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The multi-week final exam study guide

At a Glance: Don’t wait until the week before your final exam to start studying. Get organized weeks ahead of time to make sure you know what to expect.

Final exams may still seem far away, but it’s never too early to start preparing. The key to success is crafting a schedule that will keep you on track (read: no last-minute cramming). Here’s a multi-week plan to get you started.

At the beginning of the course

Start by talking to your instructors — or consulting the syllabi — to find out test details. Will it be cumulative, or will it just encompass the most recently covered topics? Will the questions be multiple-choice or open-ended?

Having the answers to these questions will determine how you tackle studying. This is also the time to get organized. Plan to save notes from class, exams, homework, study guides — anything that might be helpful in your exam prep.

4 weeks before

If you don’t already have one, invest in a large monthly calendar to keep near your designated study spot (ideally a place free from distractions such as TV and pets). After writing down any personal obligations — family get-togethers, kids’ sporting events, a friend’s birthday — schedule your study time.

Whether it’s a few hours in the morning or a few hours at night — whenever you are most productive — you are much more likely to stick to a schedule if you write it down. Make sure your family is aware of the schedule so your study time is uninterrupted.

2 to 3 weeks before

This is the crucial study period. Rather than cram, you want to spread your studying out over multiple days and weeks. The way you prep for exams will most likely differ from class to class, but some smart strategies include going over notes and highlighting relevant information, making flashcards of important terms or concepts, rereading chapters you need a refresh on, and reviewing old exams and homework. If there are any topics you don’t understand, now is the time to reach out to your instructor for clarification.

1 week before

Review, review, review. One week before the test, you should not be learning any new material. At this point it’s all about committing information to memory. Try reading your notes aloud, explaining complex topics to others, or asking a family member or friend to quiz you. It’s also a good idea to keep flashcards handy, so you can knock out a few questions while on your daily commute or waiting in line for coffee.

The night before

Put down the books (seriously!). You’ve prepped for weeks, now it’s time to get a good night’s sleep. Fix yourself a healthy, filling breakfast in the morning and go ace that exam.

Save yourself the stress of finals by preparing for exams at the start of the course, rather than a few days before — your sanity and good grade with be worth it.