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Back to the Grind

December 7, 2009

by Nirant Gupta
Back to the Grind

Thanksgiving break is over, finals week is approaching, and the workload is accumulating.  Your semester grades depend on these last two weeks. If you've locked up "A"s, congratulations.  But the type of "A" you earn is certainly still up for grabs, and so you need to crush your finals.  No matter where you are on the grade spectrum, your final will move you up or down.  And so you need to start planning, and studying--now.

Here are a few tips:

1.  Make a Time Line

You don't have the same amount of time to study for all of your finals, and you need to get really good at time management really quickly.  If you have a Money and Banking final on Saturday the 12th, that needs to occupy your most immediate attention.  If your last two finals are on, say, the 14th and the 17th, you shouldn't study for the Dec 17th final much, if at all, until Dec 15th.  So make a time line of due dates, assess which subjects require the most attention and how much time you'll be able to devote to each.

2.  Plan On Office Hours

For sake of argument, let's say you need 15 hours of "quality time" with each subject to feel confident for the final.  If studying alone for one hour prepares you 1/15 of the way, that's great.  But generally speaking, going to office hours will give you more bang for your buck - one hour spent at office hours may be able to prepare you 2 or 3 times as much as one hour studying on your own, especially if you come knowing what you don't understand.  Even if you get most of the material, it doesn't hurt to clarify more complex topics, talk about where you stand in the class, and even what you might need on the final to land a certain grade for the course.

You may be mathematically eliminated from an "A" (or need something like a 98 on the final), but may be in a position where you'd need to tank to get a "B+."  If so, don't spend so much time studying for that course - any marginal benefit from studying is negligible compared to classes where you may be able to move up or down.  Budget your time accordingly.

Also, many teachers are willing to place less weight on a poor mark received early in the semester and more weight on later grades.  Talk to them and see what you can weasel out.

3.  Make a to-do List

You now know when things are coming up, what classes require what proportion of your attention, and when you need to get into office hours.  Now budget your time.  Schedule flexibility is usually an asset, but you want to be a hard-ass with yourself.  Make a plan for the next few weeks saying when you will study for what, when you will go to office hours, when you will meet with a study group, when you will reach certain benchmarks, etc.  Remember, soon is not a time and some is not a number - be specific with your game plan and you'll be more successful.

Fortunately, the Gmail client CMC uses has "Google Tasks" functionality.  Look on the left side of your email and click the "Tasks" link.  An editable box will appear on your screen where you can list what you need to do and, with great satisfaction, cross off your accomplishments.

4.  Learn from the Past

Right before Thanksgiving "break," many students had a run of exams simulating what finals will look like.  Look back and ask yourself a few questions:  How well do you do on less than ideal sleep?  How much did you over-study for one exam and under-study for another?  Could you have allocated your time more efficiently?  How have your academic experiences during the semester taught you not only the course content, but about how to do well on graded material for a certain class?  How similar are practice exams to the real thing?  Think, figure it out and adjust what needs to be adjusted.

5.  Crush it

Get down to business.  Work your ass off.  Study hard.  Do well.

So for everyone at CMC, good luck with finals!  Set a solid game plan and I'm sure you'll have a much easier go of it.

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