A COVID Guide to Finals Prep

Well, it’s that time of year again, when the weather turns cold and the holiday stress comes in full swing: final exams. What is a better way to make the worst time of the semester even worse by plopping it in the middle of a global pandemic. COVID-19 has provided us a unique opportunity to take our exams in the comfort of our own home, which is a privilege for some and a challenge for others. This unique situation will certainly have its advantages, but it presents a new set of challenges that will likely force you to modify your usual study habits. After 19 years of having an academic advisor and study skills teacher for a mom, I’ve picked up on a few tips that have enhanced my studying and have allowed me to adapt to this new test taking environment.

Start building a study plan

Now, there is no more important step than putting together a study plan, but you have to do it now. You don’t want to be gathering information and lists of what-you-need-to-know three days before an exam. The earlier you start gathering the information and planning your schedule, the earlier you can start carrying out that schedule and start actually studying the material. If you need help figuring out a schedule, this video is perfect for an overview of the craft. For a more specific, structured schedule, you may find the common 5 day study plan useful, which this video highlights.

Keep in touch with your study groups – or don’t

Just because you won’t be able to pull an all-nighter in Pius or stay in your cozy dorm room, and might be away from your apartment, it doesn’t mean that your successful study habits don’t work for you anymore. That being said, if you find study groups to be the most effective way of studying, find ways to keep in touch with that group from your respective homes. We have all figured out how to navigate Zoom at this point, so use it to your advantage. (For the record, all-nighters are never recommended, or very helpful)

Pick the appropriate soundtrack

Studying has never been a one-size-fits-all activity, which is partially why some people find listening to music while studying or doing schoolwork helpful while others find it distracting. Many studies have found that introverts perform cognitive tasks more poorly with background music, most notably a 1982 study by John B. Campbell and Charles W. Hawley. However, if you are someone who finds listening to music helpful while you study, other studies have shown that listening to instrumental music, yes, including Mario Kart music, is best for studying. So, whether it’s lofi hip hop beats to relax/study to, ambient music, harsh noise, whatever, be mindful of what your soundtrack is and if it will truly help you.

Dealing with distractions/taking finals at home

For as nice as it may be to take a final in your pajamas with a cup of coffee, the TV in the other room, your phone, your family and other distractions may pose a different threat to your performance. So, make sure you take some time before each study session and especially before each exam to set up a space that will allow you to focus. This video is a very insightful start on learning to “surf the urge” of your distractions. 

Also, make sure to test your home Wi-Fi before you hit start. While it’s always a good idea to close tabs, quit applications and practice loading files, it also wouldn’t hurt to ask those who share your Wi-Fi to stay off during the hour or so you will be online.

Reward yourself

My grandpa says that the mark of maturity is the ability to postpone gratification. I agree, but with the amount of distractions in your home, you may find yourself wanting to do things you would rather do before studying. Whether it’s eating lunch, cleaning your room or taking a 15 minute TikTok break (that will easily turn into an hour), set benchmarks for yourself. Tell yourself “I will not get up until I have memorized this set of flashcards” or “I will not check my Snapchat until I have finished this study guide.” This will help keep your priorities in check and make you feel even better after you have completed your tasks.

Don’t cheat

I know it’s tempting. I know it’s easier than ever. But don’t. However, the worldwide switch to online classes has caused an inevitable upsurge in cheating. Whether or not you plan on sharing answers with your classmates, the best way to avoid getting in trouble is to leave all class-related group chats on the day of the final. That way, if there is cheating among members of that group, you will not be suspect to whoever is doing the investigation.

Most importantly, remember that the earlier you start, the more confident and secure you will be during the exams, but also remember that these are tough times for everyone, and while it’s important to be persistent in your studies, always allow yourself to take a breather. Put yourself first and look forward to having the next two months off.

Good luck!