Final Exam Preparation

The spring 2020 semester has presented unique challenges and unexpected circumstances for all of us. As you prepare for your final exams, the ARC encourages you to consult these strategies and resources in your work.

Special thanks to the ARC student staff for preparing this material.

Exam Strategies

General Tips

Studying at Home

Many of your on-campus study strategies will work at home. Remember to . . .

  • take consistent breaks between study sessions.
    • For example, after 30 minutes of studying, take a 10-minute break.
  • use a Google calendar to schedule time to study and to work on your assignments.
    • Maintain a daily schedule that includes studying, healthy eating, and downtime.
  • teach your family about the topics you need to know for an exam (if you can teach it, then you know it).

Study Strategies

Active Studying

Active involvement with your coursework can help increase comprehension and retention. Incorporate these strategies into your final exam preparation.

  • Take Notes from Memory: Instead of taking notes while you are reading the text, try stopping at the end of a section and summarizing it from memory. Then, go back, and compare your summary with the text, making note of any information that you missed. Give some extra attention to this material in future study sessions.
  • Test Yourself: Use practice tests provided by your professor or textbook. If these materials are not available, try making your own! Once you create a practice test, take it, score yourself, and study some more, giving attention to the material that you missed. Finally, switch the order of the questions, and take the exam again until you are feeling more confident in your knowledge.
  • Create Concept Maps: Concept maps are visual aids that can help you better remember how information is organized. These aids are especially useful for visual learners. A concept map could be set up in any way—as a flowchart, a Venn diagram, a timeline, etc. Design according to what best represents the information.
  • Become a Teacher: Pretend you are the one teaching the material, and explain it to someone if you are able to do so (a willing family member or friend, a pet, or even an invisible audience all work!). This technique can be especially helpful for more complex material and concepts that require you to paraphrase in your own words.
  • Simplify the Content: Use mnemonic devices such as acronyms, music, rhyming, and images. This technique is effective when you have to memorize many different facts, because it can provide you a sort of memory shortcut.
  • Make Connections: One of the best techniques we can implement to help us retain information is to make connections between separate pieces of content. For each concept, relate the material to something you learned earlier in the class, something you’ve learned in another class, or your personal experience.

Test Anxiety

General Tips for Managing Test Anxiety

  • If you can, establish a consistent study schedule, and find a dedicated study area.
  • Focus on the quality, not the quantity, of your studying.
  • Set specific goals each time you sit down for a study session.
  • Quiz or test yourself to see what you know.
  • Take care of your mind and body.

Test Day

  • Get enough sleep! Pulling an all-nighter can negatively affect your memory, retention, and test performance.
  • Avoid caffeine. It can worsen anxiety. Also, make sure to eat a healthy meal if you can.
  • Do a “memory dump.” Jot down important information as soon as you receive the test.
  • If your mind goes “blank,” move to the next question. Working through the exam can often jog your memory.
  • Check your answers before submitting them.

Relaxation Skills (to use before or during the test)

  • Deep Breathing
    • Breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 seconds.
    • Hold the air in your lungs for 4 seconds (or for as long as you comfortably can).
    • Slowly exhale through your mouth, trying to extend the exhalation to 6 seconds.
    • Repeat this cycle for at least 2 minutes.
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation
    • Starting at your feet, notice how your muscles feel. Are they tense or relaxed?
    • Tightly tense the muscles in your feet for 5-10 seconds.
    • Release the tension, and allow them to relax. Notice the difference in feeling.
    • Repeat with different areas, moving up your body: legs, pelvis, stomach, chest, back, arms, hands, neck, and face.
  • Cognitive Restructuring
    • Identify Cognitive Distortions
      • Cognitive distortions are irrational thoughts that can lead to anxiety.
      • For example: If I don’t get an A, I’m worthless. If I don’t do well on this test, I’ll never get a job.
    • Challenge Cognitive Distortions
      • Once you identify cognitive distortions, you can start to challenge them.
      • Begin to replace these thoughts with rational and compassionate ones.
    • Use Positive Self-Talk
      • Self-talk is your internal dialogue.
      • Make a list of positive statements to repeat, such as I’m well-prepared for this test, or I can see myself passing this test.

Study Session Strategies

  • With whom will you study? Will you get a Zoom study group together, or will you study alone?
  • What material do you need to cover? What material will be on the test? What material has the professor indicated is important? What material are you struggling with and need to dedicate more time to studying?
  • When will you study, and for how long? What time of day are you able to focus best in your current situation? How long will you spend studying? When will you take breaks, and for how long?
  • Where will you study? Acknowledging that you might not have much choice right now, try to pick an area that will support your focus.
  • How will you study? What study techniques will you use? Will you use practice tests or flashcards? Other methods that you find helpful?

Zoom Presentation Strategies

  • Make sure that your device allows you to share your screen by checking your Zoom and pop-up settings 
  • Dress for the occasion. When you look good, you feel good. Wash up, dress up, and avoid wearing pajamas to your Zoom presentation.

Self-Care During Final Exams

  • Take breaks. Doing so will help to keep you from exhausting yourself and will improve your focus.
  • Maintain a schedule. Getting enough food and sleep will help fuel you, and a routine can help you feel better and more in-control even in the face of finals and external stressors.
  • Establish a support system. If you are stressed about school or anything else while working or studying, it is okay to take some time away to check in with someone else to decompress and to recharge.
  • Communicate with your professors. If you are struggling with an assignment or an exam, talk with your professor. Georgetown faculty want you to succeed.
  • Embrace comfort food. Make yourself a cup of tea, or another drink or snack that you like, and take a break to enjoy it.
  • Enjoy music. Make a study playlist or a playlist of soothing songs to listen to during study breaks.
  • Take creative breaks. Look up ideas for a quick and easy art project or recipe. Get crafting or cooking!
  • Try meditation. Some suggestions: quick meditation videos on YouTube, Calm (free trial and some free meditation options), Aura (some free meditation options), and Headspace (now offering a collection of free meditations titled “Weathering the storm”).
  • Avoid distracting news media. Try to minimize reading the news as much as possible.  Or look for daily or weekly good-news-only highlights (some suggestions might be Good News Network and Future Crunch’s Good News page).

Tips for Parents

  • Be supportive. The transition to instructional continuity has been taxing for students. Supporting them through this semester’s exam period can go a long way toward easing anxiety.
  • Visit the ARC’s Academic Support webpage for additional resources and suggestions that you can use to establish a nurturing exam environment for your students.