Study Tips

Learning How to Prepare for “Finals”

Finals matter. Finals often equal 30-40% of one’s total grade, and if someone does poorly on a final, it can hit very hard.

Almost every major requires a minimum of a C or higher to stay in their programs. In some majors, if you get below a C on two tests you can be kicked out of your major program. That would cause some students to lose thousands of dollars in tuition fees alone; not to mention the three or more years spent in school. In most four year colleges a C is as good as an F, and to most employers, why should they pay for a C student when they can get an A student for the same price.

Let’s face it, many required beginner classes are quite easy, and require little in terms of study. However, there is a four year university ahead for some of us, and it will not be so easy. There are a lot of students out there competing for entrance to a four year college and good jobs. Some students have to study at least nine hours a day seven days a week.

Now, no one can say who needs to study nine hours a day, but it is possible to give a nice list of effective means for studying, which may lessen the amount of time you need to study to retain the information. This list was made using tips from the “Study Skills” course here at NRCC.

Do not study too long:

• Problem: Ideally we remember the first and the last things we study best. When we study for three hours straight, we tend to dose off in the middle and waste about an hour.

o Solution: Study for Forty-Five Minutes at a time, with 2-4 minute breaks. This gives a short break that won’t interrupt that study mood. If dozing off occurs, begin again where sleep took hold, then skip the stuff that you read clearly. Do not read the same thing over and over again, that will kill the study mood right then and there.

Review the stuff you kind-of know/do not know:

• Problem: I kind-of know that. I will know it when I see it. I will look it up later. I will ask about it later. Kind-of knowing does not know, and if the problem is not written down, it does not get looked up later.

o Solution: Review until it’s fresh in the mind again. Look it up really quickly, ask someone about it or talk to Academic Assistance. If you are unsure about something, take the time to become sure. Looking up information in the back of the book or a dictionary does not take that much time, and asking someone for help such as a teacher or Academic Assistance in Martin Hall is a good way to get effective help.  Don’t forget your dictionary.  Sometimes all you need to help you understand is a good definition.

Skim the parts you know well:

• Problem: Reading everything despite knowing it. This wastes valuable time.

o Solution: If you know it, you know it.

Use a Highlighter and practice highlighting:

• Problem: Highlighting just about everything. It is very easy to over highlight the text.

o Solution: Practice highlighting just key words and phrases that need a second review, or things that you need to glance at when doing a second review.

Make “Mental Links”:

• Problem: Do you go brain dead on big tests? Often we know the material, but when the test comes we cannot bring the info to memory.

o Solution: Connect the new information with something you know well. Example: “Oh yeah, those are the elements of Nitro Glycerin… sweet! “

Am I in the mood to study?:

• Problem: You do not feel like studying. You will study later. Often we forget or put off studying so long that we do not have enough time to really study effectively. We can study eight hours straight the night before, but during the test we will only remember about 2-4 hours of that; then what happens on a comprehensive final…. more to study.

o Solution: Do not study, wait a while. If your mood doesn’t change, force yourself to start studying a little, the study mood will come. When you take breaks keep them between 2-4 minutes, and do not let yourself break that mood.

How do I learn best?:

• Problem: Ineffective studying. Am I Auditory Learner, Visual Learner, Hands on Learner etc..?

o Solution: This website has great explanations of the different learning styles (
Here is a website with a questionare to learn your study style.

How does my teacher… teach?:

• Problem: My course is hard to understand. Often times, we fail to understand things because the information is not presented in our best learning style.

o Solution: Make diagrams, take notes, listen and make the lecture into something you can understand. Find a fellow student who understands the material and get help. It is unrealistic to expect a teacher to change their lecture to suit 1 student. It will require good note taking and self/group study time to really understand the information at times.

How much do I really need to study?:

• Problem: You do not have enough time to study everything! We can easily spend too much time studying in one subject we understand pretty well, and not leave enough time for the harder stuff.

o Solution: Analyze how much you really need to study a certain subject. Only you can decide if you understand the math class well enough and need to spend more time in chemistry or biology. Skim the stuff you know, review the stuff you don’t.

I do not understand this! What do I do now?:

• Problem: I just don’t get it. This refers back to the teacher question; sometimes we do not understand the teacher, or even the material.

o Solution: Either get with the teacher, talk to students who understand, or learn it by yourself through the book or online. Academic Assistance is a great place to find students who understand the material.  Professors are THRILLED when you come to their office hours for help — that’s what they’re there for.

Once you understand the most effective way to study the material, you can stop wasting so many hours on ineffective study time.

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