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How to Crush Finals Week

Finals week is almost here! This nerve-racking time wrought with anxiety can be tamed using the right mixture of organization, time management, learning skills, and impression management. As if students haven’t been stressed enough already during this COVID-19 school year with assignments, projects, and all sorts of tests & quizzes – now comes a deluge of exams! Students have five to seven comprehensive tests in quick succession. Don’t worry! We’re here to help. Below, we have outlined a few key principles to help your child crush finals week.

It’s All About Planning

As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The plan means nothing, but planning means everything.” If you have read our posts on time management, goal-setting, or the locus of control, you know we are big on planning. Before finals week begins, ideally, a few weeks before, students need to sit down and iron out a study plan. We teach students that they are in control of much more than they think. They can always control their attitude, their time, and they respond to adversity. Help your student go on offense instead of defense this finals week by writing out a study plan.

First, students need to make sure they know what material will be covered. Is the exam cumulative or just this semester? Is it a departmental exam or written by one teacher? These questions are pivotal to efficient studying. Next, it’s time to gather all the relevant information in one place. If your student uses our tried and true binder system, this step takes care of itself. Then it’s time for the most critical step: figure out how you will be tested and mirror this in your studying. Always practice like you play. If the test is multiple-choice, then practice multiple choice through Quizlet or blank versions of old exams. If it’s an essay, then outline how you would respond to different questions. We’ll explore this step more in the “work smarter, not harder” section.

Rest Is Productive

I never understand why students pull all-nighters. It’s stupid. Proper sleep is essential to optimal performance. Running yourself into the ground doesn’t help anyone. We discourage students from wearing their exhaustion as a badge of courage—instead, plan to take breaks by creating a clear studying window. Something as easy as taking a nap during the day or sleeping a certain number of hours per night can easily be overlooked during finals week. Students have so much pressure to study hard to succeed, and they end up forgetting how important rest is to doing well on finals. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, getting enough sleep helps your brain work properly by helping you pay attention and make good decisions, as well as enhancing your learning and problem-solving skills.

Work Smarter, not Harder

Remember, we always want students to practice like they are going to play. In other words, study in the same way the test will be administered. First, select the right material to study. Some teachers are big fans of vocabulary, while others love to recycle homework and quiz questions. Look for patterns, self-advocate during office hours, and utilize the 80/20 principle. The 80/20 principle states that 80% of the outputs are produced by just 20% of the inputs in any system. That means that 80% of the material covered on the final exam comes from just 20% of the material covered in the class. Our goal is to find that 20% as quickly as possible, then master it. On another important note, teachers want students to succeed. Contrary to popular belief, your teacher does not want you to fail the final exam. Students should utilize office hours for exam content clarification and 80/20 selection in the weeks preceding final exams. Self-advocacy is a powerful lever in school success.

Lastly, students should select the right study skills to master material. We have written numerous posts about both traditional and cutting-edge learning techniques. Active recall, spaced repetition, interleaved practice, and elaboration are some of our favorites. Encourage your student to utilize techniques that provide immediate feedback. In this manner, they can be super confident on test day.

For more ideas on how to help your child succeed in school, please check out our other resources. If you want a trained academic coach in your student’s corner during finals week, please reach out today before we fill up.

Evan Weinberger


Staying Ahead of the Game offers unique academic coaching & tutoring services to help good students achieve greatness.

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