Final exams aren’t just any tests. They draw upon your knowledge from the entire semester, and you have to take a whole bunch of them at once. Depending on how your finals are weighted, your final exam grade could even mean the difference between an A and a C on your transcript

Follow our ultimate studying guide, and earn a top grade on your final exams.

how to study for finals

1. Make a finals game plan.

If you plan out your study sessions (for ALL your exams), you’ll get a better handle on how much work you’re facing. Use the calendar on your phone to set alerts and reminders for yourself so you stick to your plan. 

2. Start early.

Start studying for finals a few weeks before the first exam, and figure out how much time to set aside each day for each subject. Be realistic about how long it will take to, say, memorize the dates for all the Civil War battles. You need to fit in brain breaks, too!

3. Study in this order: a) definitely b) probably c) might be on the final

Don’t just start from the beginning of your notes and try to cram everything in: Think about what you know for sure will be on each test and review that material first. Then move on to studying what will probably be on the test, then what might be covered. That way, if you run out of time, you know you at least have the basics nailed. Ask your teachers if they’ll share copies of previous finals so you can see what might be covered or how questions will be phrased.

4. Give yourself more time to study for your toughest classes.

If chemistry gave you trouble all semester, devote more time to that subject—even if it’s your last final. Look over your previous tests for the year, if you scored poorly on one unit in Spanish, chances are you didn’t absorb it all the first time. Take extra time now to review what you missed. By starting with the toughest stuff first, you have time to ask your teacher questions or get help from our tutors .

5. Form a study group.

There’s nothing like peer pressure to keep you motivated to study. Make a plan with friends to review the class material, compare notes, or work through tricky concepts. You'll benefit from the good study habits and notes of the other members in your study group. if you’re trying to solve a tough math problem, two heads are better than one.

6. Talk it out.

Not only is it more fun to study with your friends than studying by yourself, you’ll also learn more. By talking through the facts and formulas with a study partner, you’re thinking about the material more deeply, which means you’ll remember it better later.

7. Get creative with study aids.

Now that you know what key concepts from each subject you need to prioritize, find the best way to review and internalize what you predict will be on the final exam. Make flash cards to help you memorize dates and equations. Or come up with a mnemonic device—a system of memorizing facts using a phrase or acronym you’ll definitely remember. For example, using the name Roy G. Biv helps to remember the order of colors in a rainbow.

8. Study your notes.

Outline your class notes for daily review. Notes and flashcards are also great for last-minute review the morning of your exam.

9. Quiz yourself.

If you’re studying at home, have your mom or dad quiz you on the information you’ve already studied. Students tend to remember the information the've been quizzed on better than the information they simply review.

10. Make sleep a priority.

While it may be tempting to pull an all-nighter and cram everything in at the last minute, it’s a bad idea. You just add stress, and you won’t retain the information for very long by studying that way. You may even forget some of it by the time the test begins.

11. Take five.

Take breaks to improve your concentration when you return to studying: Veg out with an episode of your favorite TV show or play a couple rounds of Wii tennis.

12. Brain food is real.

Eat healthy and drink plenty of water to keep your brain firing on all cylinders.

Still stuck on how to study for finals?

We can help! Try a session with one of our online tutors. We can walk you through tricky concepts or study strategies—whatever you need, 24/7.