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Advice from Instructors: How to Prepare for a Final Exam

Submitted by
Jasmyn Solberg

Are you feeling that end-of-term stress before final exams? You're not alone.

Let's face it, the time leading up to final exams can be stressful. You're nearing the end of your academic term. You're finishing up classes, completing and submitting projects and assignments, and getting ready to study for exams. Stress and burnout can weigh heavy. To help give some fresh motivation, your instructors have shared their advice for preparing for and writing final exams below.

Dr. Sally Stuart, Instructor, Donald School of Business, Science and Technology

  • "Start studying early, just a few minutes several times a week. Little and often!
  • Be an active learner. Use your learning objective questions, take a blank piece of paper and without notes and books, answer each question. Go back to your notes and see if you were correct, what you were missing, etc.
  • Listen to a couple of Audio pods each night before going to sleep.
  • Finally, think "Key Concepts" and try to pull all the information together."

Jennifer Reynolds, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Advice for final exams: Review often, but make sure you regularly change topics to prevent fatigue and take breaks to recharge. Go back to the topics that you find the most challenging or unfamiliar. Aim to understand and recall by summarizing information versus memorization. Finally, as I always tell students, "have a growth mindset." The first step to doing well is believing you can! WE BELIEVE YOU CAN SUCCEED!!"

Zach Dempsey, Instructor, Donald School of Business, Science and Technology
"Have fun! A final exam isn't a punishment, it's a celebration of all the knowledge you've gained in the past few months. It's your chance to show off what you've learned."

Ebenezer Sackey, Instructor, Donald School of Business, Science and Technology
"Do not wait till exam times to study. Make it a point to go over the course material a little at a time daily. This calls for some discipline and planning. 
Listen for instructor cues during the lecture. The instructor may point out important areas to pay attention to. 

Do not be lazy. Go over course material (powerpoints, lectures, etc.) as many times as you possibly can. Make time for this."

Shae-lynn Sage, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Start preparing for your exam well in advance. Write out the concepts/topics you are struggling with on sticky notes and put them around your house and places you often look at. Soon you will start to retain those challenging topics because you are seeing them so often. I did this with those challenging drug names! Take three deep breaths before the exam and have confidence. You've got this!" 

Cyrus Taheri, Instructor, School of Arts and Culture
"Plan ahead, build a realistic and detailed study schedule for the remainder of the semester, especially for the final exam period. Start preparing for the exams as early as you can. Review your previous exams to learn from your mistakes. Talk to your instructors about any questions you may have about the course, including the final exam. Take advantage of the available resources to improve your study skills and time management skills. Make sure to get enough sleep and take care of yourself."

Tamara Fushtey, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Where possible, always seek to understand the content and not just memorize it. Break down your studying into small, manageable parts. If you get stuck during an exam, focus on what you know, not what you don't know. Have confidence in yourself and breathe."

Larry Steinbrenner, Instructor, School of Arts and Culture
"One book that I recommend focuses on the topic of successful learning strategies (including studying for exams), Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel. Every college or university student should read that book in their first year. I'll also pass on something my old Aikido instructor (who was also a Psychology professor at the U of L) used to say about exams to put them into proper perspective: 'Don't worry too much about exams. Remember, it's just a test: it's not as if someone is trying to kill you!'"

Maggie Convey, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Read the question at least two times to make sure you know what you are being asked. 

When studying, flashcards won't help you apply information. The same goes for simply re-copying your notes. Instead, review class outcomes, talk aloud with others about the outcomes and try the practice questions that come with your textbooks."

Shannah Dutrisac, Instructor, School of Arts and Culture
"My top study tip is to create your own practice tests. Write out questions (flashcards are a great tool!) and quiz yourself to identify both the concepts you understand well and the areas where you need more review. Quizzing yourself is a great way to enhance your memory retention, but creating your own quiz questions is key because it adds a second layer of review to build upon your understanding."

Denise Chiles, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Treat learning as the challenge it is. Give it time and effort. Read aloud: to yourself, to your classmate, to your dog. Summarize, repeat, drill, repeat, drill. Have a study buddy. Pronounce the hard words listening to the syllables, realizing that big words are made of small parts. Learn the small parts. Create: a summary table, a flow chart, or draw a diagram. Use colours to highlight your notes. Work through and understand the examples. Visual the processes. Go for a walk to reflect. Breath deep. Sleep on it. Review, drill, repeat. Put in the work. Celebrate your achievements."

Stephen Brown, Instructor, School of Arts and Culture
"Thinking about the material that you're studying really helps you to retain it. Try to apply what you learn to your life or everyday scenarios: when you elaborate on what you're learning in that manner, you'll remember it much better than if you passively read a textbook."

Andrea Marjerrison, Instructor, School of Community, Wellness and Health
"Avoid using memorization exclusively and flipping through PowerPoint slides aimlessly. Take the ideas on those slides, connect them, write them out, quiz yourself on what you know, and put more effort into those concepts you struggle with. Use all of the resources that are available to you and take a break to exercise. Breaks are necessary to consolidate learning, and exercise is a great way to invigorate yourself. Do not panic during the exam. Take a deep breath, go through and answer the questions you know and come back to the ones that you are unsure about. You are almost at the finish line. Take pride in your perseverance. We can't wait to see you succeed!"

Dr. Robert Nellis, Instructor, School of Education and Trades
"Hi friends - first of all, please allow me to say that you can do this! By way of advice, I'd say, please remember that the exam is open book, but that I highly suggest still preparing for it as though it wasn't - after all, the process is not about doing exams but about learning (I know everyone knows that). When pulling together everything you've learned in the term, I would suggest synthesizing it into some one-page resource that you can use – maybe a mind map, a concept map, or even an outline. This gives the learning some coherence rather than just being 14 weeks of stuff – moreover, I think this one-pager would approximate your own neural network of what you've learned and can help you know where to go (both in your notes and your mental schema) to find the stuff you're looking for. Long story short – too late! All the best, and I know you can do this."

We hope you feel less stressed with those tips, tricks and advice from your instructors. If you're looking for extra support, check out the Library and Counselling Services

Best of luck writing your exams! 


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