Final Exams: Avoid these 4 common mistakes

Final exams are a massively important part of a college student’s semester grades. This much is obvious. Unfortunately, many college students make the same finals mistakes semester after semester. In order for students to do well, they must avoid these 4 classic traps that students tend to fall into.

  1. Grade Prioritizing Incorrectly: There are a lot of factors that go into prioritizing how to allocate study time and which classes to focus more attention towards. This can include anything from cumulative vs. unit test, difficulty, current grade, professor’s grading style, weight of the final exam, format of the test, and on and on. Each of these matters, but a student must put the most weight on where their current grade is and the score they need on the final exam in order to change that grade. It’s a simple calculation, but most students don’t do this. This can lead to students prioritizing a class that has a grade that can neither go up nor down. They must understand the landscape of their class and their grade heading into the final exam. This will help guide their decision of where to focus their time for final exam studying.
  1. Starting Too Late: Students must start early. Plain and simple. This can often get complicated because there can be a round of “regular” tests within 2-3 weeks of final exams. Students must do their best to get started at least two weeks before final exams, but preferably three. Once they are a month out from finals, they really need to start analyzing what their exams (or papers/projects) will look like and how they can start allocating their time to studying. When they start early, they’re able to reduce stress and improve grades.
  1. Prioritizing Incorrect Materials: Throughout the semester, a very common thing we hear from students after a midterm is, “I realized I spent too much time studying  X, and I should have studied Y more.” Students make incorrect assessments of which materials are most important to study. The easiest way to eliminate this problem for finals is to meet with a professor or TA and ask which materials are best to review. Too many students waste too much energy on the wrong materials.
  1. Too much memorizing: Students who try to memorize everything will struggle. Some students think that this is the only way. They pore over lecture slides and read and read and read them over and over. This doesn’t have a negative impact, but it’s not helping that student be as efficient as they need to be. Students who can incorporate effective study strategies will learn content better and quicker than those that try to memorize everything.

Final exams can be anywhere from 10 to 40% of a student’s final grade. They are incredibly challenging and take the right amount of time, energy, and preparation in order to do well. If students can avoid these 4 mistakes, they will be in great shape for their exams.

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