Preparing for a Test at the Last Minute

It’s finals week for me (which, combined with having to give a major presentation last week, might help to explain why I’ve been all but absent from the online world recently).  I imagine that more than few students are finding themselves in similar situations right now, so I’m going to take a brief break from both the personal finance writing and finishing my remaining final projects in order to pass along some advice to students getting ready for their finals:

You might remember that at the end of last year, I provided some advice on how to prepare for your finals.  There, I told you what to do throughout the semester and how to prepare in the week before the final.  If you have both the time to carry out all those suggestions as well as the willingness to do all that studying suggested, then good for you!  You should be in great shape for your finals (and similar tests throughout the semester).

But what if you don’t have a whole semester to prepare?  What if, due to personal issues or other obligations (including other finals that come up earlier during finals week, perhaps a more important class with a final the day before), you don’t have that much time to study?  What if, in fact, you only have one day in order to refresh the information in your mind and generally prepare for your final?  Well, here are some suggestions on how to cram as much information in your mind at the last minute:

Last Minute Studying Tips

1. Don’t Panic: One of my favorite suggestions for almost any high-stress situation, and definitely one you will need to keep in mind while you are studying.  Panicking will not help your situation at all, and will only make it harder to study (which, as you’ll recall, is what you need to be doing right now).  Instead, relax, breath deeply, and focus on the task at hand.

2. Plan Out Your Studying: It’s tempting to dive right in and start studying, but particularly when you are so pressed for time, you can’t afford to go in unprepared.  Although it might feel like a waste of time to spend 15 minutes plotting out your studying, it will be more worth it if it helps you stay on track and spread out your studying.  If you cannot do that, then you may want to think of getting an online tutorto help regiment your studies more regularly. While you’re thinking about your plan, also remember…

3. Prioritize Your Studies: With only one day to prepare, you’re not going to be able to (re-)learn everything that was covered throughout the semester.  Instead, you need to figure out where to focus your effort.  Try to get a broad idea of the material that was covered throughout the semester, and then focus in on more specific issues, according to what your instructor is likely to test you on.  (For one example, my Biochem professor has an interest in the problems our bodies have (metabolic diseases and similar issues), so I always make sure to take a closer look at the ways biochemistry can go wrong.)  You’re not going to have time to memorize everything, so use past tests and comments from past students (if available) to determine what is likely to be covered, and study accordingly.

4. DON’T Try to Pull An All-Nighter: It’s tempting when you are short on time before an exam to try to do without sleep; after all, that’s six-eight hours you will spend unconscious that could be devoted to getting ready for the test.  But trying to do so, particularly if you aren’t used to all-nighters, will likely do more harm than good, by leaving you tired and inattentive when the test comes around.  Unless you’ve pulled all-nighters before (and know you can make it through the test period before your body simply shuts down), don’t think you can do it now.

5. Don’t Ignore Other Tests or Assignments: I know, I know, the last thing you want to think about as you try to cram that last bit of information into your brain before test time is other things you need to study or finish.  But not doing so can lead to a vicious cycle; you finish one thing, possibly take a (well-deserved) break, and then realize that you only have a day (or less) to prepare for the next test.  If you can mix in some studying for your future tests (or work on future goals) in with your cramming, you can hopefully avoid finding yourself with limited time to study in the future.  It’ll be tough, I know, but I’m sure you’ll be up for the task!

Did I miss any good last-minute study tips?  Are there ways to study at the last minute that others have found particularly useful?

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