Published: Nov. 16, 2021

As the end of the semester approaches, now is a great time to start to prepare for finals. Setting up your study routine now will help you avoid cramming everything the night before exams. Here are five ways to help you plan, prepare and ace your finals.  

1. Plan your study routine and get organized

When studying, try a few different methods to figure out what works for you. Here are some things to consider when you are making a routine and getting organized:

  • Prepare your materials. Make sure to use more than just your notes. Review your textbook, handouts, practice materials and information shared through Canvas. 
  • Find your study spot. It’s important to have places where you can study and stay focused. Use the Study Spaces filter on the CU Boulder Campus Map to find quiet locations on campus. If you’re studying off campus, make sure your space is organized and free of distractions so you can focus.
  • Organize your notes. Instead of just reading through your notes, try turning your lecture notes into an outline, chart or diagram. Not only does this help you with organization but it also helps you gain clarity about what you know and what you may need to review.

2. Seek support 

One of the best ways you can ensure you’ll do well in your exams is by using the resources and support available to you. The more you seek out help, the easier it will be to understand and apply the material you are learning.

  • Attend office hours. This can give you the chance to ask any clarifying questions and review material with your professor for the exam. Check out making the most of faculty office hours.  
  • Participate in or create study groups. Make sure to take part in study groups when given the opportunity. If you can, ask some of your classmates to join you for a study session. 
  • Be your own tutor. One way to know if you really know the content you are learning is to see how well you can explain it to other people. Try explaining the material to your friends, classmates or family members. If they get it, you’ve got it.

3. Maximize your time

When it comes to studying, being strategic about how you spend your time can make all the difference. Here are some ways to maximize the time you've got. 

  • Make a daily schedule for finals week. Include things like the days and times of your exams, meal times, study sessions and time for breaks.
  • Plan out your study sessions. Rather than “studying from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.," plan out what you will study during each hour of your study sessions on your schedule. Here is a sample schedule to give you some ideas.
    • 8 a.m. Breakfast
    • 8:30-10 a.m. Chemistry study session (5 minute break included)
    • 10-10:30 a.m. Take a walk to recharge
    • 10:30 a.m. to noon History final
    • Noon to 1 p.m. Lunch
    • 1-3 p.m. Start French essay (5 minute break included)
    • 3-3:30 p.m. Take a nap or watch one TV episode of your choice
    • 3:30-5 p.m. Self-quiz on topics reviewed today (5 minute break included)
    • 5 p.m. Dinner 
  • Split your study materials into subjects from difficult to easy. Are there subjects you are really good at? Do you struggle with others? Identify them and plan how much time you need to spend on each. If math is your forte, have a shorter study session to ensure you are good to go. If physics class is a bit of a struggle, allocate a longer study period for that course. 

4. Try different study strategies

Make the most of how you study with these approaches to help you ace your exams.

  • Color code your notes. It might sound silly, but the power of a red pen and a highlighter can go a long way. Go back through your notes and highlight any important themes or topics your professor voiced as being important. Use different colored pens for definitions, vocabulary and other important themes.
  • Try flashcards for memorization. This can be especially helpful if you are in a language course or need to memorize dates. Write down keywords, themes and definitions for subjects you need to remember. For vocabulary, write the word on one side of the flashcard and its definition/translation on the other and the same for dates. Once you have a pile of cards—practice, practice, practice. You can have your family or roommates quiz you or even take them with you while you go for a walk.
  • Make your own study guide. If you had one piece of paper to take into your exam for help, what would be on it? Focus on creating a guide with major themes, vocab and other relevant information. Having a short, descriptive study guide gives you the chance to easily test yourself throughout the day.

5. Avoid cutting corners

Even though it’s crunch time, avoid cutting corners with your work. Failing to properly cite a source or asking a friend to help out with your work may not seem like a big deal at the moment, but these actions and any form of academic dishonesty are a violation of the Honor Code and can have consequences.

Academic dishonesty is any act in which a student gains or attempts to gain an unfair academic advantage over other students. Examples of this include plagiarism and cheating. All CU Boulder students are subject to the Honor Code for academic matters and students who violate the code may be subject to discipline.

Learn more about how to avoid the top violations of the Honor Code.

Remember to prioritize what is important, prepare yourself and take it one exam at a time. Take a deep breath and finish strong!