The F word. No, probably not what you’re thinking. Finals. Yes, it’s true. The most dreaded time of the year, for college studentsat least, is finally upon us. And whether you’re refusing to leave bed in denial of what is to come, or you have already made color-coded flash cards for all your exams, we can all use a few extra helpful tips to make finals season that slightly bit less painful and we can feel more ready when those blue booklets land on our desks.

Make a game plan

Sometimes the sheer fact that our brains are so consumed by the endless to-do lists of the pre-finals season, it becomes hard to get down to work and actually start to prep. Therefore, before you even open that first textbook, take a look at all the subjects you need to review and how much time you have and create yourself a realistic timeline.

 Not only will this work to ensure you don’t forget about anything, but it will likely help to keep you on track as the simple act of giving our brains artificial deadlines, works to keep them working in line and on time that much more effectively. Additionally, this can help you prioritize the things that are most important and impactful on your final grades so that you don’t find yourself studying for 10 hours for a question that might be worth only 1% of your total grade. Also, if you find yourself at loss for time, this can be a great tool in understand where you need to consolidate your time and place your greatest focus.

Understand how you study best

If you google “exam study tips,” you will likely become overwhelmed by the plethora of advice for the absolute most effective way of studying. Things get dicey when so many different opinions and studies all claim to be the perfect solution. Rather than 
struggling through that one studying technique that you learned about from a friend couple years ago that you just can’t seem to get to work for you, try out a few tips and techniques you find and see which ones work best for you.

Each person is different and it’s no secret that we all learn in different ways. So rather than exerting unbelieve amounts of time and energy on techniques that don’t work for you, find the ones that you feel will help you achieve your studying goals.

We find that studying through associating new material with things we already know, creating mind maps and diagrams, and taking a mental break every so often works best for us – but as we said, don’t take our word for it – find out what works best for you. If you’re stuck for ideas, be sure to visit the Academic Support Center on RIT’s campus to find the help and resources you need.

Music

Alright, so we’re well aware of the ongoing debate between no music versus music when it comes to studying. However, according to recent studies, author and researcher, Chris Bailey, who published a book entitled A Year of Productivity, concludes that we’re least distracted by listening to music that we know very well. Listening to familiar songs can actually work to block out external noise and can often allow us to focus on our current tasks much better than playing unknown tunes as then our brain will be distracted trying to listen and understand this new sound its processing.

Although this may not work for everyone, and definitely goes back to the find-what-works-for-you point, we couldn’t help but mention that sometimes, writing song lyrics to try to remember some course material can be a very effective and fun way of prepping for your exams.

Snack on brain food

Okay, so like, we know – with finals just around the corner, food is usually the last thing on our mind. It can be so tempting to just pick up some fast junk food to eat during your midnight study session or eat a tub of ice cream because you feel like you really deserve a treat after you reviewed those five chapters for your upcoming final.

What you put in your body will have a huge effect on your energy level and focus, so try to keep away from junk food. Don’t you want to give yourself at least that small advantage by keeping your body in its best shape in order to retain all the information you will be scarfing down? Try to keep around healthy snacks and choose foods that have been proven to aid concentration and memory such as fish, nuts, seeds, yogurts, or even blueberries.

Remember to also take care of yourself on the actual exam day and eat a meal beforehand that has a slow release energy. The last thing you want is to be distracted during your final by the gnawing feeling of hunger and guilt you have from skipping breakfast.

So while this is in no way an exhaustive list of finals prep that will magically work to ensure you an A in every class, hopefully you can take at least something away from it to make this finals season just a little bit less stressful and a little bit more manageable. Good luck (bonus tip: don’t rely on luck – that is never a good studying or test taking strategy) and happy studying!

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