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Tips For Acing Your Final Exams

Tips for Acing Your Final Exams

If exam anxiety creeps up on you every finals week, or you simply can’t stand taking exams, you aren’t alone. Final exam week is stressful, to say the least.

Of course, your GPA and sanity depend on a high grade, but acing exams isn’t necessarily your thing. So, now your new obsession is optimizing your study habits because this exam will be different.

Studying effectively for final exams seems to be easier said than done. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with practical advice on how to get the most out of your study sessions and, in turn, do well on your exams.

Designate a Study Space

Our first tip for acing your final exam is to designate a study space. If you can study in your bed and actually get something out of it, kudos to you. Most of us can’t do it because it sends mixed signals to our brain, and our bodies don’t know if we should be sleeping or doing.

You can make things clearer for your mind and body by designating a study space that encourages you to focus on learning and studying productively. Consider the following when designing your study area:

  • Access to high-speed internet
  • Comfortable furniture
  • A sturdy desk or table
  • Lighting
  • Temperature
  • Accessories and Artwork
  • Music

Create a Study Schedule

Don’t just wing it when it comes to studying. That’s how all-nighters happen, and we can honestly say cramming the night before an exam won’t get you favorable test results. Instead, create a study schedule to ensure you’re giving yourself ample time to study.

Implementing a study schedule all year is ideal, but you should give yourself at least a couple of weeks minimum to study before your exam. Choose blocks of time to study each day. Be sure to take frequent breaks during your sessions to give your mind time to refresh and reset before diving back in.

Organize Your Notes

You’ve learned a lot come the end of a quarter or semester. You likely have more notes and notebooks than you know what to do with, but all of the information in them is crucial to keep. When it’s time for your final exam, it’s a good idea to take some time to organize your notes.

You can loosely organize your notes or use something more structured like a mind map. Converting your notes into mind maps can help you better understand complex information because it’s visually presented to you, easy to review, and manageable.

Once your notes are organized, you can review them against the study guide provided by your professor. Or, you can create a study guide of your own based on your notes and begin studying that way.

Prioritize Sleep and Nutrition

It might be tempting to pull all-nighters and survive on snacks during finals week, but do everything you can to avoid both. You must get a good night’s rest, not just the night before your exam, but every night in the weeks leading up to it. You should also pay special attention to how you’re fueling your body.

Do your best to get 6-8 hours of sleep each night and eat healthily throughout each day. When you’re well-rested and well-fed, you’re mind, body, and spirit will remain in tip-top shape, making it easier for you to study.

Get a Study Buddy

If you study better alone, no problem. However, don’t feel bad if you need someone beside you to get the most out of studying.

Reach out to your classmates and see if they’re interested in forming a study group. You can meet in person or virtually. Just be sure everyone in the group is on board with when you’re going to meet and what you will study in each particular session.

You can also study with friends who aren’t in the same classes as you. Sometimes just being around other students who understand what you’re going through is enough to keep you motivated and uplifted during this stressful time.

Enlist the Help of Your Professors

Not enough students do it, but enlisting the help of your professors when studying for your final exams is wise. Although it may seem like your professors are the enemy at times, they’re there to help you and want to see you succeed. Don’t feel like you have to do this alone.

Take full advantage of office hours. You’d be surprised how many professors are longing for just one student to visit them when their doors are open. You’d also be surprised at how helpful and memorable office hour sessions can be.

So, compile your most pressing questions and head to your professor’s office to get them all hashed out so that you’re thoroughly prepared for your final exam.


Final exams are no joke. Just thinking about them can trigger anxiety, and the next thing you know, you’re talking yourself out of even showing up. But this doesn’t have to be you. Instead, implement the tips above to have the best chance at acing your final exam.

SEE ALSO: How to Become a Straight-A Student Without Spending All Your Time Studying

How to Conquer Exam Anxiety

It’s 8:57 and your American Literature exam begins at 9:00. You’re tapping your pencil on the desk running through symbolism in The Scarlet Letter when you remember to pass this class with an A, you need to score at least an 83 percent on the exam, otherwise you’re looking at a B in a major-specific course. You’ve read the novel and you’ve completed the seven-page final essay. Yet, the second the exam is dropped on your desk, you freeze. Your heart starts to beat a bit faster and your stomach turns. Months of preparation are slipping, while exam anxiety takes its place.

What are the causes?

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) defines General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as “persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things” breaking down that “eight percent of children and teenagers experience an anxiety disorder with most people developing symptoms before age 21.” Keep in mind throughout the article that these are blanket statistics and anxiety affects students to different degrees.

