The Ultimate Guide to College Finals

Finals. The word every college student seems to dread. Between having multiple projects and papers due the week before finals begin to realizing that in the last three weeks of class your covered the hardest material of the course, it can get a bit stressful. My friends and I have an ongoing joke that it doesn’t matter how you look, what you buy, what you eat, how often you are/aren’t at the gym, or if your sleep schedule completely went out the window. Its finals week and you are in survival mode. While yes that does sound a bit on the severe side, we all have to admit that it is true. The last few weeks of school always brings the stress acne and severe lack of sleep. While there isn’t much that I can do to help with your finals week schedule, hopefully these tips can help you from stressing too much.


Make a reasonable plan.

I don’t know about you guys, but I always seem to find myself with a finals to-do list of read chapters 1-5 of economics, study all of the test 1 information for math, review TAM chapters 2-7, and review notes from econ chapters 1-5. If you are capable of doing all of that studying in one day, I need to learn your ways, but for someone like me that is simply too much to do. Make a plan that is reasonable. Sit down and write out which of your tests will be the hardest and require the most studying and which ones may be a little on the easier side for you and require less studying. From there, sit down with a calendar and plan when you would like to start studying for each exam and what you hope to study each day. For example, if your exam covers twenty-five chapters, then you will want to start studying ahead of time so that you have the time to go over everything

Start studying ahead of time.

I touched on this above, but it’s so important to start studying in advance for your exams. I typically try to start two to three weeks ahead of time and will sometimes even do mini review sessions over Thanksgiving or Spring Break. Nerdy, yes, but a week with no school definitely isn’t beneficial for me grade wise. One of the major advantages that I have found from starting my studies early is that I can find what I am having difficulties understanding/remembering and get help sooner rather than later. One difficult chapter in my math class last semester meant an hour and a half stop at my university’s math help center so that I could understand it. Thankfully, the time I spent was totally worth it and I did great on those problems on my test.

Review old tests and study guides.

While professors don’t typically use questions from your previous exams that semester, they do typically use similar questions on the same information. Since your midterms were already a shortened version of what you had covered that semester, your final will be an even more condensed version of what was covered on the tests. The best thing that I’ve found to do is to review my old tests and practice tests so that I know what to study and review. If your professor happens to give out study guides, which I’ve only managed to have two professors that do, utilize those! They are typically written by the person that wrote the test, which is a huge advantage to have.

Drink plenty of water.

I know you’ve heard it over and over again, but that’s because drinking water is important and it is the best way to nourish your mind and body during an intense week of stress and sleepless nights. I’ve found that the best way to wake myself up in the mornings is to drink a big glass of water as I get ready. While it makes me feel nauseas to immediately get up and drink the whole glass, I’ve found that a glass of water the first hour to hour-and-a-half that I am awake is perfect.

Talk to your professors.

My econ final covers twenty-five chapters. Twenty-five. To say that that doesn’t make me nervous would be a lie. I went to my professor and told him that the test intimidated me and asked if he could tell me how he recommended to go about studying the material. He told me exactly what I had been planning to do, but just knowing that my way to go about studying was backed by the professor gave me relief.

Turn off the music.

I am already the kind of person that can’t focus with any form of talking or singing in the background if I am doing a reading assignment or studying for an upcoming test. It distracts me and I can’t get my work done. In fact, I can’t even write a blog post with music playing or the TV on. What I do utilize is classical music during times that I need to concentrate and get stuff done. I love using the Pandora study station to listen to classical music that has no words. It’s perfect for the times that you don’t want complete silence but need something to get you motivated.

Find your study space.

The library, coffee shop, and my dining room table are my go-to study spots. I love heading to the library quiet area when I need to get some studying done and the coffee shop where there is a little more noise when I am working on homework and copying over my notes. As for my dining room table, it’s all up in the air for that. Anything from flashcards to notes from my textbooks to studying for my huge exam the next day. Find where it is best for you to study and what works for you. If you are a freshman or transfer student it might take some time to find the best places to study, but it’s worth it in the end. For me personally, I learned that I can’t study in the student center because I get too caught up in the people walking by to get any work done.

Attend the study/help sessions.

Help sessions provided by your university are typically free and allow you get help on topics you are confused on and to learn what topics you should be spending time studying. For my math classes in the past and my current math class my university holds a four hour free study session where each test we have taken that semester and the new material is gone over. Yes, four hours is a long time and it’s a long time to be doing math, but it’s always been so helpful to me. I also utilize the tutoring sessions that our university puts on for free and go in with a list of questions so that I can get the most out of my time with a tutor. Yes, a list seems like a bit much, but the tutor will be happy to know that you’ve already spent time studying and have questions on what you’ve reviewed.

Which of these tips do you utilize during finals? What tips would you add to this list? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

  • I even had cumulative finals in junior high and high school, but nothing could prepare me for this! Last semester I had 4 finals 4 days in a row, which one final on the third day from 8-10pm and another final on the fourth day from 8-10am. It was horrible! Thankfully I’ve developed somewhat of a routine, but I don’t think there will ever be a semester where I don’t consider what I could change up for the next finals session.

    Thanks for the sweet comment! Good luck on exams to you as well!

  • Terrified for finals is an understatement! I can’t believe they are under a month away. This is definitely a helpful list though! You would think after 4 semesters, I would finally have my finals routine down, but unfortunately I don’t. Best of luck in preparing for your exams!

    Colleen | Buckeye Bliss