Students share tips to have successful finals week

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A student studies on campus. Preparation and balance can help students succeed during finals. (Tyler Richardson)

Finals season has set in at BYU, and students are tackling their final projects and exams before heading to winter break. Students can succeed in their finals by preparing ahead of time, utilizing campus resources and remembering to take care of themselves amidst the stress. 

There are many resources available on campus to help students during finals, including: 

One resource offered to first-year students is the First-Year Peer Mentors program. Emily Pulsipher, who is in her first semester as a peer mentor, said peer mentors meet with first-year students throughout the semester to help them stay caught up in their classes and implement good study strategies. Pulsipher shared some of her tips to prepare for finals.

“The best finals strategy is to have learned everything through the semester,” Pulsipher said. 

Students toil in the testing center. Preparation and balance can help students succeed during finals. (Ari Davis)

Pulsipher said she likes to do a broad overview of her classes while studying and make sure she at least knows the most important principles. 

Phil Rash, Assistant Director for Outreach at CAPS, said it’s better for students to spend a little time every day reviewing material rather than a couple intense study sessions. Beyond reviewing notes and lecture slides, Rash said students should test themselves or work with other students to fill in exposed knowledge gaps. 

Jake Beck, a senior studying psychology, agreed that testing himself as he studies is helpful. It forces him to recall how much he knows without any help. 

Beck also recommended taking tests in the morning, as scientifically that is when your brain is refreshed and has less interference. 

“As you go throughout the day … you have more stuff in your mind that interferes with your ability to keep and consolidate memories,” Beck said. 

According to Beck, sleeping helps consolidate memory. Ideally, students should study the day before and take their test early the next day. Beck said making a schedule for finals is another thing that helps him succeed. 

Family studies major Emma Lambert agreed that planning ahead is essential to success during finals. Lambert said she schedules out her exams, when and what she will study, breaks and social time. She also meal preps to maximize her time during finals. 

One topic students agreed on is maintaining a healthy balance during the stress of finals week. 

“I think we often forget that we have basic needs that should be met. And that if we take care of those we’ll do even better than if we just like, grind through everything and we don’t take care of ourselves,” Lambert said. 

Ryan Turner
A finance student studying at the library. Preparation and balance can help students succeed during finals. (Ryan Turner)

Beck said he recommends prioritizing balance during finals week so students don’t incur adverse mental side effects. Taking the time to sleep, eat right, relax and destress are important. It’s also okay to step back from other things to prioritize school during finals, Beck said. 

According to Pulsipher, if students are faced with a choice between spending two more hours studying or going to bed before midnight, it’s better to sleep than to keep studying.

However, Pulsipher said finals week is the only time she recommends not finding complete balance with other areas of life, as students should push themselves to do the best on their exams that they can. 

Having fun ways to take breaks or encourage themselves can make finals more enjoyable. Pulsipher said she gets kolaches every finals week to treat herself. Beck said he likes to bake as a way to take a break from studying.

Rash said students should set boundaries for the amount of time spent on studying or working on projects, pace themselves and take breaks. 

“Students can also monitor their self-talk for unfairly negative appraisals of our work and self-worth, the expectations that we have for ourselves, and for the inflated importance that we sometimes attach to a grade or performance,” Rash said. 

Students wait in long lines at the testing center. Preparation and balance can help students succeed during finals. (David Scott)

Rash recommended students talk to a good friend or family member if they are spending a lot of time “in their heads.” 

Students said if they could give advice to others, they would remind them to not stress too much about the results of finals. 

“It’s also important to remember like it’s just one exam in your college career,” Pulsipher said. “Getting a B plus in one class doesn’t make you a failure.”

“Just to learn to be okay with any outcome,” Beck said. “Sometimes (things) are gonna go better than you expect. Sometimes they’re gonna go worse. You just got to learn to be okay with the ups and downs.” 

Test scores don’t define who someone is or how successful they will be, Beck said.

Another thing to be aware of during finals is waiting in line at the Testing Center. The lines get longer late in Finals Week, so taking tests earlier in the week can help students avoid long wait times. Live video of the lines is available at testing.byu.edu.

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