Studying for Finals Efficiently and Effectively
College Life |  Source:

Studying for Finals Efficiently and Effectively

That time of year that work hard, play hard becomes work hard, work harder.

Ah, it's the most wonderful time of the year. And unfortunately, it happens to coincide with finals.

While studying for finals is awful, it's a time to reflect how fortunate you are to have the higher education opportunities you have and it's also a time to stock the fuck up on all the free snacks.

Here is my best shot at tips to follow during this wonderful finals szn.

1. Go light on the coffee.
As the coffee fiend I am, it hurts to say this. However, I stand by my words. Yes, a cup here and a cup there with a couple hours in between won't hurt you.

However, I will warn you against taking two shots of espresso and following up with another two venti fresh brews. I am currently watching my roommate trying to study for her math final but she can't stop twitching because she drank too much coffee. You will be too wired for your own good and you'll probably have a terrible night of sleep, which leads to difficulty retaining the information you worked so hard to obtain.

Trust me, I'm not trying to take your coffee away from you, just try toning it down. You need a lot less than you think you do.

2. Sleep, sleep, and sleep some more.
Sleep as in light, deep and REM...not sleep as in with that guy down the hall. Getting a good night's rest is like that lunch date with a friendly acquaintance you've been meaning to do for months now: you say you'll make it happen but deep down you know it never will.

Well, it's finals time now so you actually need to get it done. Sleep is SO much more important than you realize.

When you get deep sleep, you are boosting your immune system amongst other wonderful benefits. You need to get through finals week without catching a cold, and you'd be surprised to find that the best way of avoiding one isn't by consuming copious amounts of Vitamin C.

Also, when you get REM sleep, you are replenishing your body's supply of chemicals like serotonin, which boosts your mood, and you are also consolidating memories. Without REM sleep, you're studying will be ineffective and those 200 paintings memorized for art history? Out the window because your mind won't be able to consolidate the memories from studying. My point is clear: GET SOME SLEEP.

3. Get 30 minutes of exercise.
Getting oxygen to your brain can work miracles. Even if for only 10 minutes, do something to get your heart pumping. Run around the main quad, do 100 jumping jacks, or do something or someone else (if you catch my drift).

Whatever you decide to do, you will see the difference when you come back to study more. Your concentration will be heightened and it will be so much easier to sit down, think clearly and use your time effectively.

4. Drink copious amounts (of water).
Maybe this is something my mom made up, but constantly drinking water while studying is a necessity for me.

Every time my mind would get foggy, I'd take a swig. Every time I got bored and started losing focus, I'd take a swig...with lemon. Every time I got sleepy and my eyes got tired, I'd take a swig...with ice! There are so many ways to refresh yourself with some good ole' H2O. I highly suggest.

5. Keep eating normally.
I am guilty of trespassing this commandment. When I get extremely stressed, my body freaks out and I don't get hungry nor do I think of food. On days I'm anxious about an assignment or test, I practically have to force feed myself otherwise I would go a full day without eating but a couple of pretzels. However, eating normal amounts of good food is such a necessity to study well.

You need brain food to function! Imagine trying to drive a car without just doesn't work (don't be the smart ass to say, oh what if it's electric). Also, most importantly, don't forget to have a good breakfast the day of your final. It will help so much--if not your grade then at least you had something yummy to eat that day.

6. Find your distraction free zone (which sometimes isn't the library).
Although all my friends adore studying every night in the library, I absolutely despise it. It's too cold, too big and way too social to actually get anything done.

Some libraries are better and quieter than others, but I find my distraction free zones to be my own room and coffee shops. I can tune everything out and tune in to my work. Explore to find a place on or off campus that helps you work as productively and efficiently as possible.

7. Work with a study buddy or two.
I think it never hurts to study with someone else. Whether it be that god awful linear algebra class or organic chem, working with a study buddy or study group can help alleviate the misery. They split the misery of studying for a difficult subject amongst a crowd, help you learn important things you might not have paid attention to if you were alone and provide you with someone to explain things clearly.

