Wanna ace your finals? Smart scientists say do this.

During finals week, many of us feel like malnourished
zombies clawing our way to the last day of school.

During finals week, many of us feel like malnourished zombies clawing our way to the last day of school. Though you may never be the optimist whistling your way to finals, there are certainly things you can do to increase your confidence before your bum hits that cold hard seat.


I know you know the basics - breath, sleep, eat before and/or during your exams. If you don’t already know that, well… breath, sleep, and eat. These are the basics of human survival and finals week isn’t an excuse to avoid these essentials for proper mental function. As a matter of fact, finals week is one of the best times to double-down on some healthy breathing, sleeping, and eating.

...finals week is one of the best times to double-down on some healthy breathing, sleeping, and eating.


Now for actual study, is there an optimal schedule to follow when studying for finals that require a lot of memorization? Research on this very topic says so! To remember information for a longer period of time, space out your study sessions. Based on a 2008 study on the “spacing effect” conducted at the University of California, San Diego, if your final exam is 1 month away, here is the best study schedule:

  • Today
  • 1 week from today
  • A day before the test

For the study-a-week-before students, you can again do 3 study sessions:

  • Today
  • Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow
  • A day before the test

Make sure to tailor your study schedule based on the amount and type of information you need to remember and how much time you have before your test. Research on the spacing effect mainly used memorization type tests like those for vocabulary or name and date recall.


If you’re really aiming for that A, change up where you study. Another study illustrated that people who varied their environments (from a cluttered basement to a clean courtyard-view room) had a 40% improvement in memory.

A study found that people who varied their study environments had a 40% improvement in memory.


This means don’t lock yourself in your bedroom with notes and poptarts all week. Treat yourself, your notes, and poptarts to a field trip. Popular spots are the library, park, or coffeeshop. Choose any place, other than the last place you studied.


Let's recap:

  • Breath, sleep, and eat.
  • Space your studies based on when your test is.
  • Go on field trips.

Everyone experiences the finals jitters, which makes test-taking even more uncomfortable. But with some prep, you'll be one of the few to breeze right through it and leave the room smiling.


Feeling a tad stressed? Take a quick break and head over to Science Says on Apple Podcasts to listen to our latest episode on mindfulness research and stress reduction in college students.

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