Maximizing Your Final Exam Success: Strategies for College Students

April 28, 2023

close up of a student (his hand writing) taking an exam

As a college student, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start when it comes to preparing for midterms and finals. However, with the right study techniques, you can increase your chances of success and reduce stress. In this essay, we will explore some scientifically proven study techniques for college midterms and finals, as well as some of the best cramming techniques. Please keep in mind that Delgado is here for you. Your professors host weekly “office hours” to assist you in understanding concepts and our tutors are eager to help you in all subjects. Delgado also partners with Bartelby, a company that provides 24/7 tutoring services on hundreds of subjects, to provide free tutoring to Delgado students.

One of the most effective study techniques is spaced repetition. This technique involves breaking up your study sessions over time instead of cramming everything into one session. For example, if you have an exam in three weeks, you might set aside an hour each day to review the material. This way, you are more likely to retain the information and avoid feeling overwhelmed on the day of the exam. Studies have shown that spaced repetition can improve memory retention by up to 50%. During this time, it is a good idea to attend your professor’s office hours to talk about the material or gain clarity on confusing concepts. If you are at this phase and actively struggling, we encourage you to seek tutoring through Delgado.

Another effective technique is active recall. This technique involves actively engaging with the material you are studying rather than just passively reading it over and over again… One way to practice active recall is by creating flashcards with questions and answers about the material. You can then quiz yourself on the information until you feel confident in your ability to recall it. Research has found that actively recalling information can improve memory retention by up to 70%.

Boredom is an issue for most people; students are no exception. When you are struggling to stay afloat and boredom arises, you can supplement your material. For example, if you are in a biology class and struggling to read and remember the daunting process of Krebs’s Cycle, find resources outside of class like YouTube videos, Khan Academy lessons, or whatever may help or spark newfound motivation. While it is important to be consistent with your studying techniques, it is also important to “spice things up” to keep boredom astray.

It is also important to study in an environment that is conducive to learning. This means finding a quiet and distraction-free space where you can focus on the material. Delgado’s Library is always a quiet spot to study. For example, you might choose to study in the library rather than a coffee shop or at home where there may be distractions such as noise. Taking breaks between study sessions is also important to prevent burnout and improve retention. Research has found that taking breaks every 45-50 minutes can improve productivity and reduce fatigue. Taking breaks to reflect on the material can help you “connect dots.” But keep in mind that finding a balance between school, your social life, and self-care in ways that uniquely work for you is of the most importance.

When it comes to cramming for an exam, there are a few techniques that have been shown to be effective. The Pomodoro Technique is a popular one that involves breaking up your cramming session into 25-minute intervals with 5-minute breaks in between. After four intervals, you take a longer break of 15-20 minutes. This technique has been shown to improve focus and productivity during cramming sessions.

Another cramming technique is the Feynman Technique. This approach involves breaking down complex concepts into simpler terms and explaining them in your own words. For example, if you are studying the concept of Art History, you might compartmentalize each unique stylistic approach to the corresponding era. This technique has been shown to improve understanding and retention of complex concepts.

In conclusion, effective study techniques can greatly improve your performance on college midterms and finals. By using spaced repetition and active recall, studying in a conducive environment, striking a school-life balance, and taking breaks between study sessions, you can improve retention and focus. Additionally, the Pomodoro Technique and Feynman Technique are effective cramming techniques that can help you prepare for exams in a shorter amount of time. Remember, it's never too early to start studying for an exam, so be sure to plan ahead, stay focused, seek help, and have fun!

Skylar Busby, Recruitment Navigator
Delgado Community College
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