It seems exams approach at a faster rate each year. No matter how many times I’ve told myself “be prepared,” I am always surprised when an exam is coming up or a final paper is due in two days. With only two weeks left in the semester, I’m sure a lot of students are experiencing the same thing. It’s stressful, but we are all going to make it through this. Here are some tips I have to help you manage your time during this rough month.
Make a list of due dates:
Go through each syllabus and find all of the due dates for final assignments and exams. Lay them out in a list or a calendar, find what works for you. I tend to organize mine with post-it notes which are colour coded by subject. I stick them on my wall so I can just glance up and see what’s coming up. I would also recommend taking a look at whatever else is due for the rest of the semester. It won’t help to study for the final if you forget to do everything else in the class.
The exam schedules are posted, but it’s a good idea to check back regularly in case the date, time or location changes. Also, it’s a good idea to make sure you have no conflicts. Sometimes the schedules don’t work out, but you might be able to make changes if you speak to your professors.
All finals are not equal. Sometimes the exam for a class is only worth 10 per cent, whereas for another class it might be 40 per cent. The same goes for final papers. Check those percentages and prioritize. I like to give myself two hours of study time for every five per cent an exam is worth. Of course, if you’ve missed some of the lectures you may have to add a few extra hours to learn the material you weren’t there for. The same goes for final papers. A couple of hours for every five percent the paper is worth is what I try to stick to. Otherwise, I run the risk of putting too much effort into something that isn’t actually worth very much and then running out of time for something that matters a lot more.
Make time to read the text books:
I know that we have all had classes where we bought the textbook with the high hopes that we would stay on track, and then, two weeks to the end of the term, we realize we haven’t even opened it. As exams get closer, now is the time to do so. Read through the chapters assigned in the syllabus. There might be material in there that wasn’t covered in lectures, or there might be charts, photos or diagrams that will help to clarify material you weren’t sure about. You paid for the books, so you might as well make some time to read them. Make a note of the things you don’t understand and compare them with your notes.
Don’t wait until the last minute:
Above, I recommended a certain amount of time to get your work done. That amount of time works for me, but it might not work for you. It’s a good idea to take into consideration any complications — like realizing you missed an entire week of course material and you have no idea what any of it means. Don’t wait until the night before your exam to study or to start working on your final paper. “You can’t write this the night before,” is not a challenge from your professors. It’s a genuine piece of useful advice. Look at your calendar and schedule in time to get started on each final you have coming up. This will also help you avoid the dreaded ‘what does that even mean?’ on the essay instructions. It is unlikely that your professor or TA are going to be awake at 4:00 a.m. the night before the paper is due to answer your frantic emails. Take a look at the assignment sheet a few weeks in advance, so any questions you have can be answered in plenty of time to keep to your schedule.
Take time to relax:
Something that we all forget is how long studying actually takes. If you’re taking five classes you could have five exams and five final papers. You could end up very overwhelmed. Schedule some time over the next month to take a break. Go out for a meal, watch a movie, get a cup of coffee with friends. Taking just an hour to get your nose out of the books can really make a difference. Varying your study space can help as well. Try a new coffee shop or a new spot in the library for an hour or two. The new environment can help improve your productivity.