They say it is always darkest before the dawn. For you, that means you have got to get through your exams – and hopefully do well – before you can jet off on your summer adventures.

As a successful graduate, and one who is a notorious procrastinator who does not keep up with her readings, I have picked up some tried and true finals tips over the years. Full disclosure: I was in the journalism program, minoring in history and sociology, so these tips will be extra helpful to those who are stuck writing essays and scribbling in short answers for their exams.

I am not here to tell you to do your readings and take extensive notes every week in lectures because I know expecting that of a busy, social student is – I’ll say it – a little bit unrealistic. The fact of the matter is, you have a stack of readings to get through and some scatter-brained notes to review and not much time.

Ask your instructor what is going to be on the exam. When your instructor hints at clues throughout the semester as to what will be included or emphasized on the exam, take note of these! If not, it never hurts to ask publicly or privately (in an email) what is going to be on the exam.

Try to start early. If you want to cover what you need to (notes, lecture slides, homework, review, etc.) you need to give yourself time.

But do not start too early. I find if I started earlier than two weeks prior to an exam, I would forget some details or subtle nuances come the actual exam. A week is my sweet spot.

Start the exam with the most valuable parts. Start with the parts that are worth the most (usually essays or short answers), and save the multiple choice, matching, true/false for the end.

For exams with essays: If you have been given an essay prompt, do not waste your time writing out an entire essay for studying. Just get your main points you want to hit and maybe three sub-points for each of those – and know them. If you weren’t given a prompt, look at how you can combine the overarching themes from the semester because your professor will likely expect you to do that.

For exams with multiple choice: Multiple choice is the bane of my existence. Always try to answer the question first without looking at the choices. If you are unsure, cross out the answers you know are incorrect and move on to the next. Also, look for answers to questions in other questions!

Treat yourself to a relaxing night or day before the exam. Just trust that the thorough studying you have done thus far has prepared you. Watch a movie at night or go to the gym to clear your head in the morning before your exam. Cramming really does not work, believe me.

And with that, I send you off wishing you good exam fortune!

By Bianca Chan

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