Student Life

Keys to surviving Finals with advice from your favorite teachers!


By Ashleigh Garrison |

Finals: Minimizing SAs the weather warms up and we exchange our sweaters for shorts, we are all reminded that summer break is only weeks away. Students everywhere will have freedom once again. However, there is one tiny road block that will stand between students and their long-desired freedom: Finals. Just seeing the word brings shivers. However, no matter how much you despise the exams, the reality is that you have to take them.

There is no avoiding the fact that finals have gained a bad rep in the educational world for most students. For many, the word ‘finals’ symbolizes all-nighters, coffee, and RedBull. For many IA students, the stress is enhanced even more; they feel all the more pressure to do well and sustain the grade they have worked towards all semester. Thus, finals week is often a week of immense worry and also procrastination. I have compiled a list of tips and study methods that will (hopefully) make your finals experience this year easier and more successful. Best of luck to everyone on their exams.

  • Spread out your studying

Taking time to prepare early before your exams will not only allow for you to spend more time on each unit, but it will make studying easier. You will feel less overwhelmed, since you are only doing a small portion of material at a time. Starting early also allows for more time to get any questions addressed by your teachers. It can be hard to muster up the motivation to start early (especially when you have other assignments to do), but just doing a little bit of reviewing each day is better than nothing.

  • Create a schedule and follow it.

You have probably heard this one before, and while it may seem a little tedious, it really does work. Having a specific schedule and deadlines to hold yourself to will keep you track and assure that you are working efficiently. Plus, you’ll feel all the more accomplished when you can finally check a task off.

  • Find a good working environment (and leave your phone far, far away from it).

Having a designated study area is also an essential. Consistency is also key. Studying in the same place and time will help you concentrate better. Most importantly, make sure your phone is either not there. A recent study conducted by the scientific journal “Social Psychology” shows that simply having your phone near you (even if you are not using it), is highly distracting. You will be tempted to know what’s happening on social media, the latest news, or who messaged you. Do yourself a favor and put the phone away.

  • Work with others

This one is a bit specific to the type of learner you are. While some find that they are more productive when working alone, others find it easier to work in groups. There are many benefits to group study sessions. Often times, it can be helpful to have a couple friends with you to not only make sure you are staying on task, but to also help you with something you are struggling with.

  • Incentivize! Incentivize! Incentivize!

Having a reward to work towards can often make completing a task easier. The rewards do not have to be anything outlandish; small ones are great too. Perhaps you’ll tell yourself that if you finish one review worksheet in a timely manner, you will get to watch TV for 10-15 minutes or go for a quick walk. Giving yourself brain breaks often leads to more concentrate in the long run.

  • Practice explaining concepts to others.

Chances are, if you cannot explain or teach a concept well without getting tripped up, you do not know it well enough. If you’re studying in a group setting, you may find it helpful to teach other concepts just to make sure you know it thoroughly.

  • Randomization

This is a key tip that often goes overlooked. Students often go through and review material unit by unit. While this is a great way to start, it is also important to do randomized problems at some point. Tests often will not be arranged by concepts, so it is important to be able to move from one concept to another without getting confused or thrown off. Being able to jump from concept to concept is a true test of your understanding.

Lastly, here are some tips from a few IA teachers regarding the best studying methods for their subjects for finals:

Sra. Selweski (Spanish): Sra. Selweski recommends that students read magazine or newspaper articles in Spanish, so that they are more prepared for the Paper 1 that they will see on test day. Doing so will help students get more familiarized with vocab that may show up on the exam.

Mr. Winn (Chemistry): Mr. Winn’s advice for chemistry students is to start preparing two-three weeks in advance. He also says, “Doing practice problems are more efficient than simply reading through the textbook.”

Mr. Kurecka (Math): For math, it is best to start with any concepts you struggled with during the year. “About a week and a half before the test is usually best. It depends on how good you are, though. I think a chapter or two a day is good,” Mr. Kurecka says.

Mr. Griffin (Biology): According to Mr. Griffin, the notes packets are the best resource for students. He highlights that the textbooks can also come in handy. Most importantly, he recommends a good night’s sleep.

Mr. Gallagher/Mr. Daugherty (history): Mr. Gallagher stresses the fact that understanding what type of questions you will face on the Paper 1 (and how to approach them) is key. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We’re all here from 2:35 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.” Mr. Daugherty adds that it can be helpful to find practice Paper 1 exams on the Internet and time yourself while completing them.

Special thanks to Mr. Daugherty, Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Griffin, Mr. Kurecka, and Sra. Selweski for providing tips.

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