Imagine: instead of wasting time sitting in your room alone, agonizing over the problem you can't solve and the box of brownies you just scarfed down, you're quickly getting three problem sets done! Trust me, study groups are the way to go. Plus you can make new friends to hang out with after finals hell week is over. Cheers!

8. Take a deep breath.
Yeah, sounds stupid but sometimes all you need in life is to calm the fuck down and remind yourself that the world is not ending. You are taking a test.

You are privileged enough to have a shot at becoming a part of the 6.7 percent of the world population that has the opportunity to hold a college degree, so do everyone a favor and stop complaining about it. Take another deep breath, put things into perspective, then proceed studying and kicking ass.

9. Stay positive.
Although this piece of advice stems partly from my argument in #8, and is partly because I simply don't want to hear you complain, I truly believe in the power of staying positive. Pretty much everyone is in the exact same boat as you, so your complaining and pessimism is just wasting precious studying time!

I also believe that thinking positively about future outcomes for a final, or for anything for that matter, will bring good forces to you and your life. Studying and taking the exam will be so much easier if you stay positive: congratulate yourself for understanding something or solving a problem correctly, and work harder to understand things that are confusing instead of badgering yourself by saying that you will fail.

Go into the test with high spirits, a pleasant outlook and hope for the best. If you worked hard and studied as much as you could, that is the best you could do. Might as well have a good attitude about it than be that pessimist that brings down everyone's day, including your own.

10. Stop doing precisely what you're doing right now: procrastinating.
Now that you have all the tricks of the trade, get your ass off this article and go study. No further comment.

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    College Life | 

    Make Your Procrastination Work for You

    Use this simple trick to break the procrastination habit.

    I'm a master procrastinator--and I know a lot of my friends are just like me. In college, I would just barely make a deadline, and would always say to myself, "Next time, I'm starting early and doing it right." Yeah, right.

    It never failed: I'd spend most of my time avoiding the work and then in the 11th hour, I'd kick into overdrive and get everything done, finishing at the last minute. But I wouldn't have time to check or edit my papers, making it obvious it wasn't my best work.

    Does this sound familiar? Well, it's pretty common to procrastinate. And it's not just because of laziness--it's because procrastinators function differently. We like to work. We enjoy putting the effort in. But we need the urgency that comes with a looming deadline.

    I tried a bunch of things to change how I work, based on studies and research and a some other fancy stuff like that. But they didn't work. Because I couldn't just change who I was and how I did things. Then one of my friends told me that he also used to struggle with procrastination, until he discovered the best way to put his procrastination to work for him, using one simple trick.

    Here it is: Set earlier personal deadlines. That's right, don't try to change your workflow or your mental chemistry. Accept it and use it to your advantage. Need to feel the deadline breathing down your neck? Perfect. Create your own deadlines well in advance of the real deadline. Put them in your calendar, write them down on Post-Its and stick them to your laptop. But make sure it's not just a toothless deadline, give them some strength. Make them public, tell others--or my favorite, treat yourself if you make it. That way you'll start thinking of them as real deadlines. And, worse case scenario, if you end up missing your personal deadline, you'll still have some time to finish before the real one comes, especially since (hopefully) you've already started your work.

    This trick helped me tremendously during my junior and senior year, and should help you, too--unless you decided to put off reading this article until right before you deadline. If so, you'll just have to promise yourself you'll start early and do it right next time.

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    Slaying Spring Semester Finals

    I did not slay my spring semester finals, they slayed me with a concussion.

    During finals week of my sophomore year, I sustained a concussion. An alcohol and sex sustained concussion.

    It was the last Saturday before finals finished and I was planning on staying in to work. Two of my good friends had just finished their finals and were looking for someone to endorse their bad decisions. I was the one they pleaded with to come out.

