Finals are dreaded by all students. They aren’t a good indication of what you know, but they are a “rite of passage” for college students. If you have a strategy for preparing for finals, you should do well. Your strategy should include:
- A study schedule
- Identification of topics to study
- Preparation of a study guide
- Development of a monitoring system
Your study schedule for math/science/engineering classes should start ten days in advance of the final. It’s hard to discipline yourself to start early, but here’s a schedule that might help you.
Days in Advance
What to do
|10||Collect all of your course materials (tests, homework, notes, old finals)|
|8-9||Identify the types of questions/problems that will likely be on the exam|
|5-7||Develop study guides with sample problems, definitions, concepts, etc.|
|3-4||Work through sample problems with friends – teach each other, use the Khanacademy.org website when you have trouble|
|1-2||Work through old finals under test conditions, do more problems, rework old tests|
If you haven’t been very organized throughout the semester, getting together your course materials could be a challenge. When you do get them together, put them in separate folders:
- Homework (chronological order)
- Class notes
- Old finals
Most finals are a form of “best of” exam. Here are some guidelines for identifying the types of problems/questions on the exam.
- Identify topics that were on the hourly test
- Look at old finals and identify the pattern of the questions asked
- Focus more on the most recent material that has not been tested
- Use Koofers.com to find old exams and look for test question trends
Organize your study guide to correspond with the types of questions you expect to be on the exam. Here’s a way to organize the study guide:
Key Concepts You Need to Know:
The key concept section contains notes to yourself about your solution approach to the problem. The sample problem should be worked out carefully step-by-step with notes to yourself.
When you complete your study guide, trade with others in your study group to see if you missed anything.
You should spend at least 2 hours/day working through sample problems. Do this with friends initially and then teach each other. This will be 3-4 days in advance of your final.
On the last two days before an exam, study 3-4 hour a day by working through old exams, under test conditions (same amount of time, same policy regarding materials available to you during the exam). This you will do primarily by yourself.
All of the above requires a lot of discipline. Develop your own checklist of what you plan to do each day. Check off items when you do them. Have someone who you share your progress with in order to keep yourself on track.
This may seem like a lot but think of the time it takes to do what is suggested here compared to the time it will take if you have to repeat a class..