LSC Tutors share their advice about how to finish strong
Organize yourself so you have all materials ready to study.
Sit down and make a plan of which chapters or units you want to cover per day. Practice problems, flashcards, and old prelims (anything where you’re testing yourself) will help more than rereading the chapter or looking at your notes again.
Start planning out your schedule a week or so in advance, so that you can divide up the studying and also regular assignments and projects and make them more manageable. This way, you can also give yourself enough time to ask questions to professors and TAs of the course and Pace yourself.
It is never harmful to start studying earlier but it is very difficult to fight the urge to procrastinate.
How to Study
Start early. Give yourself plenty of time to comfortably review the material, you’ll be surprised at how much you remember if you’re not in a frenzy to recall a semester’s worth of dense material.
It’s most important to start studying early. Even if you just read a small section of your textbook for ten minutes, the extra time that the information gets to sit in your head makes all the difference when it comes to knowing the information for the exam.
Find out what’s going to be tested on the final and break it down into units. Focus more time on units that’s going to be tested on (ex: if post-prelim 3 material is 75% of the final, spend 75% of your time on post-prelim 3 material).
Finals can cover a lot of material so it is very important to spread out your studying over multiple days.
Use the Pomodoro technique. In essence, set a timer for 20-25 minutes, work consistently through it, and take a 5 minute break at the end. After 3-4 sessions, take a longer 15-20 minute break. Repeat until work is done!
Alternate which subjects you’re studying every couple hours, for example you might spend an hour on biology, an hour on chemistry, and then one on calculus. Then repeat.
Give yourself a break.
It’s best when studying for finals to not over study. Easier said than does right? Spending 10 hours a day studying for one specific class isn’t the best way to study. You need to spread it out over a week and study a little of each subject a day. This way it keeps your brain active in remembering all the subjects that you have finals in.
Rest a little before the prelim.
The most valuable resource during exam weeks is TIME, but that doesn’t mean you should forgo eating or sleeping to save time to study. Try to be efficient, but remember that an exam is not worth your health.
Especially during the study period, take time out of your day for yourself.
What to study
Practice as many problems as possible! Knowing the material isn’t enough — you have to know how to apply it to the problems given to you on the exam.
Do as many practice problems as possible. Practicing problems, more than writing down the rules, will solidify your knowledge in a certain topic.
Do practice problems that you’ve never done before, and to do a lot of them. Do practice problems on the more difficult level and to work through them and get an answer before asking for help. It doesn’t matter if the answer is wrong, the ability to work through difficult problems is key to prelims and finals.
Instead of focusing on notes (if it’s a class like General Chemistry) try doing problems and using notes as references when you get stuck on problems.
Go over all the example problems professors highlighted in class. If it’s not a problem-solving style course, review your lecture materials and readings to a point where you have an understanding, rather than just a memorization.
Review past prelims and the mistakes you made. Go to office hours to ask for any clarifications and take advantage of any practice tests/old exams that professors give you so you are comfortable with how prelim questions are presented.
Make a formula sheet/flashcards at the end of each chapter, that helps you revise the important formulae/definitions before the final.
Study in groups in order to help motivate each other.
Try to teach the material to others to make sure that you understand concepts. If you cannot teach something, then you don’t really understand it.
Focus on understanding the concepts instead of memorizing the facts. It will help students remember better.
Things good students do
Remember it is okay to ask for help. There are so many resources available to us at Cornell students and everyone here really wants to help you and see you succeed, so take advantage of those resources!
Review your notes from lecture right after you were taught the material. Not only will you remember what your notes actually mean, but you will be studying progressively and keeping up, rather than cramming when exams come around.
Rewrite notes to best memorize points that are vital.
Keep reviewing concepts every week.
Set aside a time each week to study for each class, preferably after you have attended class so lecture information is still fresh.
Stay on top of the material throughout the semester as it often builds upon itself for most classes. It seems everyone procrastinates, but last minute cramming is never the way to learn.
Don’t let a bad prelim grade set you back. Finals count for a large portion of the grade and you can really improve your grade by studying during finals.
Remember as work escalates it is important to keep a positive attitude, it is key to succeeding.
Take breaks and try to exercise, it will help you focus better while you are studying.
Make sure to take a break and have fun.