    I'm a salesman's wet dream, easily convinced to do anything, and with even less convincing needed to get drunk and stoopid with friends. "Alright, but I'm not going to drink a lot or stay out too late." Said the girl who would drink a lot and stay out too late. Me. I was that girl.

    We pregamed with Moscato and Bacardi Dragon Berry (together), which tasted like very, very sweet juice and got us very, very drunk. As we made our way to a bar, I spotted a boy I had made out with a few weeks before. I knew I wanted more, and when I spotted him, the wine, Bacardi, and I unanimously decided this was the night I would get more.

    The boy, we'll call Steve, invited me back to his frat to smoke. On the way to the house, another boy, the one who sent me in a tizzy with his dirty talk, shot me a "wyd" message. Once I was done with Steve, I knew I was finding my way to the other boy, Jack.

    Once at the frat house, Steve realized he had no weed and no room (because he was a freshmen and didn't officially move in yet). So, we just continued drinking and hanging in a common area.

    After a little while, I was ready to see Jack. In modern day chivalrous form, Jack offered to pick me up at the frat house (even though he belonged to a different frat) and walk us back to my house.

    I told Steve I had to get home so I could wake up early to write essays. He walked me to the door for it to open up to Jack. I explained he was my friend's boyfriend who had offered to walk back with me. Yes, I'm an asshole.

    This is where the night gets blurry (partly because of the drinks and partly an effect of the concussion). From what I've gathered, he came back to my sorority house where we aggressively fucked on my XL twin bed. So aggressively, in fact, I repeatedly hit my head against a wall. Then, in round two, I had another big head hit against the wall. He slept over and I woke up with (what I thought was) a weird and powerful hangover.

    All day long, something was off. I couldn't focus, lights and my computer screen hurt my eyes, I was sensitive to sounds, and just really spacey. I tried to nap in the middle of the day, but all I could do was stare forward for two hours. That night, my roommate eventually said, "Dude, I think you have a concussion."

    I suddenly remembered the drunk head banging sex and realized she just might be right. An appointment at my health center the next day confirmed I was concussed, resulting in a medical excuse to delay the rest of my finals and final grades. And I also had to deal with packing up, driving home alone, and preparing for my internship's start the next week.

    I ended my semester and finals week with an awful bang (in bed and on my head); I did not slay my spring semester finals, they slayed me. Heed my warning, dear readers, and use these tips to actually slay your finals.

    Schedule in advance
    Figure out how much time you need to prepare and complete all of your finals. If you know you have something on a particular day, like meetings, concerts, or formals, compensate by scheduling more work at a different time. Try to steadily do work on all of your subjects each day, rather than jam packing one subject after another. If you jam-pack, you might not devote as much time as you'd like to every subject. This will also keep each day moving faster.

    Wake up early
    If you want to be able to relax at night or to max out your day, wake up early to start work. Additionally, rising early will allow you to get to the library at opening to claim a good spot.

    Don't go crazy before you're done
    Focus on work first. I'm not saying don't go out at all, but don't get wasteyfaced and end up concussed.

    Find time to say bye to everyone
    One of my least favorite parts of college is the end of each semester; it feels like there is no culminating endpoint. We all finish at different times and I often go without saying bye to friends. Carve out time during and after finals to bid farewell to your buds.

    Don't leave as soon as you're done
    You finally finished, don't run away! Take it easy, go to parties, get in some last fun with the graduating seniors. The later it gets, the rowdier it gets. Plus, you can take your time packing up all of your things, which will probably relieve a lot of stress.

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    What I've Learned From Failing A Midterm

    Read this before you have to learn the hard way.

    As a first semester college student, I've had a lot of "firsts." Sadly, one of those "firsts" was failing a midterm. It was horrifying. I studied for hours, re-watched lectures, watched crash courses (shoutout to high school history), and took intense notes during lectures.

