SUBMITTED: It can’t hurt to start preparing for finals now

Karl Laves

I know it sounds goofy, but start now to prepare for finals.

Let’s be honest, most of us tend to put things off until later, or even the last minute.  Some call it being lazy, but I like to call it being strategic.  There is no sense in doing something now if it can be done later and I have other things that are due now.  I’m not saying it is okay to put things off.  I’m just saying everyone needs to find their own pace and style to get work done. 

But there are times when starting “early” makes a lot of sense.  Finals is a good example of a situation where most of us tend to wait until the last minute and then find out there isn’t enough time.  Preparing for most finals would be considered “re-learning;” you are going over the material covered during the semester to remind yourself and refresh your memory of what you learned once before. 

People tend to learn best by repeated practice or rehearsal.  Re-learning isn’t a waste of time; it is how most of us learn. So finals is more about reviewing all that has been covered previously in class so it makes sense you would need more than one night to prepare for an exam. I know this sounds odd but starting a few weeks out from finals will give you more time to review your material and stir up the memories that were first made earlier in the semester. 

Maybe think of it like weight lifting. You don’t wait until the night before a contest to start lifting.  You do it over a longer period of time to build up strength.  The human mind follows a similar process when learning academic material.  It has to hear it, see it, think it over and over again to become a usable part of your memory.  So yes, start finals “week” a few weeks early.

Make a plan, sketch it out on your desk, post it on your wall.  Assign time each day for each class and use that time to review the text, your notes, slides, videos, etc.  Even just skimming your text and only reading the section titles will help stir up and strengthen your memory. 

And for crying out loud, please give up the idea that ADHD medications and all-nighters will work for you. If you aced an exam using either, honestly, you probably could have aced it anyway. I’m not talking about pulling an all-nighter and then making a D on a final. 

And honestly, because I don’t want to sound like I am preaching, if you are content with your grades, don’t change how you study. I knew a football coach who used to drill his players on the importance of a nutritionally solid pre-game meal. And then he would say to them “unless you are winning, then keep eating whatever it is you eat before a game.” If it is working, don’t mess with it.  But if you want to make a change, try starting finals week a bit early.

Karl Laves is the associate director of the WKU Counseling Center. He holds a doctorate from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

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