Today marks the first day of finals week for my second semester here at UMass Amherst, and for the past two weeks I have been in full on finals-prep mode. Growing up I was always naturally smart. I didn't need to study to do well on tests, and getting a high GPA came naturally to me. I assumed it would be the same in college. I did all my homework on time, read all my readings, and watched required videos; but for some reason my GPA did not rise like I thought it would.
I decided that since I was not performing nearly as well as I needed to on my prior exams, that I need to completely re-invent the way that I prepare for my final exams. In high school my classes were very clinical. Even english classes had a write and wrong answer. There was no subjectivity. Things were clear and concise (AKA the way they should be). But apparently, that's not how life is in college or the real world.
In order to navigate this subjective world of education, I have completely gotten rid of flashcards and re-writing notes as a form of studying. Instead I have switched to practice tests and note organizing. Studying topics only works so well, using practice tests (both online, and given to us by the professors) helps you figure out how questions will be worded and different aspects of topics that may be more important than others.
Instead of just taking a practice test, I find at least three-five. Usually my professors will provide one or two and if you have an online homework taking tool, then they will provide you with some too.
Once I gather my practice materials, I write down all of the topics they ask questions on and cross reference them, as well as any subtopics. Then I create organic study sheets for each topic. Once I think I have a good grasp on the material I will take one of the practice tests. If I do not score high enough, I reevaluate my notes, and figure out what I am struggling with. Then I'll take another one. I repeat this pattern until there is not a doubt in my mind that I will be confident going into my final.
I already feel more prepared for these tests then I have this entire year at college. But that's not because of my practice test method, it's because I started early. I have been prepping for finals for the last two and a half weeks. Starting early is the only piece of advice I want to give anyone going into finals. If you don't start early, then you'll never be as prepared as you need to be. It also helps cut down on stress A LOT! Seriously it's incredible.
Good luck to everyone on their final exams or papers this week!