A Finals Survival Guide

A Finals Survival Guide

With the semester coming to a close, students are facing one of the most stressful times of the year: finals season. But with the right preparation and a little guidance, there are plenty of ways to make this time of year less daunting.

Here are five tips for staying cool, calm and collected while preparing for final papers, projects and exams.

Woman creating a study plan

Create a study plan 

No one knows how you learn better than you do. Are you a flashcard person or do you learn better by teaching someone else? Figure out what study aids work best for you and plan accordingly.

Not sure where to start? Do not be afraid to visit a learning center. With locations at Rutgers-Camden, Rutgers-Newark, and Rutgers-New Brunswick, the learning centers offer a number of different support services that can help you stay prepared for your next big test.

Woman organizing her time

Organize your time and set a routine

Once you figure out what tools you are going to use to help you study, it is important to organize your time to study efficiently and maximize your efforts. Most people are not just taking one final, so plan out how much time you need to tackle each subject on your list.

Having trouble figuring out how to manage your time? Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations has a few time management tips that may help you visualize your approach.

Student falls asleep on his study group

Take breaks and get enough sleep

Know your limits. Determine how long you can study before losing concentration, give yourself a break every once in a while and do not forget to sleep.

“Catching up on sleep” is essential according to Xue Ming, professor of neuroscience and neurology at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. "Be strategic with a sleep-wake schedule and sleep as much as you can. If you have to stay up to study, stay up on the first half of your night, sleep the second half (early morning, 3 a.m. - 6 a.m.) to ensure enough dream (REM) sleep. Long-term memory is made during dream sleep."

Student eating berries

Don’t study on an empty stomach and stay hydrated

Make sure your body is properly fueled so that you can study to the best of your ability. Drink plenty of water and keep some brain-friendly snacks on hand.

“The key for students is to eat a healthy, balanced diet all the time, especially during exams,” says Karen M. Ensle, a family and community health sciences educator with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County. 

Eating plenty of fruits including berries can be helpful for improving your memory, according to Ensle. “Drink water, not sugar-sweetened beverages like regular soda, juice drinks and sports drinks that are loaded with sugar,” she said.

Student distracted by cellphone while studying

Minimize distractions

Finally, while it is important to take breaks, make sure that you are not taking too many breaks. Put your video game console away until you finish your study session or download a website blocker to stave off your urges to watch endless YouTube videos or aimlessly surf the web. You might want to put your phone out of reach since it may already be affecting your grades.

“When you divide attention between two tasks, even if you perform both tasks well, you will remember very little of either task later on,” according to Arnold Glass, a professor of psychology at Rutgers-New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences.

“Distractions divide your attention between studying and something else, so you remember much less of what you study later on.”