Published: April 27, 2020
laptop, notebook, and backpack

With finals around the corner and all that is going on around us, finding the concentration to study can be difficult. We have put together a list of study strategies to help you find your focus.

Get in the right headspace

A lot of stress can come from finals, but preparing yourself for what is to come and focusing on the things you can control can make the difference. Consider the following actions to help you be successful during your study time.

  • Find your sound. What do you like to listen to when you study? Listening to music can ease the tension of studying and help you concentrate. Whether it’s a calming playlist or your favorite lyrical jams, find what works for you. We recommend “Calm vibes” on Spotify or “Relaxing jazz for work and study” and “Mozart classical music for studying, concentration, relaxation” on YouTube.
  • Cut the distractions. As much as you want to reply to that text message or give a heart to the lovely puppy picture on Instagram, find it in you to wait until you take a break. Distractions can make it difficult to focus on the task at hand. Turn off notifications when you begin studying, block websites that aren’t helpful, and put your phone on airplane mode or send a text to your friends that you’ll be temporarily unavailable so you can study.  
  • Use free resources. Make an appointment with tutoring services, use virtual academic resources or connect with the Writing Center to get feedback on your writing. You can use Turnitin through Canvas to check for plagiarism and appropriate referencing for your final papers. 

Maximize your time

Time seems to be the only thing we have an overload of or none of these days, but if planned wisely, it could be used to your advantage. 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. to 5 p.m.," plan out what you will study during each hour of your study sessions on your schedule. We put together a sample schedule to give you some ideas.

Sample daily schedule
  • 8 a.m. Breakfast
  • 8:30–10 a.m. Chemistry study session (5-minute break included)
  • 10–10:30 a.m. Walk around the block 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 episode of your choice
  • 3:30–5 p.m. Self quiz on topics viewed that day (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 French class is a bit of a struggle, allocate a longer study period for that course. 

Remember, the important thing is to prepare yourself for each final one at a time, to focus your energy and use time to your advantage.

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.

It can feel like there is so much to do and too little time, but remember to take it one exam at a time. Trying these techniques and finding what works for you can make all the difference. You are almost there, take a deep breath and go get it, Buffs!

For a list of helpful resources, upcoming virtual events and more, visit For technology assistance, visit the OIT website.