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Preparing for final exams

Smart strategies for studying and self-care

November 27, 2023 — 

It’s almost time for the end of term and final exams. Whether it’s your first time or you’ve written many exams, everyone can use new strategies for studying and self-care. Don’t forget to take advantage of resources and support programs that can support your health, wellness and academic success! Make sure to check your exam schedule and manage your exam conflicts and deferrals ahead of time.

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

STUDY SMART

When you don’t know where to start, don’t panic. Keep calm, you still have time to get organized. Try using these pointers to help you get back on track and be as productive with your study time as possible.

  • Create a study schedule allowing extra time for courses and topic areas that are more challenging for you.
  • Organize essential test materials such as assigned course readings, lecture notes, practice questions, and practice questions.
  • Be prepared. Use your syllabus and course objectives to determine what you need to study. 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.
  • Avoid cramming. Cramming overtaxes your memory, and you will end up remembering less or 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.Just re-reading or recopying your notes is ineffective and can lead to poor results. Instead, re-organize the information by creating charts, concept maps and/or timelines. Complete the chapter quizzes. Create and answer your own test questions. Challenge yourself to write down everything you know about a course topic/concept/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 Practice Problems (lots!). If you are in problem-based courses (Math, Statistics, Chemistry, Physics, Engineering), do LOTS of practice problems (even the hard ones). 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 Workshopsthat can help you continue to succeed, or you can book an appointment with an Academic Learning Centre content/study skills tutor.

PRACTICE SELF-CARE

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 happening December 6, 13 and 20. You can attend one, two or all three.
    • 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 or Healthy U 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.
  • 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.

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