Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons
Courtesy of WIkimedia Commons


Winter break is the light at the end of the finals week tunnel, but first we must soldier on, bubble in those Scantrons and write in those blue books. Over the years it’s been helpful to accumulate some techniques to prevent premature graying of hair during this trying time. When it comes to succeeding on final exams, preparation is key. At the risk of sounding like a mom, start studying as soon as possible. Cramming is the enemy.

There’s no point in stressing over what you can’t control. Usually you can’t predict which questions your professor is going to test you on, but you can control the amount of effort that you put into studying. When faced with that Scantron, don’t allow yourself to be unprepared. Review your chapters and lecture recordings, take practice tests if you can and adhere to a study schedule for each final.

Prevent all-nighters and stress eating by making your own study guides and perhaps reward yourself with a small piece of candy like a Skittle or M&M for every page you read in that humdrum, overpriced textbook of yours. Long readings can seem unmotivating but when there’s a small reward involved, you’ll be more likely to stay on track. Keep a bigger reward in mind, such as finishing up that dramatic show series or hanging out with your friends, and focus on your work now so you can afford to play later!

Make sure you set enough time in your schedule for studying so you won’t feel pressured to finish and cram. Resisting your surrounding temptations during your designated study time is key so block distracting websites and discourage Facebook stalking because neither are going to help you study for chemistry. Let’s be real.

Most importantly, take breaks after studying. Do something fun after a certain increment of time. You don’t want your noggin going into overdrive. Whether your methods resemble that of Elle Woods or Rory Gilmore, you’ll kick ass.

Essentially, find what works for you studying-wise. If you view studying as a solitary activity, do that. If study groups are your cup of tea, join one. If you prefer an overly dramatic studying montage synced to Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” more power to you. Often studying can be a game of trial and error. In time, you’ll devise a method to help you rack in those A’s.


On the day of, get to class a couple of minutes early to avoid any unnecessary stress. Take a deep breath, avoid rushing through the exam and have that No. 2 pencil in hand. Trust your gut when bubbling in your answer because it’s usually right — not to mention you’ll probably hate yourself if your initial answer was correct prior to changing it. Before you turn your exam in, make sure to survey it one last time.

What happens when you get short-answer questions or short essays on your final? Don’t fret. Make sure to spend a minute or two before answering each one to break down the question into sections. Create an outline for yourself and make sure to answer it as clearly and concisely as possible. As boring as your answer may seem, try to mirror the question in the answer to clearly flag what points you are answering at any given moment. It not only helps you stay on track, but also makes the TA’s job much easier.

Speaking of making your TA’s job easier, spend a little more time to write legibly. TAs may be more inclined to grade a paper more generously if they don’t have to waste their time trying to translate chicken scratch. It’s a waste to get a correct answer wrong simply because they can’t read it.

Above all, treat yourself kindly during finals week. Make sure to eat well, get enough sleep and exercise. Mistreating yourself will only result in a lack of efficacy. Stress and anxiety are of no use to you during finals.


So, you’ve weathered the storm — good job! Even if you have another final to study for, take at least a good hour or two to unwind and destress. Treat yourself at the HUB or the Barn for something other than the instant ramen that’s probably been your diet for the past few days. Did you know that Sushi By Panda offers poke bowls now? It’s no Pokenometry, but it’s an alternative to the usual pizza or burrito options. Or perhaps grab a nice hot cup of coffee at the Coffee Bean.

Another piece of advice: Costo Hall also has a meditation room where you can have a moment of silence to collect your thoughts so take some time to yourself to mentally prepare for the rest of your study sessions. It’ll not only leave you feeling more refreshed to power through the rest of the week, but also allow you to clear your mind of anxiety from the previous test. Even if you feel like you haven’t done that well, remind yourself that you just put that class to rest with the final, that there is no reason to worry anymore and to move on!

And what if you have finished all of your finals? Then congratulations, buddy. Pat yourself on the back and go on that Netflix binge you’ve been dying to do, aimlessly scroll through your Tumblr or Pinterest feeds or go out for a walk to get some fresh air! The Festival of Lights at the Mission Inn is also a must-see before you head home, and is a good change of scenery from campus.

You’ve just finished fall quarter and winter break awaits you! Reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve accomplished in the past 11 weeks and look forward to home-cooked food, holiday presents and free time!