The 3-exam strategy for a stack-up of finals

Thursday, July 24, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT
MU student John Prosperi, a business major, studies biology in December 2012 in Ellis Library. Exams can be emotionally and physically exhausting, especially when you have three or more in one day, but strategies such as starting to study early can help you prepare.

COLUMBIA — It is emotionally and physically exhausting to have three or more final exams in one day. But there are steps you can take to prepare for each exam so you don’t end up acing one and failing the rest or barely passing all three.

MU allows you to change your final exam schedule if you have three exams on the same day, but it is up to you to decide if that option is worth pursuing. It is also up to you to talk with your instructors about such changes.

Keep in mind that a final exam time change (upon request) will be moved to an earlier date and not a later one.

If changing the schedule seems unnecessary and three exams in one day means three out of the way in one day, here is a strategy to survive:

Start early: The earlier you start studying, the more time you have to iron out the wrinkles of your knowledge. A full week of studying before finals week will help.

This should be obvious and easy in principle, but accomplishing the task ends up being harder than it should. For this method, planning a few weeks in advance is the key.

Slowly pick up more and more homework assignments every day for three weeks before the end of school to clear out your schedule for the week before finals.

Once your quiet week is free, you will find that all you have left to do is study, and that can help lower stress levels during a time when stress seems to be at every turn.

Organize: Write down the three exams on three pieces of paper and outline exactly what topics you’ll need to study. Once all three exams have been outlined, rate them by importance or difficulty.

No. 1 should be the hardest final, and No. 3 should be the least difficult. Doing this will not only help organize your thoughts, but it also provides you with an outline for a study guide and takes you through a rough draft of your semester, perhaps rekindling information that was just a dim flame in the back of your memory. This method also helps organize your time. Final No. 1 should be given more time than final No. 3.

Study in increments: Starting your study session with the hardest final will help because your attention will be most keen at the beginning of your study session.

When you tire of one subject, take a quick break and then move to the next subject. This will help keep your mind alert and your eyes fresh.

If working alone leads to distractions, find someone in your class to bounce thoughts off of and help each other memorize and understand the information.

If you leave enough time for studying prior to the finals, you will be less stressed before, during and after the exams. You'll also get the rest you need, and you'll get the grade you want.

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