How to Study for Finals and Avoid Holiday Distractions

Study tips for final exams that can help during the holiday season.

Study tips for final exams that can help during the holiday season.

As many kids count down to Christmas, many university and college students are counting down to the last day of lectures.

It’s almost the end of the first semester and students are more than ready to celebrate (you can tell by the sudden increase in Facebook notifications for invites to events around campus). From residence events, club socials, end of the year parties, or even gatherings with family and friends – many of us can’t wait to jump into the celebrations!

But hold on… the semester isn’t done yet.

There are still final exams to write and these holiday distractions may be overwhelming for first year college or university students.

Here are a few tips that I found useful during my exam season:

1) Join the celebrations! (BUT in moderation)

It is your first year after all, and you don’t want to find yourself looking back and regretting not participating in one of the year-end campus activities.

Choose a few events ahead of time to take part in but make sure you’ve scheduled enough time to study and stick to that plan!

One of the crazy things my campus did was to go down to Wreck Beach, here in British Columbia, on the last day of school for a polar bear plunge. I decided to join in and take the plunge myself!  It was insanely cold but also very refreshing for the rest of my day, which  I spent reviewing for an Economics final.

2) Have a study schedule

One thing that helps me A LOT is setting goals for myself. I like to put it all down on my calendar and visually see what I need to accomplish and have accomplished everyday. Instead of using a physical calendar, I personally prefer using Trello, a scheduling app, as it has a calendar view option for my tasks.

As long as I’m checking off the things on my list, I allow myself to take breaks from here and there. Anything quick from making myself a smoothie, listening to music, to a 10-minute workout! It’s up to you to figure out what works with your schedule and what helps to relax your mind. After all, I find that I can’t study for too long and taking breaks will also help me re-focus and become more productive.

3) Get a group of study buddies together

Studying on your own can become dull after a while, which and this is when you could easily lose motivation! Study buddies will help motivate you on days when all you want to do is just go back to to your dorm and sleep.

It is comforting to know that you are not alone during this exam crisis. It’s also helpful and interesting to study with different people.

Study buddies can help you stay focused as you prepare for final exams.

Study buddies can help you stay focused as you prepare for final exams.

It’s an opportunity to learn from each other and reinforce your understanding of a topic. Just be careful that you are not  surrounding yourself with friends who may be more distracting than encouraging.

4) Get a good night’s sleep and start your day well

When it’s exam time, there are no longer lectures to attend.  While that’s an amazing break from the school year, it could also mean you end up sleeping your day away! I found this happened to me  a few times and it sucks to wake up and found out that you’ve just lost a day, which could have been used to study.

However, I  find, when I do go to bed early and have enough time in the morning to eat a nice breakfast, my productivity skyrockets!

As simple as it sounds, you may be surprised at how much a good night’s sleep can enhance your studying.

5) Practice makes perfect

Just because it’s cliché doesn’t make it false. One of the best things you can do is practise and review, in as many forms as possible and ways suitable for you.

There will usually be extra office hours from your professors and TA’s during exam season.  Rather than paying for tutoring sessions, this is a great resource to take advantage of as your profs and TA’s are THE team behind preparing the course and exam materials.

Aside from these review sessions, there are also many practice resources available online such as review tutorials and videos which can help enhance the material. My personal favorites are KhanAcademy and CrashCourse, they cover such a great variety of subjects!

December is probably one of the worst times to have exams but we still have to get through them. These tips may or may not work for every student and/or every subject, but they really helped me tone down on my procrastination for studying.

I’m proud to say I have successfully completed my first finals of the semester and hopefully I will have better study habits for 2016.  But until then, I’m ready to enjoy my winter break!

Happy holidays!


Crystal Song

Nihao, hello, and bonjour. My name is Crystal Song, and I am a second year student at UBC studying a combined major of Business and Computer Science in the fall. As you may be able to tell by my greeting, I love learning other languages and cultures. In fact, I am driven by curiosity and love learning in general. When I want to give my brain a break, I enjoy biking, hiking, adventuring, camping, and recently started kitesurfing! I’m grateful to have received a scholarship from CST to continue my post-secondary education, and would like to extend the help that I’ve received onto fellow students who may be curious about the new chapter of university. Aside from school, I hope to share with you my experiences from campus life, to food, to tips, and to ways to stay active (physically and mentally). Welcome to my university experience!

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