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Preparing for final exams

Smart strategies for studying and self-care

April 8, 2024 — 

Final exams are coming soon: April 12 – April 26, 2024. Gain momentum for the end of term by connecting with resources and support programs that promote your health, wellness, and academic success. 

Here are some recommendations as you focus on studying and writing your exams.


Here are some recommendations to maximize your effectiveness and efficiency as you focus on studying and writing your exams.

  • Check your exam schedule and manage your exam conflicts and deferrals ahead of time. Make sure you know when and when you write your final exams.
  • Create a study schedule by working backwards from the exam date and allowing extra time for courses and topic areas that are more challenging for you.
  • Use your syllabus and course objectives to determine what you need to focus on most when studying.
  • Find out what type of exam you are writing (e.g., multiple choice, short answer, essay, open book). Knowing the format will help you determine how to study.
  • Gather and organize essential materials, such as assigned course readings, lecture notes, and practice questions.
  • Study actively by creating something new. Just re-reading or recopying your notes is not effective and can lead to poor results. Instead, re-organize the information by creating charts, concept maps and/or timelines.
  • Avoid cramming. Cramming overtaxes your memory—you will likely remember less and may even get confused about the material.
  • If you’re short on time, read chapter summaries and chapter objectives. Focus on material that will be covered on the exam, but that was not covered during class. Review the material you don’t know well before reviewing material that is easier or more familiar.
  • Test yourself. Complete the chapter quizzes. Create and answer your own test questions. Challenge yourself to write down everything you know about a course topic, concept, or section without looking at your notes or textbook, then fill in the gaps. Not knowing is part of learning, so don’t stress if you don’t know much the first time you do this. Your knowledge will improve!
  • Do LOTS of practice problems, especially if you are in problem-based courses like Math, Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, or Engineering. Do the hardest questions. Approach problem solving in an organized way using the Academic Learning Centre’s GUESS method.
  • Be proactive. If you have questions, your first step should be to contact the course instructor or teaching assistant. You can also find recorded Academic Success Workshops that can help you continue to succeed, or you can book an appointment with an Academic Learning Centre content/study skills tutor.


Focusing on your wellness as much as your studying during exam season can help ensure you are functioning at your best. Many resources can help you thrive and take care of yourself. Here are some suggestions:

  • Find a balance. Consider eating foods that fuel you, get the rest you need, and move your body in whatever way makes sense to you! Take advantage of UM Recreation Services’ wide range of virtual workout sessions and the facilities and programs on both UM campuses.
  • Get support. If you get anxious about exams, you are not alone. The Student Counselling Centre offers counselling services for students, including groups and workshops available throughout the year.
    • Enhance your coping abilities with SCC’s Stress and Wellness 101 . You can attend one, two or all three sessions in on of the two following series:
      • Series 5: In-person on Monday, March 25, April 1 and 8 | 10:30 to 12:20pm
      • Series 6: In-person on Thursday, April 11, 18 and 25 | 10:30 to 12:30pm
    • Join Mid-day Mindfulness meditation on Wednesdays at 12:30-1:30.
    • If you need help developing an action plan for a specific challenge, the SCC offers Single Session Therapy appointments to help you finish the term.
    • Looking for a place to study, rest, learn or connect? Visit the new Student Wellness Centre (SWC). The SWC can support you in getting well, being well and staying well during your time in university.
  • Develop good habits. Connect with UM’s Coordinator of Student Health and Wellness Education to discuss health and wellness topics such as stress management or other ideas for healthier living. The Healthy U website also has multiple resources you can access at any time. 
  • Take short breaks regularly. Getting up and moving when you’re studying can help prevent neck pain and headaches. Doing this also gives your mind a rest so you can return to your work feeling refreshed.
  • Make time for things that bring you joy and help you relax. Enjoy a hobby, spend time in nature, tidy up your space or connect with friends and family.
  • Remember to breathe. It’s easy to forget this when you’re feeling stressed. Simply close your eyes and count your breaths, focusing on inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply. Looking for  somewhere to take a moment and breathe, the Spiritual Care and Multi-Faith Centre offers a meditation space for students and the Student Wellness Centre offers a “calm space” for students to disconnect from the chaos of campus.
  • Remember that your self-worth and value as a person is not determined by one test score or one exam. No matter the results of your exams or course grades, you are worthy of living a good life. Acknowledge how hard you’re working, show yourself kindness and remember that you are doing the best you can.
  • Celebrate all of your wins: Prepping for finals and finishing your course load can be a long journey. Waiting until the result of your exam or last class is certainly worth celebrating, but so is all of the work you are accomplishing along the way. Attending class, learning a challenging concept, or getting through your most recent study session are all your wins as well. Celebrate yourself as you go, you deserve it.

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