Let’s be real: who enjoys finals? It can feel like a never-ending week where all you want to do is slow down, relax, and take a big fat nap. And studying can seem like a nightmare. Where do you start? How can you get to everything? How can your brain even handle all the densely packed notes you’ve been making all semester?

Plus, for some students, finals can get so overwhelming that the only thing they can do to ease the stress is put off studying until it’s the last minute. And then the only option is to cram.

Last year, most finals were online, which was probably an adjustment for lots of students. Whether it was harder or easier, the transition back is another adjustment. 

Preparing for finals

Ask questions 

It can feel daunting to be the only one to raise your hand in a classroom. Maybe you wonder whether your question is worthy, and are confused why no one else has their hand up. In lots of these instances, the reality is that many of your classmates are grateful and silently thanking you for being brave. 

If you get nervous about asking questions, you can always opt to wait behind after class. Teachers are human too, and they can surely understand shyness. Another option–which works great for students who have a hard time voicing themselves–is to send your teacher an email. 

Your teacher will appreciate the extra time you’re taking to prepare for their class and might even provide additional insights that helps you study. If you have trouble communicating with your teacher, see if you have friends in your class and if they can help with your questions. 

Seek help 

Whether you’re struggling with the order of operations, high-level word problems, or chemistry equations, you’re not alone. Your teacher is a great resource when it comes to getting help before finals. You can prepare several questions and/or topics to cover, or you can just discuss certain challenges you’re experiencing. 

If you, for some reason, can’t discuss with your teacher, there are so many online educational resources—many of which you can use for free! There is also a long list of apps you can use for studying, such as Evernote, Quizlet, and My Study Life

If you have older siblings who have taken the classes in which you’re struggling, utilize their knowledge! 

Gather study materials

Binders are your friend here. If you’re studying for multiple subjects, the big, multi-subject binders are key. You can break up your binder by subjects, making it easier to flip through and get to where you need. 

Sticky notes can also be a top-notch study tool. You can either use them to jot down questions that you’re saving for later, or you can use them to take notes as you study. Or maybe you’re in the midst of mastering a foreign language and just need keep those conjugations in sight. 

Leading up to your test, you can write down key concepts you want to remember, and then stick the sticky notes in random places around your house, in your locker, in your notebooks, etc.. 

Highlighters are great for making the most important information stand out–if you own the textbook, you can go to town. 

Staying organized through finals

One of the biggest challenges for many students is staying organized when studying, especially when dealing with multiple subjects. 

A great way to initially organize yourself is by simply writing down what subjects you need to study, and then writing down subcategories for the specific areas of each subject. You can also list your subjects in accordance with what’s most difficult for you or what you’re feeling most stressed for. 

As you study, keep a running list of questions, crossing them out as you go. If you have remaining questions, email your teacher or bring them up in a review session. 

Finals week

Craft a finals study space

Having trouble focusing? Something as simple as clearing up the clutter on your desk or picking up stray clothes on the floor could improve your headspace.Figure out what works best for you. Some people absolutely need a more highly-stimulated environment. Others find this dreadful and wouldn’t be able to last ten minutes. 

Take care of yourself

You may feel burnt out during finals, so it’s of the utmost importance to take care of yourself & treat yourself to some self-care. 

Try to fit in some exercise everyday, even if it’s just walking around your block. Research shows that physical exercise improves cognition, memory, and wellbeing, while decreasing anxiety. 

In addition, make sure you don’t skip meals. Students may fall under the spell of trying to maximize productivity and study time—which may mean missing out on meals. But this is simply counterproductive, since your body will be in much better shape to get down with the books once you’ve eaten and provided your body with fuel. 

Finals eve

For me, rushing at the last minute–especially for something nerve-wracking–is the worst. Luckily, I’ve discovered ways around it. 

If you find having a big breakfast before a test unappealing (or downright nauseating), pack snacks to go (most teachers allow this, but confirm in advance). Bring water, too, as research has actually highlighted an inverse relationship between water consumption & anxiety (that is, drinking more water is lined to having less anxiety).  

For a math test, you might need a calculator–from experience, I can empathize with the sheer panic you feel after you realize your calculator is dead. Ensure your calculator is functioning, and if you’re skeptical, bring an extra battery just in case.

If you just want to have absolutely everything ready for you in the morning, lay your outfit out, prepare any notes you’ll be bringing, and if possible, bring some extra pencils and erasers.  

Tricks for finals day

When the day arrives, maybe you wake up feeling full of energy, ready to go. It’s also perfectly understandable to wake up feeling overwhelmed or anxious. 

If the latter sounds like you, take any necessary actions to alleviate your nerves. For instance, if you’re a fidgety or restless person, you probably don’t want to arrive too early, because this may just exacerbate your nervousness. If you’re easily distracted, it’s probably not the best idea to sit between your two best friends. Instead, find a spot away from your pals and reward yourself after by celebrating. 

During the test, avoid constantly looking around and ensuring you’re moving along at the same pace as everyone else. Everyone tests differently. Some people may have extra time, some people may skip around, and others might even start from the end. 

Although you might not feel this way, you’ll get through finals! Take it day by day, learn about what works best for you, and at the end of the day, they’re just finals. 

Author: Lydia Schapiro