Dread.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Many students experience one or a combination of these emotions when they think about semester finals.  With careful planning, though, these emotions can be lessened. Preparation is the key.  Students should know what is going to be tested and how the test will be formatted.  For instance, will the semester exam cover the entire semester?  Will the exam be essay questions or multiple guess?  If there is anything that a student doesn’t understand, meeting with the teacher early is critical.   This translates into reviewing for the final early and consistently.  Research has shown that cramming the night before simply doesn’t work.  Besides, who is there at 2 am to answer questions?  Review textbook notes, homework assignments, the textbook, and the teacher’s lecture notes.  Sometimes forming a study group is helpful. Of course, it goes without saying that students think more clearly when they eat a good breakfast and have a good night’s sleep. And, finally, it’s important to remember that while that semester final is important, it is the process of learning that is most important. 



  1. Study on a daily basis.  Whether you use your planner, your laptop, or your phone, stay organized.  Don’t wait until the night before the test to study.  Cramming may help you temporarily memorize but it is likely you will quickly forget everything.  If, while you are studying you don’t understand something, you will be able to meet with your teacher to get clarification prior to the test.  You can’t do that at 3 am.
  2. Focus, don’t multitask.  I know you think you can text, Google, and watch TV all while simultaneously studying your chemistry notes, but you can’t. 
  3. Study your hardest, least liked subjects first. These classes take more brain power and persistence and you’ll do your best when you are fresh on the scene of homework.  It may be tempting, but don’t start with your easiest subject. 
  4. If you’re busy with work and extra-curriculars and you can’t even find your desk much less put a book on it, study when and where you can.  Go to the public library, study at school or on the bus or wear ear plugs.  But study; don’t procrastinate.   Studies have shown that just switching study spots can increase data retention.
  5. Your goal of studying is not how much you remember, it’s how much you understand.  Make your goal of studying to understand the material.  Ideally, you should be able to explain that chapter to someone (even a parent) who isn’t in your class.  If you can answer their questions with ease, that’s even better!
  6. Try not to study late, late at night.  Your brain is tired even if your body isn’t.
  7. Don’t forget to exercise.  Movement increases blood flow to your brain.  Go for a quick jog, walk the dog, chase the cat.  Just move.
  8. Know how you learn.  If you learn by listening and talking, study with a friend or form a study group. If you need it quiet, study in the library. 
  9. When you study or read, pay attention.  Don’t quickly skim the chapter and promise to circle back and re-read it on the weekend.  Do it right the first time:  focus, read slowly, take notes, and summarize in your own words what the author wants you to know.
  10. Communicate with your teachers on a regular basis.  Seek help when you don’t understand something.  Let them know you want to improve.  Different subjects require different study approaches.  Ask your teachers to help if the strategies you have always used are no longer working,