Students Speak: Studying for Finals

Photo by Tyler Meuter

As we approach mid-November, the thought of finals is increasingly on students’ minds. A lot of students, particularly freshmen, are facing the question of how to approach studying. A few upperclassmen sat down to share their study stories and tips.

It seems common among students to take study breaks with TV shows or videos. “The best way for me to study was to break the studying into chunks — watch half of an episode every two or three hours and then go back to studying,” said Leila Harrison, second-year ENVE.

“I can only work for 45 to 60 minutes at a time … me and my friends will find a funny YouTube video and send it to each other. I’ll spend like 15 minutes taking a break … sometimes I’ll play games to keep my mind active because just zoning out for a few minutes isn’t refreshing for me,” explained Emma O’Bryant, third-year IE.

“If I’m doing a study break, I’ll watch an episode of one show — then I can go back and keep studying for an hour,” said Jasmine Denizard, third-year CE.

On the other hand, for those with little self control, it’s probably safest not to start watching shows during dead week because it may be impossible to stop. Even those who do not watch shows take small breaks to relax their minds. “I study with my friends and we implement the ‘Pomodoro’ method. You work for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break. You do this three times, and the fourth time you take a 15 minute break,” explained Nidhi Koshy, fourth-year IE.

Most people begin their studying the weekend before dead week. There are some who do not like to study too far in advance, because retaining information over a week-long period can be difficult. “I feel most prepared when I start studying three to five days before,” Denizard said.

A popular approach for studying, particularly for math-based courses, is doing as much practice as possible with the available resources such as re-doing practice tests and previous tests as well as old homework. “I start by going over all the lectures [PowerPoints]. After that I look through tests and quizzes. I look at the type of problems the professor has given. At the very end I look at my own notes. I split studying for harder classes over three or four days … the closer the exam is, the longer I spend,” explained Veena Ganapathy, third-year BME.

“I re-do homework problems. Basically as much practice as I can get hold of, I do … but I don’t spend time reading the textbook or reading the notes unless I have a specific question,” Nidhi said.

“If it’s memorization then I’ll re-type my notes on word … if it’s more math-based I’ll do more practice problems,” said Jasmine.

Locations where people study best depends on individual preferences — some focus best in their apartments, the Clough or the library. “I spent a lot of time in the library cubicles … I stayed up very late,” Leila recalled.

People also have different sleeping habits during finals time. “I’m super diligent about getting a normal amount of sleep. I get a good eight hours — I’ll go to bed, latest, 2:00 a.m.,” Jasmine said.

Students have very different ways of studying but many have a common motive — fear of
failure. They also share a common method of putting off work — napping.

All students should find both the motivation and the method of studying that best suits each
individual person.