    I was told all throughout high school that if you dedicate your time to college, it will be a breeze. College is not a breeze.

    It doesn't matter how much time you dedicate to your classes or whether you write or type your notes just because you've been told that handwriting notes is better for memorization than typing. The key is how you manage your time with each class.

    What I thought: The key to lectures is writing down notes as fast as you can not worrying about how sloppy they may be.
    What I've learned: Downloading the powerpoint and typing notes underneath is more beneficial as you can keep up with your professor. Only when you study for the exam should you write out all of your notes and powerpoint topics. This is a good way to keep notes organized so that you will not have to waste time trying to figure it out later.

    What I thought: Re-watching lectures is a good way to review the material.
    What I've learned: If you don't dedicate all of your attention to the recorded lecture, you won't retain information and you will have wasted your valuable time. By retaking notes during the video lecture, you're bound to catch more information and it will make sense.

    What I thought: Reading the books, chapter by chapter, is an efficient way to understand information.
    What I've learned: You will waste hours reading entire chapters. Skip the chapter and re-read the power points and your notes. Only use the book for clarification.

    What I thought: The only place to study is in the library.
    What I've learned: There are a myriad of places on college campuses to study and switching up your routine study spot may give you a fresh feeling and help you retain more information.

    While failing a midterm felt like the worst possible thing at the time may have actually benefited me. I learned that what I was doing wasn't working, and that I needed to find more effective ways to study.

    You can study all you want, but if it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work. As discouraged as you may feel, it is important to pull yourself back up and continue to work hard at improvement and progress.

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    10 Thoughts You Have About Spring Semester Finals Week

    Shout out to Netflix.

    The dreaded week has unfortunately returned and it literally seems like it just left. Besides a few select words that we all could say about finals week, here are 10 thoughts we all have as spring finals week approaches.

    1. Not again.

    No, no, no, no, no. Honestly, I find myself pleading out loud. I don't know who I'm hoping will hear me, but maybe if I whine enough it'll just disappear. Maybe not, but here's hoping that proper wining will at least help.

    2. No one should have to endure finals week twice in less than six months.

    Or ever, for that matter. Whoever thought that giving four or five tests that count for a huge percentage of your grade and cover the entire semester should all be shoved into one week is not on my good list.


    3. Where's the wine?

    Trying to find a balance between taking off the edge and not being too drunk to retain what you study is the real struggle (I still haven't mastered the concept).

    4. I wonder what grade I need to still pass.

    And if you don't calculate to find out then are you even a real college student? Even if I have an A in the class, figuring out the lowest grade I can get to pass gives me some serious peace of mind, unless I need a 100, then I'm screwed and you'll need to get me a larger bottle of wine.


    5. Five tests stand between me and summer.

    Which doubles as motivation AND the reason I have none. You're so close to being done for three months, but at that point it's too difficult to focus on school.

    The weather's nice and freedom (and pool days and margaritas) is just ONE week away (plus five tests, but we know you're trying to forget about that part).


    6. Can't I just marry rich?

    Or win the lottery, or find a job with no college degree. At this point, you're more than done with school and dropping out crosses your mind more than once. Don't deny it, it happens to us all. Trophy wife sounds better and better every day. Even pole dancing doesn't sound too bad right about now.

    7. I wonder how much coffee is too much coffee.

    In addition to your wine, coffee is the only thing keeping you alive during your week-long all-nighters. Starbucks has officially been the cause of your diminished bank account, but you're too tired to even care. Helpful reminder: You can always add shots of espresso to your white mocha.


    8. I probably should've paid attention.

    I should have opened a book instead of watching Netflix all semester (shout out to my headphones and the back of the classroom that wasn't in the professor's line of sight).

    You don't even remember seeing half of the powerpoints and now you're wondering how you're possibly going to learn 16 weeks of material in less than a week... for five classes no less. Good luck, here's hoping Mere and Christina taught you all you need to know about anatomy.


