Few people enjoy the intense pressure felt during final exam week. All that pressure comes to a head as you scramble to focus your studies and keep your cool at test time. A poor performance on the final exam drops your overall grade for the course and your GPA. Since most finals cover an entire semester's worth of material, you have lots of ground to cover. Getting through finals successfully requires sound time management skills and planning ahead.
Ask your professor about the material covered on the exam if he doesn't offer up the information. Determine if the exam covers the entire semester or only a few chapters. Ask about the type of questions you'll see on the test. For an essay exam, focus more on general ideas and connections in the material rather than specific facts. For multiple choice, short answer or true/false, commit facts to memory.
Schedule your study time at least two weeks before finals. Mark all of the final exams on your schedule so you know when they are. Divide your study time between each of the classes. Break down the material for each class so you cover everything. For example, if you're covering eight chapters for a certain class, assign one chapter to each day over the course of eight days. Allot more time to the classes that are likely to have more difficult finals.
Cut time wasters as you study for finals. Take a break from TV shows, limit your social engagements and cut back your hours at work if possible. Leave activities that reduce stress, such as exercise, in your schedule.
Mark facts that you know and do not know in your notes as you study. Develop a marking system. For example, mark known material with a check and info you need to study more with a star. Create a "last-minute cheat sheet" for those items that you can review the night before the exam.
Get a good night's sleep the night before the exam so you are rested and focused. When you cram for an exam the night before, you are much more stressed out and lose a lot of sleep. Your mind has a hard time focusing on the material. Pack all materials the night before so you don't have to scramble in the morning.
Set your alarm early the day of your final exam. Eat a healthy breakfast so you aren't distracted by hunger. Arrive to the exam location early so you don't feel rushed. Review your "last-minute cheat sheets" so the key facts are fresh in your head.
Settle yourself in your seat. Breathe deeply and remind yourself that you are prepared for the exam. Get out your pens and paper so you can start the test right away. As soon as you get the exam, write down from memory any formulas or concepts that will help you perform better on the final exam.
Read through each question completely. Answer easy questions first so you get those answers out of the way. This leaves the rest of your time to tackle the difficult questions. On multiple choice, read all of the answer options even if you think you found the correct one. For essay questions, create a simple outline of your answer before you start writing to ensure you cover all of the relevant information.
Monitor the time as you take the final exam. You don't want to rush, but you also don't want to run out of time. If you get finished early, go back through all of the questions to check the answers. Proofread essay answers.
Celebrate surviving finals week after your last exam. You can't change the outcome of your finals anymore, so don't waste your time stressing about it.