November 9, 2015

Plan Ahead for Finals

By Ashley Phillips

Plan aheadMarathoners say to do “nothing new” on race day. This is not the time to try different running shoes, skip a couple of training days, or rely on a new type of snack bar.  Something that works for one person may cause problems for someone else who tries it at the last minute. Each academic semester is like training for a marathon, and finals are like race day.

If we could give you one piece of advice before finals, it’s to continue the study habits that already work for you. This may take some extra planning, since November and December can be busy in class and outside of class. Let’s talk about some ways to plan ahead.

Identify which study habits work the best for you.

These can include creating personal study guides from class notes, studying in a group, or studying alone in a quiet place. Feel free to improve your existing study habits, just make sure to keep the ones that already work for you.

Organize your study materials.

Gather your notes, textbooks, and study guides for each course into one physical or electronic location. Also consider what else you’ll need in order to prepare well. Is your final going to cover all of the information from the semester, or will it just cover the information since the last exam? Will you need internet access, and do you have a plan for this if you’re out of town or if your regular study space isn’t available?

Plan aheadMake a study plan.

  1. List each week between now and the end of finals (at this point, there are 4-6 weeks left).
  2. Write down the assignments and exams for each week, along with your expected study time for each. Things probably will take at least as long as they have in the past.
  3. Add outside of class events that will happen between now and the end of finals, especially out of the ordinary events that may conflict with your regular study time (covering a shift for a coworker, the library being closed for holidays, traveling for holiday celebrations, days off school for children, etc.).
  4. If you do have a time conflict, decide now if you’re going to move your study time to a different time or if you’re going to say no to the event.

Take care of yourself.

Just like a marathoner, make time to get the nutrition, exercise, and emotional support that you need. For example, if you’re going to be studying for several hours, bring a healthy snack that you like to eat. And take 5-10 minute breaks for every 50 minutes that you spend studying. These breaks allows you to process the information that you’ve just studied, and you can use them to take a brisk walk or do a relaxation exercise like taking deep breaths.

Remember; plan ahead now so that you’ll be able to continue the study habits that already work for you. Having realistic expectations about how to study, what to study, what these next few weeks will require, and how to take care of yourself can help you prepare well for finals. We wish you all the best!

Ashley Phillips is a Student Learning Specialist in the Student Success Center, 3rd Floor/UAMS Library. You can contact Ashley at



“Find Help When You Need It”, Student Success Center Blog, September 21, 2015

Weekly Planner:

Daily Planning & To-Do List:

Library Holiday Calendar:

Relaxation Exercises: