A semester’s end brings final exams, projects and often stress to students. SMU’s learning specialists say that if students plan accordingly for the last stretch of the semester, success comes more easily and with less stress. Final exams this year are scheduled for May 7-13, with Reading Days scheduled May 6.
“Final exam week is different from any other week throughout the semester; therefore, it is vital that students plan ahead for when they are going to study, sleep and relax during that week,” says Rebecca Umobong, senior academic counselor at SMU’s Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC). “I encourage students to use A-LEC’s Finals Week Master Schedule to plan how they will spend their time.”
A-LEC academic counselor David Lee says, “As part of the finals planning stage, students should analyze each of their past tests and papers looking to identify any repetitive errors or problem areas. These are important focal points for exam preparation.” Lee also suggests that students reflect on how they have studied in the past in order to adjust and improve study practices.
A-LEC offers learning strategies workshops throughout the semester, including “Prepare for Finals: The Last Week,” on Monday, April 28 and Tuesday, April 29. Students should bring their calendars and all syllabi to the workshops.
Click the “More” link for A-LEC’s tips for students on final exam preparation and for parents on supporting their students during finals.
COUNTDOWN TO FINALS: FOR STUDENTS
- Set realistic short-term goals for yourself that you plan on accomplishing by the end of the semester. Prioritize your tasks based on those short-term goals.
- Create a “battle plan,” listing all remaining assignments and tests in each course.
- Evaluate your probable and possible grades. Which courses have solid grades? Which are borderline? You have limited time, so decide where to invest it to get the best results.
- For your hardest exam, use the Test Preparation Plan in the A-LEC Final Exam Prep Kit.
- If necessary, visit each professor to determine your status in your courses. Take your text and notes, and ask for specific suggestions on study and review techniques.
- For each task on your battle plan, generously estimate the amount of time you’ll need. On a calendar or weekly schedule, indicate the number of hours each day that you will work on each task.
- Study every day, including weekends.
- For cumulative exams, start reviewing early work now. The first week of class probably feels like a distant memory.
- Don’t simple re-read all of your course materials; create summary sheets with key topics and charts.
- Provide yourself with a good study environment. The library is ideal. If you study in your room, clean up your room and desk. Unplug the TV. Don’t answer the door when you’re studying. Turn off your phone; return calls or messages later, when you take a break.
- If you have many textbook chapters to review, divide the task into five or six parts, using your calendar. Do one part per day, crossing off completed tasks on your battle plan.
- For each hour of reading, schedule a 10 to 15 minute break. Get up, stretch, move around. Read aloud or switch from one course to another if concentration lags.
- Use a memorization technique that’s best for you, such as creating flash cards, master lists, diagrams, or memory/review sessions.
- Use the Five-Day Study Program from A-LEC to prepare for each exam five days out.
Take care of yourself
- Study during the day or early evening, then reward yourself with time off. Choose a healthy break, such as a balanced dinner or a movie.
- Try every day to fit in a half hour of exercise, as well as two balanced meals and eight hours of sleep.
- If you feel you need help handling your stress, please contact SMU Counseling and Psychiatric Services (214-768-2277).
COUNTDOWN TO FINALS: FOR PARENTS
- Send a finals care package, such as healthy snacks for energy and fun study supplies.
- Send encouraging, supportive messages that reduce stress – perhaps a note about what you are looking forward to doing as a family over the semester break. Remind your student of his or her strengths and past successes.
- Reduce calls and texts to your student to avoid interrupting productive study sessions. Send emails rather than calling or texting, and ask your student to call or text you on breaks to let you know how it’s going.
- Remind your student that in the grand scheme of things, this is just one finals week. It’s not the end of the world, and the outcome of this week will not determine his or her entire future. In other words, help your student keep things in perspective. If your student needs extra help dealing with stress, please urge them to use SMU resources:
- Counseling and Psychiatric Services (214-768-2277)
- Center for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention (214-768-4021)
- Dean of Student Life Office (214-768-4564)
- Office of the Chaplain (214-768-4502)
- SMU Police Department (214-768-3388)