Final Exams: Study, Prepare, Survive

By Davis Hill, Staff Writer


Although we no longer have to hunt for food or defend ourselves against marauders, these skills still serve us well in the modern academic wilderness of final examinations.

Your finals will require every ounce of ingenuity you possess. They will be grueling and terrible.

In order to help you face this danger, The Easterner has prepared a special brief that summarizes defense strategies and anti-finals tactics. Familiarize yourself with this battle-tested wisdom:

You can never be too prepared.Photo Illustration by: Aaron Malmoe
You can never be too prepared.
Photo Illustration by: Aaron Malmoe

Emotions will not help you.

The finals will not care about your relationship with your sister or whether you have a fulfilling home life. They will not care that you will be ejected from the university, debt-ridden and degree-less if you do not get at least a ‘B.’

Similarly, do not become overconfident. Bravado in combat only serves to increase the danger. Many otherwise well-equipped study teams have swaggered into finals with only a grin and a pencil, never to be seen again.

Choose your study team well.

You cannot go it alone. In order to stand any chance of success, your team must be competent, connected and well-equipped.

A small, efficient and loyal team is worth hundreds of hours of studying and tutoring.

Who’s best at notecards? Outlines? Definitions? Time management? Do your members have double majors, minors, first aid training or other skills?

Make sure your team is well-equipped.

Every team member should have a default “kit” they carry at all times. It should include:

• Primary writing utensil: ballpoint or fountain pen

• Secondary writing utensil: pencils, no less than five

• Two energy drinks

• Extra energy rations

• Calculator

• Notecards

• Notebooks: no less than three

• Cell phone with text messaging

• Headphones or earplugs

• Personal backpack

Part of my kit. Photo illustration by: Evan Sykes
Part of my personal kit.
Photo illustration by: Evan Sykes

In addition, each team should have access to:

• Pencil sharpener

• Copy machine

• Computers: no less than two

• Appropriate textbooks

• Medicine: pain-relievers, vitamin C tablets

• Appropriate building keys for those with project-oriented finals

• Library card

Know your enemy

Finals come in many shapes: tests, papers, projects, presentations and portfolios, among others.

Test: Remember, nearly all of the time when you change an answer, you go from right to wrong.

Paper: Beware — after three hours of reading 12-point Times New Roman, your professor is likely to catch your 12.5-point font.

Project: Aggression is key here. Come up with an unexpected angle, and push it hard.

Presentation: Know your team. The English major might be a genius, but if he can’t deliver, it’s Powerpoint duty.

• Portfolio: Keep it simple, short and to the point—just like your emergency defense plan.

Your emergency defense plan

What if your pen runs out of ink? What if your last pencil breaks or your calculator runs out of batteries? Do you know the layout of the classroom and the best seat for avoiding prying eyes?

Construct additional backup plans. You may find you wish to add more supplies to your kit or that you need to study the layout of an adjacent room. Unexpected needs will turn up; do not ignore them. You cannot be too prepared.

Remember the cost of success.

Finals are not always about learning. They are about seeing who is willing to push themselves to the breaking point of sanity and health just to get a good grade.

Professors keep an eye out for the student who is the most haggard and then award them a special prize: a good recommendation to grad school, the only place where their self-destructive tendencies are truly appreciated.

Living with the ‘F’

What about a worst-case scenario? You’ve prepared, memorized—and then suddenly, on the day of the final, you wake at 2 p.m. and realize you slept through your 10 to 12 a.m. final. What now?

It won’t be easy. Sometimes, you can beg your professor into granting you a make-up. Otherwise, you’ll have to start from scratch, possibly even retaking the class.

This scenario will require you to change your approach. Just like our ancient ancestors, you must struggle to adapt, study and survive.

Views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of The Easterner.