Being a 4th year student in the biomedical sciences program, I participated in many final exams. Some good, some bad. I’ve learned a lot from my experiences, so I’d like to share a brief guide with the best strategies and tips for doing well on your final exams. I have divided my advice into four sections: pre-study, study plan, study techniques and stress management. One aspect I want to emphasize is that some of the tips will not work for everyone. If you think a tip can help you, try it and see if it was helpful for you.
It can be hard to find the motivation to spend an entire month dedicated to studying. The first thing to do is to ask yourself why you want to do well in your exams. Is it to increase your average following some disappointing grades last term? Is it to achieve certain career goals in the future? Is it for your personal satisfaction? Your motivation can be a combination of different reasons, and there is no right answer. What matters is finding that impulse to move you forward.
For more information on motivation, see the Exam Study Expert websiteNord Estexternal link (available in English only). This English page contains good advice on motivation.
Objectives and calculation of grades
It is important to set goals for your courses in terms of your desired final grade. This gives you a threshold to aim for. Once you know the threshold you need to meet to get a certain grade, you can plan your time as needed (I’ll talk about study schedules soon!).
Before your final exams, you should have a general idea of your grade in the course based on the grades you’ve received so far. Using these grades and the value of each assessment, calculate what you currently have in the course, as well as the grade you will need on the final exam to achieve your desired goal. For course items for which you have not yet received a grade, you can estimate based on what you have received so far, keeping in mind that it is somewhat variable. Repeat the calculations for each course.
Having a study plan in a calendar is one of the most important parts of preparing for final exams. When I was in first year, I went to the Faculty of Science Mentoring Center for advice on preparing for final exams and the mentors helped me create a study plan for my final exams. This plan has been extremely helpful to me and I continue to make one each time exams come up. The reason is that with a calendar, all your tasks are planned in advance. Afterwards, all you need to do is follow what you’ve written and adjust at the end of the day based on your progress. It’s also useful to visually track progress and see how much progress you’ve made since the start and how much you have left to do. I highly recommend finding time to make your own study plan.
Your study plan
To help you establish a study schedule, I suggest that you make a list of all the chapters taught by the teacher, and the chapters of the book, that will be covered during the exam. Once you’ve done that and figured out how much study time you’ll need for each course to achieve your goals, while considering your priorities based on your grade calculations, you can start making a schedule for when you going to study which courses. Remember that your schedule may require changes and revisions, which is completely normal! It’s supposed to be that way so your schedule is flexible. However, plan from the start to finish your study a little earlier than planned in order to have some extra time in case you need it. In addition to your long-term schedule, I recommend keeping a daily to-do list and crossing them off as you complete them. It really helps to keep track of your goals and see your progress.
If you want to create your own study plan for the final exams, Kyra, another mentor from the Faculty of Science Mentoring Center, will create a step-by-step guide to creating a study plan. This article will be shared soon! Plus, you can always come to the Mentoring Center and meet student mentors who can help you create your own schedule.
Before I start with this section, I want to mention that we all learn differently. Also, some techniques may work better for one course but not another due to the content and format of the exam, so keep that in mind.
That being said, I’m going to cover study techniques by giving a few examples that I consider important, and then explaining them in depth.
An overview of the material is the first step I take when I have to read a chapter. This is essentially a quick read highlighting what is important. No need to memorize or understand small details during this step. The purpose of the overview is to understand the main idea in order to prepare you for further reading. Also, if you don’t understand something when hovering, highlight that part of the text or add a note to come back to it later. That way, you’ll know what to focus on later.