Planning for finals: Work smarter

The University’s Teaching and Learning Center hosted a lecture to help students prepare for finals on Nov. 5. The lecture was open to all University students and was held in the lecture hall of the Rooke Science Center.

Associate Director of Student Learning Support Laura Lanwermeyer presented her solutions to the most common problems students face when studying for finals, which she said are “passive study habits, getting overwhelmed, and not reflecting.”

Passive study habits include rereading notes, which Lanwermeyer said she considers “a terrible waste of time.”

“You remember 10 percent of what you read,” Lanwermeyer said, “but 90 percent of what you teach someone else.” Teaching others, making comparisons, and connecting material all fall under what Lanwermeyer considers “active study techniques.” Active study techniques are much more effective than passive review, according to Lanwermeyer.

Lanwermeyer is also a strong proponent of effective time management and planning. “These are the hardest and busiest four weeks of the semester,” she said, referring to the time leading up to finals.

Each student who attended the lecture was given a calendar of the upcoming month, with weekends and Thanksgiving break marked as free days. “Any day you don’t have class is a learning opportunity,” Lanwermeyer said.

Lanewermeyer’s planning advice is to have a study plan before leaving for Thanksgiving break. She recommended that students put their entire schedule in one place, to visualize the time available to study.

Lanwermeyer advised against cramming. “You can cram and have it work out. But if you don’t cram and plan out your studying, you’ll do much better,” Lanwermeyer said. In an ideal final exam study schedule, “if you only have one final exam, a week before the exam you should be about 50 percent ready.”

Lanwermeyer recommended that students spend the majority of their study time on the most difficult aspects of their course, rather than dedicate an equal amount of time to all topics. Lanwermeyer also attempted to dissuade the mentality that studying must be done in large increments of time. “Those small chunks of time between other things are incredibly valuable,” she said, encouraging students to use the 30-minute breaks between classes or activities productively.

She also advised students to utilize exams from earlier in the semester, which can be “a really good road map for what kind of exam the professor will give.” Understanding why they made the mistakes they did helps students to make the necessary changes to their study routines, she said.

The last piece of advice for stressed students was one of self care. “The sleep schedule is just as important as the study schedule,” Lanwermeyer said. “The day before the test, you should get six hours of sleep minimum.”

Danielle Porter ’22 was impressed by the lecture. “It was very useful,” Porter said. “I was surprised how much there was I could be doing to study beyond what I already do.”

As a first-year student, Porter had been uncertain how to study for her final exams prior. “I feel much more comfortable with the upcoming finals. I have ideas on how to study now.”

For students who want more help studying, the Teaching and Learning Center website (www.bucknell.edu/LearningCenter) has a variety of resources, including videos, presentations, and tutors available to help.

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