Skip To Content
  • win badge

Here's How To Actually Study For All Your Finals

It's OK, you can put off studying a little longer to read this.

Yes, finals season can be stressful and overwhelming AF, but it's totally possible to get through it — and to rock it.

But let's skip the introduction. You're here for tips. Here they are.

1. Decorate your study space with positive affirmations.

It may feel cheesy, but you'll be surprised how much a few sticky notes of your favorite motivational quotes around your desk will help you down the line when you start feeling hopeless, licensed therapist Maria Ulmer, executive director of clinical services at Summit Behavioral Health, tells BuzzFeed Life.

That, and it's an easy bit of ~productive~ procrastination to help you ease into the week.

2. Prep everything that you'll need ahead of time.

Figure out ahead of time what you'll need so you'll have fewer excuses to procrastinate with this stuff later. Think: Prepping study playlists so you don't wind up fiddling on Spotify instead of studying, stocking up on snacks so you're not constantly running out for food, already grabbing notes from those lectures you skipped, etc.

3. Assemble your support group, even if you like studying alone.

Anna Borges / BuzzFeed Life

You don't have to have a study group, exactly, but you don't want to isolate yourself either, says Ulmer. "Having social groups that can help you get through it is vital," she says. "It helps you feel like you're not alone in your stress. That's one of the worst feelings you can have – that everyone else is doing well while you're struggling."

So whether that's getting a study group together, setting a catch-up lunch date with your friends, or just having someone to text and check in with, line it up.

4. Block distracting websites ahead of time.

Chrome Nanny

Get distractions out of the way before you even get started by blocking time-wasting websites with extensions like StayFocused or Cold Turkey. Even things you think won't distract you can wind up being huge time-sucks when you're desperate to procrastinate, Jenny Yip, Psy.D., author of Productive, Successful You!: End Procrastination by Making Anxiety Work for You Rather Than Against You, tells BuzzFeed Life.

5. Don't just divide your time between exams and papers. That's still scary AF.

Devoting one day to ~Study For Chem~ is still really daunting. Instead, divide each major task (whether it's studying for a final or writing a final paper) into smaller, actionable tasks that you can tackle one by one, suggests Yip.

So instead of a terrifying 10-page paper, break it down into drafting a thesis, collecting useful quotes, outlining your body paragraphs, etc.

6. Realistically think about how much time each task will take before you just add it to your planner.

Scheduling is key, says Yip, but just throwing "Study Chapters 1-5" in your planner isn't really enough. Think about how long this will actually realistically take you, then block out that time. Do this for all of your classes and assignments, logging it by hand or via app, including as many details as possible. Even if your plans change, having a set schedule keeps you accountable and will keep you from putting something off that's going to take at least two full days to tackle.

7. Add relaxation and social time to that schedule — and make it non-negotiable.

Nickelodeon / Via

Finals season has a nasty habit of making you feel guilty for stepping away from your responsibilities. Adding non-study time to your schedule will remind you that it's a necessary part of doing well. "Whether you carve out fifteen minutes, an hour or half the day, you need to get out, even if it's just to take a walk and get some fresh air," says Ulmer.

8. Set certain times to check your email, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.

Guy Trefler / Via

Quitting social media cold turkey is an awesome way to up your productivity during finals. But since that's way easier said than done, Yip suggests only catching up on your social channels at specific times each day. It's a nice way to reward yourself for working without distraction and it'll save you from falling down an Instagram rabbit hole.

9. Accept that finals week is not a time to be a perfectionist.

Real talk: Finals season can feel impossible enough as it is without holding yourself to unrealistic standards. You're not going to be able to do everything exactly to your liking, says Yip — and that's OK. "Take into account the hours that you actually have and what's possible to accomplish and act accordingly," she says.

10. Do not load up on more caffeine than usual.

You might feel like you need to double up on coffee during your marathon study sessions, but actually, you're not helping yourself at all. "Your body naturally produces extra adrenaline during exam week," says Yip. "Extra caffeine actually inhibits your learning process because you become too jittery and overly energetic, and it interferes with your ability to focus."

So stick to your usual Starbucks order and trust adrenaline to carry you the rest of the way.

11. Actually go to office hours and ask your professors or TAs about anything you're unclear on.

NBC / Via

Don't waste your time trying to figure out on your own what could be cleared up in a 10-minute office hour visit. Plus, it shows initiative that they might remember while they're grading exams. While you're there, make sure to ask for their suggestions on how to study. You might pick up some invaluable hints that way, Jan Collins-Eaglin, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Students for Wellness and Personal Success at Pomona College, previously told BuzzFeed Life.

12. If you have to memorize a lot of information, study for 90 minutes, take a 15 minute break, review for 10 minutes, then repeat as needed.

Yip suggests this as a tactic for making sure what you're studying actually sticks into your long-term memory. But make sure that your 15-minute break doesn't involve any distractions like social media or Netflix. Instead, try meditating, listening to music, or even resting with your eyes closed.

13. If you're writing an essay, this might help get you started.

Thanks, Tumblr.

Or alternatively, this:

14. Brush up on these study hacks if you're still feeling lost.

15. DO NOT pull all-nighters before exams.

Disney / Via

No matter how necessary it seems, this strategy will most likely backfire. "Sleep is so important for your mental wellbeing and your cognitive functioning," says Yip. "We know from research that when we are deprived of sleep, it interferes with our ability for logical reasoning and our memory."

Even if you can't get your 7-8 hours of sleep, make sure you get something.

16. Same goes for eating healthy.

NBC / Via

Skip stress-eating junk, both our experts agreed. Fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy carbs will keep you balanced and focused. Surviving on a diet that's 85% Sour Patch Kids...probably won't.

17. And get in some exercise if you can. / Via

OK so now is probably not the time to overhaul your fitness routine or try to get swole. But getting your blood pumping with something you enjoy (dance break, going for a run, etc.) can really help this week. "Exercise decreases stress and increases your confidence," says Yip. "And it gives you an opportunity to step away from your work, reenergize, and come back to studying with fresh eyes."

18. Don't try to cram in the hour before an exam.

Fox / Via

By that point, you've done all you can do and that last hour isn't going to do you any favors, says Yip. Instead, prep for the test by relaxing and trying to get in the best state of mind possible. These tricks will help get you into the chill zone.

19. OK, now you have to go do it. That's it. That's the last step.

Want expert health tips in your inbox twice a week? Sign up for the BuzzFeed Health & Beauty newsletter!