Best Final Exam Studying Practices

Wilson Buckner, Features Editor

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Another semester is coming to a close, and Wesleyan students are preparing for this week’s finals. For most students, it’s an extremely stressful week. All of the knowledge acquired over the past several months will be demonstrated on each exam.

Handling the stress is different for every student. Many students choose to study in small groups over the course of the week. Other students also study in small groups but in ‘cram’ sessions the night before the exam. Which way is the more effective way to study depends on who you ask. But there are science-based suggestions for maximizing your performance on each exam this week.

The State University of New York posted several suggestions on their campus website to help cope with finals week. According to the SUNY website, the number 1 “no-no” is cramming! They recommend studying for periods between 20 to 50 minutes at a time. They also suggest studying the information over a long period of time to better retain the information. Of course, it’s too late to follow this advice if you’ve waited to study the week of finals. But you can still benefit from breaking up your study time into their recommended time intervals.

The second tip is to get at least 20 minutes of exercise between study sessions. The science behind this suggests that exercise improves your ability to recall information. Exercise is also the best way to relieve stress.

One ‘given’ during finals week is loading up on ‘stamina snacks’. For most students, this means junk food: pizza, chips, cookies, doughnuts, sub sandwiches, etc., none of which are the healthiest things to eat in the best of times, but during finals week some of these foods are just what a student needs. Science suggests eating “high- carb, high- fiber, slow- digesting foods.” Snacks like yogurt, nuts, fruits, cereal, oatmeal, and granola bars are perfect. It seems that the brain needs a steady stream of glucose for maximum test performance and these foods provide just that.

The parents of Wesleyan students received a letter several weeks ago offering to provide their student with a finals week “care package” with some of these very snacks for finals week, which is a great idea! Another suggestion to maximize finals week studying is to break with your routine and “alternate study spots.” Studying the same information but alternating the location seems to help with recall and retention of the information.

Allowing enough time to study is essential for top testing performance. Not allowing yourself enough time only creates more stress and stress decreases your ability to remember information. Also allow time to get plenty of REM sleep. All night studying impairs judgement and reasoning and should be avoided. Make sure you allow the time for rapid eye movement sleep. REM sleep helps with memory and only helps improve test scores.

The final two suggestions are to “minimize distractions” and “maximize practice-testing.” Avoid texting or watching television. If you must listen to music, make sure it’s instrumental music that you’re not likely to sing to. Flash cards and taking practice exams are the final suggestions for the most effective ways to prepare for finals week.


Good luck to everyone this week, and we hope these tips will help you maximize your performance. It’s time to snag the snacks and hit the books!



Alston, Shanice., “Scientifically, The Best Ways To Prepare For Finals Exams.”, Campus Life. , State University of New York.,






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