’t, you need to find out what your professor will be basing the exam. You can even ask him or her directly. Usually, professors will guide you to the material you need to review. They want you to learn, not fail. If your professor isn’t helpful, find someone who took the class before and ask them for advice.
Now, outline a plan. Chart out the units and chapters that the exam will cover. Then, break it down into categories and subcategories. Make notes of important information in the sub-categories—this is more useful for reading-intensive classes.
For STEM subjects, practice as many exercises as you can that relate to the material for the exam. It’s not just about knowing what to do; it’s being able to apply the knowledge to actually problems.
Finally, make sure you sleep and eat before the exam. Cramming all-nighters happens, but it’s good to have a few hours of sleep or even a power nap so you don’t sleep during the test. The timing and amount of sleep is up to you, but you’ll do better with some rest.
Eating, however, is non-negotiable. There’s nothing worse than dealing with a growling stomach when you have to sit down and remember everything you studied the night before. Eat something that will sustain you for the exam time, but avoid taking too much sugar or caffeine as it could affect your ability to think properly.
Sorry, Latte, you’ll have to wait.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” (Steinbeck, 1937). These plans may include but are not limited to: writing the majority of your paper long before the due date. If you’re trying to cram most of your work into the last one or two nights before it’s due, you should already know, it’s probably not going to look pretty. That said, let’s try to make it look presentable.
Before you start writing, you should have:
- A basic outline
- Notes of crucial information
- Organized references and/or a bibliography
Even if you have to change something, which is almost guaranteed to happen, it’s better to plan first and change late than to have no plan at all.
Now comes the deceptively simple part, the physical writing. It sounds simple, just cram it all down in one go, right? Well, some people can sit in front of a screen and type hours on end. Others, after about half an hour or so, will find they have to use the bathroom. Or eat a granola bar. Or just walk around and get the blood pumping. By now, you should know which way of writing works for you.
But don’t get lazy. Don’t stare at your screen typing, erasing, and retyping the same thing. If you’re doing that, you probably need a break. And when you’re taking breaks, try not to surf social media or sneak in a Youtube video while you’re doing so. Small breaks are to give your brain a chance to rest, not to give it something new to latch onto.
You’ve got your plan.
Now, do your best!