Preparing for Final Exams
Preparing for final exams differs from studying for tests and hour exams. For finals you need to shift perspective from a local/subject view (preparing for relatively short tests on limited material) to a global/term view (preparing for several large, comprehensive tests that occur at the same time). You may also have a final project or robot competition that threatens to absorb all of your time.
Preparing for finals the challenge is to decide how and where to concentrate your energy. Here are a few guidelines.
- Assess your level of knowledge in each subject. If your hour exam and pset grades are high, you should be able to spend relatively less time getting ready for the final in that subject. Conversely, if you’re struggling to pass tests and homework, you’ll need to reserve extra time to master the material in time to pass the final. In either case, stop by your instructor’s or TA’s office hours to get another opinion on your standing in the subject. Sometimes perception doesn’t match reality.
- Revisit your schedule. Can you cut back on extracurricular activities in the last weeks of the term to free up more study time? Will your work-study job or UROP reduce your hours? Is there an hour between classes that you haven’t been using for study?
- Plan your time. Block specific hours in your planner to study for each subject’s exam, separate from your regular pset and other study time. Limit these to two or three hours at a time; marathon study sessions become unproductive. Add review sessions to your planner. Be sure to keep some time for breaks and stress relief, too: you’ll need them even more at this time of term.
- Use a study group. If you haven’t been meeting with a group through the term, try to join or form one now. Groups can cover more ground by dividing up the material: each member presents a review of one or two topics to the whole group.
- Don’t redo your work. You don’t need to read the textbook or other sources all over again. By this time you should have clear, organized notes to help you review the main points. Don’t redo your psets, but review the problems that gave you trouble the first time.
- Practice, practice. On the other hand, find new problems to test your knowledge. These may be in your textbook, online, or on a practice test offered by your instructor. Use material in OpenCourse Ware and in the free online textbook at the Worldwide Center for Mathematics. Check out old exams in the Tutorial Services Room or at your FSILG.