Tips for Helping Students Prepare for Finals

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It is never too early to begin planning for finals. If your son or daughter feels overwhelmed by the prospect of exams, here are some ideas you might want to share:

Plan ahead. Finals are overwhelming because students may be accountable for a semester's worth of information for each class. Because the final schedule is published at the start of term, students should be able to anticipate and prepare for these exams with a little foresight and some time management tools.

Start with a list of everything that should be reviewed for each class, a list of the remaining assignments and obligations for each class, and a calendar (many use Google Calendar, but there are free paper templates and other resources widely available on-line). Estimate the amount of time required for each task on the lists, and plug those tasks into the calendar. Each night students should review which tasks they have completed and how they might adjust to make more progress the next day.

Study strategically. Students will find that there is a lot of material to cover—more, perhaps, than time will allow. They should try to identify, then, which ideas and topics are most critical to review. The syllabus and class notes provide two good resources that will indicate which information the professor especially values and that may appear on the final.

Take breaks. The human mind isn't designed to focus physics for six hours at a time. Urge your student to study in blocks of no more than a few hours. Brief breaks allow students to return to the material with a fresh outlook that can hasten understanding.

Try group study. Studying with knowledgeable classmates can be an efficient way to review material. Why spend an hour struggling with a problem alone, if a classmate can explain the material in a few minutes? Group study is also valuable because it forces each group member to explain concepts and ideas aloud. We understand information best when we can teach it to others. If the group consistently wastes time, move on to other study partners or independent study.

Take advantage of review sessions. Professors, TAs, and tutoring programs sometimes offer review sessions before major exams. These sessions are usually time well spent.

Sleep, eat, and call home. Too often, students pursue academic success at a cost to their personal and social selves. Remind your son or daughter that a healthy mind requires a healthy body and urge them to maintain a regular sleep and dining schedule. Students should also seek reassurance and advice from a support network of family, friends, academic advisors, and other campus professionals. A pep talk or sympathetic ear can work wonders for a student under pressure.

The Center for Academic Success offers 1-on-1 Tutoring, Peer-Led Undergraduate Study (PLUS), Academic Coaching, and other success programs for students who want to take their learning to the next level. We have time management tools and other study aids free in our reception areas, and we are conveniently located in Clough 273 and 283. To learn more about our services, visit


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Sara Warner
  • Created:04/05/2017
  • Modified By:Sara Warner
  • Modified:04/05/2017


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