How to Study for Final Exams

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How To Study For Final Exams
A Masochist's Guide

Your final exams probably count for 60% or 70% of your final grades. Those kinds of marks are worth putting some effort into getting! Especially if you've been slacking off all term. I have had more than a few people claim that my methods of studying for final exams were pretty torturous. I usually knock myself out pretty good when I study for finals, mainly because I'm an idiot and have no mathematical ability. But, my techniques have thus far been fruitful. With those nasty finals looming large once more, I thought that some fellow Mathies would benefit from some of my tips on how to study. I have thus far (I'm in 3A) found that there is a direct correlation between how many hours I spend studying for a particular course's final exam, and my mark in that course. The more hours I put in, the higher the mark (generally). So, my techniques focus on how to squeeze more study hours out of the available time. I think most frosh or second year students would probably benefit from this type of approach (geniuses excluded, of course), but upper year students would probably find some other approach more helpful. Perhaps a more functional approach that focuses on the topics of the course and studying areas of particular conceptual weakness. My techniques go for the ``shot-gun blast'' mass-knowledge approach, but can be adapted to suit other purposes. Now then, onto the method. There should be two phases to the studying. The first phase has the student summarizing their notes, getting copies of old midterms and finals, and getting copies of the solution sets to the term's assignments. The second phase is the actual studying. The first phase can and should be done while lectures are still happening. If you wait until the examination period to do this, then you'll be doing it when you could be more effectively studying for a nearby final. The idea here is that the closer to an exam you get, the more time you should be spending actively studying. This ``passive'' studying is pretty worthless to your immediate understanding, but is a vital supporting structure for the active studying. So, you can steal time here and there between classes to do the photocopying, and you can probably steal a few hours here and there over the weekends and week nights to summarize your notes. I usually save my summarizing for weekends, and get photocopies between classes. The second phase is the actual studying. Now, as I have mentioned in other articles, the learning curve is logarithmic in the amount learned with respect to time spent studying. (Geniuses excluded, once again.) That is, it takes incrementally more time to learn incrementally less stuff. So, you may want to do what I do and allocate more studying time for harder courses, or for more important courses. I used to do stuff like, allocate 35 hours to Calculus and Algebra, 30 to CS, and 20 to my Bus|Econ|Acc. courses. 140 hours altogether. 140 sounds like a lot, but you can actually do it. You may want to allocate your time differently for different courses. But, I feel that this is a good guide. I usually have 2 or 3 ``big study time'' courses, and a couple of ``small study time'' courses. If you've slacked off all term and not done the assignments, you'll need to study longer. Before I talk about how to spread your study time out over the exam period, I'll give you a rough guide for how much time you can be spending in study. This is the study guide that I use, and have used since 1A when I made it up. It allows for 12 hours of study per day, with 5 hours of ``break time'' for meals and rests, and 7 hours of sleep (rows marked with an asterix indicate ``study periods''):

7:00-8:00 Wake up (1 hour: shower, eat, psych up, etc...)
8:00-9:30 Study (1.5 hours) *
9:30-10:00 BREAK (0.5 hours)...
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