The ADAA lists three major causes of exam anxiety: fear of failure, lack of preparation and poor test history. Final exams carry much weight to them, in some cases they can make or break a final grade, which causes anxiety in students. While some students perform best under pressure, others equate their grades to their self-worth, especially when it comes to exams in their field. A lack of preparation is plausible, especially when full-time students take around 20 credit hours of classes, and it can be difficult to prepare adequately for exams with an average workload. Lack of preparation also derives from poor study habits where information is not being retained because of a negative environment or distractions. Having a history of poor exam grades or experiences can influence a student’s perception of exams and cause anxiety for upcoming tests.

The physical impact

Aside from these mental causes, there are large physical impacts exam anxiety can have on a student. These include nausea, lightheadedness, headaches and can elevate to panic attacks where students have a hard time breathing and reach immense physical discomfort. Anxiety can also cause negative emotions, and it can go hand-in-hand with depression. With exam anxiety, students can become angry, sad, irritable and disappointed in themselves, which can cause a layer of emotional stress on top of exam anxiety. These causes can culminate into cognitive issues as the exam creeps closer, such as difficulty concentrating when studying due to worry about the exam itself.

Methods to ease anxiety

However, it is 2019 and mental illnesses are now widely acknowledged as well as a variety of solutions to help relieve some of the symptoms and the hardships, at least temporarily. A very easy method that can help get your head into a different space is to take a walk. When you’re studying, take a five-minute break to walk around your building and clear your mind of the test. If you need a longer break, although they may be communal, showers help to decompress your muscles by allowing hot water to run on your shoulders for a few minutes. Finally, there is always music at your fingertips. Whether you need something soft to soothe you, or you need something to crank to let any bad energy release from your body, you have a spectrum of music to help you destress before coming back to your study material.

If you’re in the middle of a test, take a quick walk to the bathroom to break contact from the material and approach it with a fresh set of eyes, like hitting the reset button. If you’re not allowed to leave the testing room, close your eyes and focus on your breathing until you are prepared to return to the exam in front of you. If you find your symptoms are above your own help, campuses have counselors dedicated to assisting students with these things. Never fear seeking help from a professional.

Anxiety vs. Worry

  • Worry is in the mind. Anxiety is a feeling throughout the body.
  • Worrying is specific, whereas the latter is a vaguer, looming feeling.
  • Worrying is more controllable because one is in a headspace to problem solve. Anxiety snowballs and solutions are trickier to find.
  • Worry is caused by more practical, day-to-day concerns. Anxiety tends to more long term and caused by worries that begin to pile up.
  • Worrying does not interfere with your daily tasks and interactions. Anxiety can be severe to the point where you begin to avoid daily tasks and social interactions.

This article was originally published in the Spring edition of College News. 

Don’t let anxiety be a hindrance to your exam success and ensure you seek guidance from a counselor about your mental health, alongside following our tips when sitting your exams.

See also: Brain Food: Eating For Concentration

10 Tbings I wish I’d Known in College

Alternatives to Help You Overcome Exam Anxieties

It seems that finals hit us out of nowhere every semester. One minute we are focused on getting assignments done and keeping up with day-to-day expectations for each of our classes, and the next we realize that deadlines for exams and projects have crept up on us. It’s easy to fall prey to the anxiety that comes with this workload that we thought we had more time to plan for, but luckily we came up with some solutions to combat the stresses of wrapping up your semester.

Avoid all-nighters like the plague

While it may seem tempting to drink a pot of coffee and study all night, research actually shows that our minds retain information more efficiently on a full nights’ sleep. What we suggest instead is to delegate blocks of time for studying and prioritize taking care of yourself by allowing yourself to rest. Taking breaks is key, and if you can ensure that your mind is in the best possible condition to survive an exam, you are far more likely to succeed.

Explore natural approaches to self-care

No matter how prepared you are for finals week, we understand that pre-exam jitters still exist. To keep you feeling at your very best, we highly recommend exploring the possibility of implementing CBD into your daily regime—Populum is a favorite of ours. Orange-flavored, full-spectrum, and offering a 30-day risk-free trial, Populum offers an introductory CBD experience that feels safe, approachable, and exciting to take every day.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Whether it be from a professor or a classmate, there is no shame in admitting that you don’t understand something. If a topic isn’t super clear to you in your notes, remember that it is an admirable thing to ask for clarity on something—it shows that you care and are willing to learn and master the content you’re studying. Perfection doesn’t exist, and your future exam-taking self will thank you for asking questions.

Wishing everyone the best of luck on finals week!

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