December has arrived and that means cold weather, winter break and for most students, final exams. Even though exams are still a couple of weeks away, it’s never too early to start planning. The following steps will help you get organized and maximize your efficiency.
1. Consolidate Papers
Hopefully you have gotten into the habit of cleaning out your backpack, throwing away unnecessary papers and filing important ones. If not, now is the time to tackle that mess.
Start by putting all you papers into one pile. Then separate them by subject, putting each subject into a pile. Now go through them and throw out any junk papers. Make sure to keep old tests and quizzes, notes, worksheets, and other handouts from class. Once you have a sorted pile for each subject, you can put them in order with the older ones on top. These papers will be excellent references once you begin studying.
2. Print Review Sheets
Many teachers post review sheets for quizzes and exams online. Some teachers may even post a comprehensive review sheet for their final exams. It is really important to print these up so you can work on them as part of your preparation. Filling out all the review sheets is a great way to refresh your memory on older material. It will also allow you to practice taking exams.
3. Talk to Teachers
Teachers are the ultimate resource when preparing for any exam. After all, they are the ones writing the tests. If you are not sure what will be on the exam or you are confused on a certain topic, make sure to talk to your teacher. You will gain valuable insight, and your teacher may even give you some hints as to what will be on the exam. If nothing else, it shows your teacher that you care enough to ask.
This is also very important for students who have any 504 accommodations or and IEP. If you are entitled to extra time or a reduced-distraction environment, your teacher will typically need time to arrange these. If this applies to you, you should see your teacher at least a week ahead of time to discuss logistics.
4. Make a Calendar
There are two important things to put on a master calendar. First, you want to make sure you know exactly what days and times each exam is. Often times just being able to see how many days away your exam is will give you the motivation to begin studying. Keeping a calendar during this time will also help with your time management since you can plan other activities around your studying plan.
Second, you should write down what you plan to study on each particular day. It is unreasonable to think you can cram it all into one or two days. Instead I suggest focusing primarily on one subject each day. By dividing your studying up into different days and marking it on a calendar, you will increase your accountability and give yourself a goal for each day. And always be sure to review relevant material briefly the night before each exam.
Even the best plan can fail if you do not prioritize your studying. Students tend to focus on the subjects they are good at and procrastinate on the subjects they have a harder time with. Once you have completed steps 1-4, you should have a good idea of what exam is the most important and needs the most attention. For example, if you are hovering between and A and a B in Algebra but holding onto a solid A in Biology, then you should focus more of your time on Algebra than Biology. Other factors to consider when prioritizing your studying are:
- the format of the exam
- how much time you have for the exam
- how many exams are on the same day
- how much time it will take to learn the material
- if you need to schedule a tutor
By starting your final exam preparation early and following these steps you can help maximize your efficiency, reduce anxiety, and boost your performance.