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Field Manual for Dealing with Finals

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How to Prepare for Finals

Start Studying Early

It is never too early to begin studying for finals. As midterms have wrapped up at most traditional colleges and universities, it is now a good time to start planning for finals. If you took a midterm exam in a class or wrote a midterm paper, whatever you do, DON’T THROW IT AWAY. Go through the exam or paper and try to figure out any parts you may have messed up. Consider going to your professor during his or her office hours with the graded assignment and talk it through with him or her. There is a good chance the final will look like the midterm.

Work to understand any material that you are still confused about. It may take a few weeks to understand old material and then apply that to any new material.

Get Plenty of Sleep

As a philosophy tutor, I have taken several seminars geared toward learning how to teach good study habits. While I am not an expert, I have taken away one very important fact: Several studies have shown that cramming the night before an exam and getting very little sleep is worse for you than studying very little and getting a good night of sleep. The best way to prepare for an exam is to start studying early (see tip number one), and to get a good night’s sleep before finals.

As veterans, we have all been sleep-deprived at one moment or another. Having learned to function at an acceptable level without sleep does not mean that we are functioning at our highest level.

Ask Questions

No one is expected to know everything simply from reading the textbook. That is why we have classes. If you do not feel comfortable or do not have the opportunity to ask questions during class, see your professor during his or her office hours. Oftentimes a lengthier personalized explanation is much more beneficial than a traditional lecture.

Try Different Methods of Studying

Trying different methods of studying will help your chances of understanding the material.

-Read the text

-Attend your lectures

-Ask questions


-Group studying

-Make a visual study aid (i.e. flow chart, graph, diagram, etc.)

-Use examples; tie what you are learning to something in your own life

What to Do During Each Exam

Read the Directions

-Be sure to look out for quantifiers such as, “Which of the following does NOT…”

-Follow easy instructions such as “circle the correct answer” or “write the letter of the correct answer on the line provided”

-If a short answer question says answer in 3-5 sentences, do not provide an essay. Remember that your professor has many exams to grade, and a lengthy answer when it is not warranted not only will annoy your professor, but it shows an inability to follow directions.


If you have worked hard, studied, and done everything your professor has asked, there is no reason to worry. Exams can be frightening, but they do not have to be. Take a moment, make sure you are breathing, and try not to psyche yourself out.

Take Your Time and Check Your Answers

If you have 90 minutes to take an exam, do not hand it in after 15, no matter how confident you are. If you have extra time, use it. Consider it free time to check your answers. Even if you find one error that you made, it is worth the extra time.

What to Do During Finals Week


After an exam, do not begin studying for your next exam immediately. Take at least an hour off and de-stress a bit. You have just completed a difficult task; regroup and rest before preparing for your next exam. Please note that we are not condoning blowing off studying for your next exam, but simply advising you to take some time off.

Continue Preparing

As nice as it feels to be done with your first exam, remember you are not done with your mission yet. Continue working hard and studying. Once you have completed all your finals, then you are done.

After Finals Week

Take a Break, Relax and Congratulate Yourself

After finals week, try not to load yourself up with too much to do. Try to take some time off to relax and recuperate.



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