Final Exam Tips from UW students

Published: Monday, December 4, 2023

It’s December, which means finals season! With finals looming on us, stress, anxiety and worry over how we are going to perform on exams are completely normal. Most of us are wrapping up with our courses, with a lot of assignments and quizzes due in early December – we don’t need that extra stress with finals just around the corner, right?  

While there’s nothing we can do about upcoming deadlines, there is something we can do in how we handle finals season – with the right mindset and organization, finals won’t seem so terrible.  

Find out your exam schedule from either in Odyssey or the schedule sent out to your UWaterloo email. 

Tips from a 2nd Year – Anusha Akella 

As a 2nd year student, I’ve only experienced two terms of finals, but they still taught me so much about how to cope with everything!  

  • Familiarize yourself with the dates, timings and locations of your final exams – even better, note them down somewhere, such as a calendar. This is so you know how much time you have between exams, which helps in scheduling study sessions.  
  • Try visiting the locations of your exams beforehand so you know how to get there on the exam day. This really helped me back in first year, so I didn’t have the added stress of navigating to the location.  
  • I’ve found that studying for the last few finals first helps a lot in time management and distribution, particularly if there is little time between each exam. However, everyone has their own study style and finding out what works for you best is key to managing finals!  
  • Try to have at least one full day dedicated to just revision – trust me when I tell you that cramming up until the last hour does not help.  

Almost everyone’s worried about how they’re going to do and whether all the things you learned is going to fly out of your head once the test paper is in front of you.  

  • Remember to take some breaks – you can’t afford burnout during this time. Even if it feels like you don’t deserve to relax or enjoy a little treat in between studying, make sure you do take some time for yourself. Rejuvenate, gather some energy and then get back to studying.  
  • Get good sleep! Now, I know this is hard as a student myself but prioritize sleep as much as you can – this means as few all-nighters as possible. This is especially important the night before the final.  
  • After you finished a final, reward yourself! You might think you shouldn’t since you haven’t even been graded for it yet, but you put in so much effort and work just to get to this part of the process – you definitely deserve a treat!  
  • This is just one term of one year of your entire degree! You may do really well on some courses and not so great on others – just remember that you did put in as much effort as you could.  

Tips from a 3rd year – Siddhant Chhugani  

  • As a third-year law student, I have had couple of experiences which have made me realize how to best tackle the Final exam prep and the pressure that comes with it, and I am happy to share that with you all. 
  • There are several techniques like the pomodoro technique, SQ3R method, the Feynman technique and much more that can be used to increase the effectiveness of your study without feeling burn out 
  • If I talk about Pomodoro technique, it is essentially when you work for 25 mins and then take a 5 min break. You do this for 4 times and then you take a longer break of 15-20 mins. Pomodoro technique has helped me a lot as I have noticed that I tend to get distracted if I try to study for longer periods of time but by using pomodoro technique, I am able to focus better now and I have also noticed that this technique has helped me with my mental fatigue. After a while, you tend to be tired and don’t grasp things as quicky as you did before but with this, you are always at your best.  
  • Other techniques that I have mentioned in the previous points have the same function as the pomodoro technique. They are designed to help you study better. The S3QR method can be divided into survey, question, read, recite and review where survey is skimming the chapter, question is formulating questions, read is reading the chapter to find the answers to those questions, recite is summarizing each section as you read, and review is reviewing what you have done. These steps will ensure a clearly laid out plan to study any hard or time-consuming topics.  
  • Over the years, I have realized that while there are several techniques out there to help students study better, I believe that everyone is different and what works for you might not work for someone else. It is therefore important to find what suits you the best.  
  • For some people, it works better to have their own methods of studying but videos like study with me or a background that calms them is what makes them focus better. It is imperative to think about how you can increase your productivity.  
  • As mentioned by Anusha, it is important to take breaks as well. Without allowing yourself proper time, you increase the chance of burning out.  

Tips from a Post-Grad – Navya Manoj 

  • Sometimes, studying may feel like long hours and a great way to avoid that feeling is to establish a system of rewards for reaching your study goals. Try to celebrate small victories to maintain motivation. 
  • If you need a bit more motivation, join or form study groups with classmates. Try explaining concepts to each other and discussing ideas can deepen your understanding of the material you need to know for the exam. 
  • Similar to the tip above, engage in active learning methods when possible, such as summarizing information in your own words, teaching the material to a peer, or creating flashcards. It is often said that active learning techniques can go a long way to have concepts well understood and perceived in time for your exam. 
  • If you’re unsure of what you need to know for your exam, don’t hesitate to seek clarification from your professors, TAs, or classmates. 
  • If there is a lot of material to cover and you need to understand what topics you need to cover, try to define specific, achievable goals for each study session you make. By having clear objectives, this will help you stay focused and measure your progress. 
  • Equally important to sleep is to maintain a balanced diet and stay hydrated, both before, and after your exams! Don’t forget to bring in a snack and drink to your exam (if permitted) and ensure to use these resources to help you get through exams. 

We’re rooting for all of you out there, and you should root for yourself too – good luck to everyone for their finals!   

*If you need academic support or would like professional help in navigating challenges during exam season, please reach out to resources like MATES, CAPS, the Student Success Office, and Campus Wellness, depending on the nature of your concern.  


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