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Final exams are a stressful part of academic life, as these assessments occur at the end of term when students are often overloaded with extracurriculars or other commitments and generally comprise a large percentage of a student’s grade. Unsurprisingly, students may experience pressure around how to prepare for their final exams successfully. This guide offers effective and practical study strategies to support your student during these educational rites of passage.

Plan, plan, plan!

Creating a realistic timetable for studying, with clear objectives, keeps students focused and hopefully curtails that urge to cram the night (or hour) before. To aid students in prioritizing, encourage them to consider each subject and break the material into task-based chunks. (Students, for example, may wish to subdivide a history course into eras or a math course into chapters, allocating time for one or more subtopics daily. The class syllabus often does this heavy lifting for students.) Invite them to embrace specificity in their planning, mapping out where, how, and when they will study. The best schedules account (generously) for sleep, meals, and downtime.

Study by doing, not just reviewing.

The McGraw Institute at Princeton University asks students to think of an exam “as a performance” and the prep as “rehearsal or a scrimmage.” It isn’t enough to review materials; mastery requires “authentic practice” of the pertinent exam components. To prepare adequately, students should pay particular attention to the exam format and all relevant course information, such as class notes, supplemental readings, etc. (In other words, “rehearse” for an essay exam by writing essays.) According to research, active learning, where students are prompted to analyze, synthesize, and apply knowledge, substantively improves retention and understanding. Students can employ active learning by creating their own materials, such as reading summaries, charts of theorems or principles, study guides, or problem packets. (Instructors typically design their exams with these goals in mind, so preparing in a way that promotes connections between more significant themes and ideas is excellent practice.)

Keep calm and constructive.

Teach your teen to channel their inner yogi–think deep breaths, meditation, or any stress-reducing measures–to quell natural exam jitters. Along with keeping calm, celebrate their progress and efforts throughout the exam period, as reinforcement will likely boost motivation and feelings of self-efficacy.

Yet, don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Studying need not happen in isolation. In fact, peer-to-peer teaching is yet another excellent study strategy and can assist students in combating the inevitable final fatigue. If your child’s school offers office hours or other prep resources, urge them to utilize that time. Emailing teachers, while helpful, is often an insufficient substitute for one-on-one learning. Almost any student can benefit from academic coaching, especially those struggling with time management or organization.

Implementing these ideas, you can help your child prepare for final exams and confidently navigate these scholastic perils. For more study tips, check out our other posts or contact us directly for information about support or services.