Study S.M.A.R.T. For Your Finals!

Read time: 5 min

As we approach the end of spring semester, now is a great time to get a jump start on prepping for final exams. Whether this is your first time or your last time approaching finals week, there are several ways you can boost not only your confidence about your abilities, but maximize your time spent reviewing material. Preparation is the key to managing multiple assignments and papers from your different courses, and can help you feel like you can effectively tackle this last hurdle before the summer break. 


Use the following 5 key steps to prepare yourself to study SMART for your finals!


Study SMART!


S-Set Yourself Up 

  • This year has undoubtedly been challenging in more ways than one, but for college students adjusting to remote learning has definitely been a recurring obstacle. By this point many of you have likely adapted your more traditional ways of studying to meet your new expectations of learning online and predominantly at home. However as the weather gets warmer and more good news of vaccines fills our periphery, it can be tempting to change your routine. At this point in the semester it is critical to be intentional about your space and setting when studying for final exams. While it can seem like a good idea to take yourself outside and pack your laptop with you, or adjust your tried and true routine to accommodate recreational activities, now is not the time to throw a wrench in what has been working for you. Try your best these next few weeks to write down your time block dedicated to studying or working on other assignments; keeping your schedule written down in a day runner, or even apps on your phone, can help keep you accountable. When possible, make sure you are eliminating distractions from your physical space as well! This might mean putting your phone away or on “do not disturb” mode, working at a table or desk instead of your bed or sofa, and eliminating environmental noise so you can stay focused. 

M-Make a Plan 

  • Looking at your list of assignments, papers, and final exams can be an overwhelming experience. It’s not at all uncommon to think “I have so much to do that I can’t do anything!” or feel like you don’t even know where to start. Making a plan is a great way to break down these big tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces that you can tackle one step at a time. Marathon runners don’t always think about the full 26.3 miles, they sometimes just think about 1-2 miles at a time. Slowly but surely those miles add up! The same is true when working on your last assignments of the term. Look at your tasks for each class one at a time, focus on the objective of each task, and then break it down into smaller pieces that you steadily work on over the course of the next 2-3 weeks. For example, if you know you have a 15 page paper due, start by creating your outline, building your reference list, and then focus on completing 1-2 pages a day. This step works for reviewing past content for exams, and group projects as well. Think of this step as your action plan!

A-Ask For Help 

  • It can be tough to ask for help when you get stuck, and many folks feel like it might not be worth the time. However if you are consistently struggling with specific content, components of papers, or other assignments that are putting a roadblock in your studying then reaching out to on campus resources should be your next step. This might look different depending on the class or program you’re in, but don’t forget that your professors are first and foremost here to help you comprehend the material and ultimately succeed! Reach out to them for help during their office hours, connect with your classmates for virtual group study sessions when permitted, or take advantage of other resources like free online tutoring and other academic support from the O’Neill Center. 

R-Read Critically 

  • Critical Reading is an efficient and necessary method when tackling comprehension and retention of a large quantity of material. Critical reading means that you are evaluating the text at more than just face-value, formulating questions about the content the author is describing, and pulling out key themes to help you understand what the core concepts of the text are as a whole. The SQ3R method is a great outline to follow when you are developing your critical reading skills, you can learn more about Critical Reading, and how to put it into practice here.

T-Test Your Knowledge

  • Before you take your final exam, it’s a good idea to test yourself on the content you’ve been working so hard to learn and understand. Memorizing material is one thing, but going beyond memorization and practicing explaining the material you’ve learned will help you retain long after your course is finished. Creating practice problems or practice exam questions can not only help you think about the content in a different, more dynamic way, but can also help you feel more confident going into the exam itself. In between reviewing content, create a variety of practice problems that asks you to explain what it is you’ve just learned; you’ll be surprised how much more you can retain when you can explain a concept in detail rather than just memorize it!