Preparing for Finals

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Dana M. Jablonski
Assistant Director, Center for Academic Success

I have never seen an easygoing college student during finals week. Have you? Usually, students are up studying long hours trying to cram as much information into their brains as humanly possible. They frantically run around campus with little sleep and little nourishment. The end of the semester can be an incredibly stressful time for students. They are ready to pack up, take a break, and move back home for the holiday season, but they have a few hurdles to maneuver before they can. In an effort to help ease some of the overwhelming feelings students are experiencing, I offer the following suggestions:

Start now. The first thing students should do is take care of the assignments that can be completed now instead of waiting for finals week. If a paper is due for a class, students should write it now and not wait to try to finish it in between studying for the other four exams that they have. Every day passed is one day closer to exam day. It’s never too early to start reviewing notes, taking practice tests, and using additional resources. If studying is done correctly over the course of the semester, very little actual studying is necessary for the exam. Instead, you should spend more time reviewing during finals week.

Prioritize. Students need to assess which classes are going to need more study time than others. Not all classes are created equal and students may need to focus more time studying for one subject over another. Some classes have comprehensive final exams while others just have a regular test on more recent material during the finals period. It’s important that students know which classes are going to require more study time during finals as opposed to those classes, which won’t require as extensive preparation. Students should also be aware of high value exams or assignments and ensure that tests or projects that carry a greater weight receive more attention.

Plan. Students should make a calendar for studying. Each student is different: some may thrive while studying for four or more hours while others can study for only two. Generally, studying is most effective when it is done in small chunks of time (two hours) divided by breaks. Students need to evaluate their preferences and adjust time accordingly. Then, stick to the plan by setting smaller goals and deadlines along the way. As a parent, you should ask your student questions about a study plan to see if they have one and if they are following it. If you find that they aren’t clear in their answers, they may not have a plan that they are following.

Visualize success.Students should imagine themselves on exam day: confident, cool, and collected. They breeze through the test, knowing all the answers without a hitch. Now, they should imagine getting the exam back and seeing that nice shiny “A” on the top of the paper. Their hard work paid off! Imagining success often leads to actual success because students start making decisions that are going to pay off, without even realizing. In addition, it builds self-confidence and helps students perform better on the test. When they think they can, they can!

Be healthy and exercise. Raid the cabinets and throw away all of the junk food. Students should skip the sugary snacks and energy drinks and opt for some granola bars, fruit, vegetables, or yogurt. They should be choosing foods that are going to boost brainpower and keep blood sugar stable. In addition, it’s no secret that a little exercise and time out of the library can help clear the mind and ease stress levels.

Lastly, students need to know the resources. There are many services available to students at Georgia Tech. When they take full advantage of their professor’s or TA’s office hours, attend Peer-Led Undergraduate Study Sessions (PLUS), go to tutoring sessions, attend academic workshops or meet with their advisor they are proactively embarking upon the path to academic success. The Center for Academic Success ( has many resources available to students; encourage them to check our website to become familiar with our programs and services.


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