Studying for finals is a task you can conquer with a few key study skills. Applying study strategies and a few tips can help you score higher on your final, just like it can help when you’re studying for the ACT or SAT.
Finals are more challenging than standard unit tests because they contain material from multiple units; in other words, they’re cumulative. Not only do you need to remember the information you learned this month, but also information you may have learned at the beginning of the semester! Furthermore, the test questions usually aren’t in any certain order, so there’s nothing to prompt your memory.
Just like on the ACT or SAT, employing a few strategies while studying for finals can help you ace your finals and, in turn, help you earn all those GPA points you need to stand out on your college applications. Below, we’ll go over three key skills to learn that will help you as you’re studying for finals and any cumulative test you face.
Skills for Studying for Finals
Skill #1: Recalling What You’ve Learned
The first skill that will help you study for finals is the ability to recall what you’ve learned. Before you say “well obviously!”, there’s a bit more to this than you may think!
Let’s say that you’ve noticed that you don’t do too well on your cumulative math exams. You usually do fine on homework and on unit tests, but you really forget a lot of material when you take the exam. Or maybe you see questions on a test that you swear you’ve never seen before. This may mean that you struggle with problem recognition and process recall.
“Problem recognition and process recall” is when you recognize a question type and then recall the process you need to answer the question. When you take a unit test, you don’t have to do much problem recognition because the questions usually all come from one unit. But when you take a cumulative test, like a final, the units are all mixed up and you have to employ your problem recognition and process recall skills.
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You can practice recognizing problems and recalling how to solve them with any practice question you’re studying. After you read the question, ask yourself 2 quick questions:
1) What “kind” of problem is this?
2) What process do I use to solve it?
If you don’t know, then you can mark that question as one you need to study! Go look up the answers to the 2 diagnostic questions above and then try a new practice question.
Skill #2: Working Efficiently
The second skill is working efficiently. Efficiency has two meanings for us. The first is about the time it takes to answer a question. The second is about the way you answer the question.
First, if your finals are timed, or you have trouble finishing tests in a class period, you should take some time to practice your pacing. Pacing is the time you allow per question so you have time to finish the test. You can practice your pacing by timing yourself as you complete practice questions.
If your teacher has given you a review packet, you could time how long it takes you to do the first page. Divide the time you took by how many questions you did, and that’s your pace per question. If you’re taking longer per question than you’ll have time for on the test, you’ll need to practice answering questions more quickly!
Second, you want to work on the problem efficiently. If your teacher isn’t particular about how you get to an answer, then there’s no need to work harder than you have to! If you know a trick to solve a question much faster than you learned in class, use it.
Skill #3: Using Multiple Choice Questions to Your Advantage
The third skill is knowing how to use multiple choice questions to your advantage. If your final is multiple-choice, you’re in luck! The answer is right there on the page – you just have to pick it!
You can use multiple choice questions to your advantage by knowing how and when to eliminate answer choices and by knowing how and when you can use the answer choices to help you answer the question.
If you come across a question that you don’t know the answer to, take a look at the answer choices to see if you can eliminate any. Are any of the choices unrelated to the questions? Perhaps a choice is using the wrong units? Working backwards by starting with what’s incorrect can help you find the correct answer.
You can also use the answer choices to help you answer the question. On a math final, you may be able to plug numbers into the answer choices to see what works. On a concept-based test, like a history final, the answer choices can give you clues as to what the question is asking.
Time to Start Studying for Finals
If you understand the content and understand the test, you’ll own your final exams. Just remember to practice problem recognition and process recall, work efficiently, and use multiple-choice questions to your advantage.