    9. Maybe gonna take next year off.

    Probs not, but you convince yourself for the entire week that you can have a year long break if you survive.

    10. Gonna spend the first two weeks of summer asleep.

    You haven't slept in four days and you're so tired that even sleeping sounds tiring. 14 days of sleep sounds fabulous, but we all know the best way to recover is to drink away a few hot days by the water.


    Finals week is hard af. Study hard, drink wine, survive on coffee, and stay calm. Summer 2k16 is just a few terrible tests away.

    Happy studying.

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    The 5 Stages of a Pre-Final Cram Session

    One of those glorious college nights where you start studying when everyone else is finishing up.

    You're not really sure why you took Anthropology. Your advisor lazily circled it in the culture credit section of your class sheet you received at your last appointment, and you just decided to roll with it. It was a joke class, anyway. You're also not sure of the last time you were actually in the class besides the midterms. Syllabus week, maybe? The only thing you are sure of is that your final is tomorrow, and you're just sitting down now to study for it. Here are the five stages you'll go through as your try to prepare.

    Stage 1: "This'll be so easy! I've got tons of time."

    Ah, yes. Famous last words.


    You sit down at your desk, prepared and almost eager to attack the subject you've completely put off until this point. It's only 8:30, that's so early! You remember all of this, all you're going to need is some light review and you'll remember everything. You've got it all planned: two hours reading the textbook, two hours reviewing the class slides, short break for a little Netflix, one hour doing the homework, and then crash for a bit. Wake up at 7 a.m. and finish reviewing. What a breeze.

    You crack the first page of the book, which leads you to...

    Stage 2: "Holy shit, were there always this many chapters?"

    As if someone just pimp-slapped you with a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species, it suddenly hits you that there was actual substance to this study of Anthropology. As if your life was flashing before your eyes, you remember the difficulty of studying for each midterm you underestimated.

    As the 150-plus pages of reading and countless vocab words loom over you, you turn and see your alarm clock with new light. 10 p.m. already?! What once seemed to show you had ages to study now made you feel like you were watching the clock from 24 as seconds loudly ticked away.


    Panicking, you reach for something you've saved just for moments like this, and find yourself suddenly in...

    Stage 3: Stimulant-Induced Brilliance

    Look, no one's going to make any assumptions about what you just put in your body. Let's just say it was a really good 5-Hour Energy. Either way, it's working. You're tearing through the pages, your confidence restored. You can't believe you were ever worried! You're going to know goddamn everything on this test at this rate.


    You've finished the textbook, and now you're scrolling though the PowerPoint slides almost too fast to read. Too fast for anyone except you. Advanced terms whiz by, and you're confident you've got them memorized. Australopithecus? No way you forget how to spell that by tomorrow morning. Confident, you turn once again to your alarm clock. Here comes...

    Stage 4: Stimulant-Induced Crash

    Whoa... It's 4:30 in the morning? How did that happen? You turn back to your computer and suddenly it seems brighter than usual, making you squint. Out of nowhere, a headache hits you. It sinks in how tired you are. You tell yourself you've covered enough, and any leftover review can be finished in the morning.

    Maybe you'll move your alarm back a little though. You lie down in bed, and close your eyes. In what feels like a second, you open them up and hit...

    Stage 5: Exhausted Acceptance

    You turn and see the time. It's 10:30. The Exam is in about an hour. Slowly, you turn and sit up, placing your feet on the floor. You stare at the wall and sigh heavily, attempting to remember whatever it is you learned last night. A... u.... s... t... r... i? Shit. Nothing stuck.

    You trudge to class, glaring with evil resentment at the people who are obviously way too prepared sitting in front with four pencils and color-coded notes. That famous line that every student has said while admitting defeat crosses through your head: "Well... I'll just do really well on my other finals."

    You sit, exhausted, frustrated, and unprepared. You tell yourself you won't do this next semester. Probably.