By Susan Schaefer

Raise your hand if your kid has started studying for finals! If you are one of the very few who has a hand raised then use it to pat yourself on the back, because the rest of us are tired of asking if they even got their study guides yet. But whether they have begun slogging through their notes yet or not, finals are coming up so it’s time to light a fire and get going.

As with most things, having a strategy when attacking a task works much better than winging it. There is a saying, “work smarter, not harder,” and these tips should help you do just that:

  • Mark your calendar. Get a hold of a big month-at-a glance for June and make a day-by-day study plan.
  • Make a set schedule. I usually advise students to do no more than four subjects a day, two before and two after dinner. This should leave plenty of time for sleep, which is key to effectively processing and remembering information.
  • Worst first. Start with your hardest and work backward to your easiest subject. You will want to study your most difficult subjects every day but alternate days on the easier ones.
  • Study breaks. Remember to take a 15-minute break between subjects but avoid getting sucked into Facebook. Doing something to get the blood circulating is best so get outside and toss a ball to your dog, your brother, or which ever one catches better with their mouth.
  • Study guides. As I have mentioned many times, study guides are great tools but there are often things on the test that are not on the study guide, so don’t rely on them exclusively. My advice is to go through your notes first and then review the study guide and make sure you know everything on it.
  • Review sessions. Go. To. Every. Single. One. Are we clear? Nicely asking probing questions at the review sessions can buy you some insider information as well, so do some studying on your own first and go armed with questions.
  • Group study sessions. I’m not in love with group study sessions because, unless there is a highly focused individual leading the group, there is usually much more socializing than studying going on. If you do opt for a study group, choose your members wisely or you could waste valuable study time.

Try to think of studying for finals like practicing for a big game. What would happen if you didn’t practice, had no strategy, and just went out there and tried to play? You would lose and probably get pretty beat up in the process. So get your strategy together, study every day, and get out there and win!

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue