Study for final exams as you would file your tax return

You no sooner get your income tax return filed than you have to turn around and get ready for final exams. Don’t let all that work go to waste. The same organization principles you used to do your taxes can be applied to your final exam schedule. First you have to gather all the data that you’ll need then you have to look it over and decide what is most important.

Just as there are rules for filling out tax forms, there are systems that will help you pass finals. Let’s look at some study tips for college final exams.

Top habits: Manage your time

One of the best tools to help college students prepare for final exams is Questia, the Internet’s largest library of books, articles and publications. One of the resources you’ll find at Questia is the book, The Everything Guide to Study Skills: Strategies, Tips, and Tools You Need to Succeed in School! by Cynthia Clumeck Muchnick.

In the book, Muchnick begins by listing the top ten habits of successful students, which included:

  • Treat school as your job
  • Build relationships with your teachers
  • Master and refine your ability to schedule, manage your time, and be organized

Just as there is a deadline to filing your income tax return, finals have a deadline, too. To make sure that you’re fully prepared, it’s a good idea to use a calendar to lay out what you will do each day to help you prepare for finals.

Muchnick suggested that you divide your study time into several stages.

  • Stage one: read through all of your notes and create master lists
  • Stage two: work with your study materials
  • Stage three: read additional course materials

“Reading about the same topic in several sources is a worthwhile exercise because it shows how the subject can be described in different ways. This is important, as examination questions will often be worded in a manner different from the way the material was originally described to you,” Muchnick added.

Learn about the final exams

The folks at Southern Connecticut State University compiled, “Tips For Preparing for Final Exams.” One suggestion was to learn what kind of exam you’ll be taking: essay, true/false, or multiple choice. Each type of exam dictates the best ways to prepare.

You’ll also need to find out from your professors such details as:

  • How long will the exam be
  • How will the exam be organized
  • What are the likely topics that will be covered in the exam

Then group your notes and reading materials into piles by topic of what will be covered on the exam. Use these materials to create study guides for each pile of information. Your study guides should include: key points of the subject, key terms, two or three self-test questions.

Final exam study tips

The mistakes most often made on income tax returns such as omitting information or writing down the wrong numbers could easily be avoided if people didn’t wait until the last minute to do their taxes. It’s the same situation with final exams. If you wait until the last minute to start a study routine you’ll wear yourself out and risk failing miserably.

Shaniese Alston explored, “Scientifically, The Best Ways To Prepare For Final Exams,” for the blog of The State University of New York.

According to Alston, the last thing you want to do is to try and do all your preparation the night before the final exam.

“Based on a 2008 study by Pamela Thacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University, all-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days. As a result, you will receive lower grades,” Alston said.

Your final exam schedule

More good advice came from Billie Streufert in a December 8, 2014, article for, “25 crucial study tips for finals week.”

Streufert’s tips included:

  • Review your notes daily
  • Take short breaks during study sessions to allow your brain to process the information
  • Eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep
  • Check the front of your textbook to see if there are any online study aids

When it comes to filing income taxes, sometimes you need to seek the help of an expert. So it is with final exams, too. Streufert also suggested that students meet with the professor, a tutor or a learning specialist to help prepare for final exams.

You can learn more about various topics in education at Questia.

What’s your best study tip for getting ready for final exams? Tell us in the comments.

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