Tips and Tricks to Succeed in Your Finals

Photo by Claire Wood

Finals have always been a stressful time of year for students, and this year is no exception. For many students, this isn’t their first time their finals have been online this year. But for a majority of new SOU students, it’s their first time having finals at a university level. Luckily, there are plenty of resources that can help students succeed in their finals.

Lea Griess, the Student Success Coordinator for the Division of Social Sciences, had many suggestions and tips for students struggling during finals season. “There are ways that students can strategically balance or prioritize themselves,” she said. “Your brain can only focus for, and retain that information, for about an hour at a time, maybe forty-five.” Cramming ten hours before your test or working on an essay the night before it’s due will leave students feeling burnt out. If they spread out that time and work in chunks, they’ll be able to finish while also taking care of themselves. “Time management is crucial.”

“It’s also important to take breaks,” Griess mentioned. “With us spending so much more time at our computers because of Zoom, we really need to give our eyes a rest.” Griess recommends taking a walk or even taking a nap if that is what the body needs. Of course, these tips aren’t always tried and true for everybody, as everyone has different study habits and different ways of thinking and concentrating. “Not feeling guilty about what you didn’t accomplish can be hard, but be sure to take breaks and don’t overwork yourself; study skills are skills that take a lot of practice.”

Griess also said that there had been a great deal of improvement from Spring 2020 to now in terms of finals and ways of assessing students and their learning. “A lot of departments are shifting from tests to project based learning, as moving to online learning is forcing us to shift our focus and really take into considerations on how to assess students during finals.”

Finally, Griess said that communication between students and professors is crucial to their success. “It’s important to take that first step and send that initial email,” she said, “otherwise, your teachers aren’t going to know what you’re going through, and they won’t be able to help.” Just like the resource centers or Student Life, there are other resources on campus that are here to provide aid if students are struggling.

The University of Colorado in Boulder offers a list of five things to do to succeed in online finals:

  1. Get organized: “Prioritize your projects, papers, labs and exams based on deadlines. Make projects and studying more manageable by breaking them down into smaller steps.”
  2. Plan a strategy: What organization and study techniques work best for you? When do you work best? If you have the same final with someone, consider studying together virtually.
  3. Take breaks: As Griess mentioned, taking a short break throughout your study or writing session will help your brain a lot. 
  4. Ask for help: Again, don’t be afraid to reach out to your professors if you are struggling. They are there to help and would be willing to offer an extension if needed.
  5. Avoid cutting corners: It can be tempting to copy a paragraph from one of your sources or have a friend complete your test for you, but doing so goes against SOU’s Academic Honesty and Code of Conduct. “Acts of academic misconduct involve the use or attempted use of any method that enables a student to misrepresent the quality or integrity of their work are prohibited.” Just because some teachers are a little bit relaxed when it comes to projects or papers does not give you the excuse to abuse it.

Finals can be challenging. But grades or test scores aren’t a defining trait. Remember to take care of yourself; we’re in the middle of a pandemic, after all.

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