Skip to content

Breaking News

CU-Boulder psychologist gives study tips for finals
CU-Boulder psychologist gives study tips for finals

Final exams begin Saturday for University of Colorado students — many of whom have already begun plugging away at study guides to help them survive the heavily weighted tests.

Some students will be staring at their computer screens for the next week while others will suffer from hand cramps as they try to rewrite their notes from class in an attempt to memorize every last detail.

Corey Levy, psychologist at CU, said each student has their own personalized style of studying but one method might be the key to helping students make the most of the few, precious hours remaining before their exams.

Focus on flashcards

“I’m a giant fan of flashcards because you’re encoding information in a number of ways,” Levy said.

Levy said flashcards require students to write down information, visually review the information and when used in groups, verbally relay the information. By mixing study formats, students are able to maximize the time they would typically spend using only one format, Levy said.

“Combining the writing, visual and vocal methods of studying into one will help you retain more information.”

CU junior Wylee Price said she uses flashcards to study Russian.

“Russian is something you have to study every day so you need to find new ways to study it and flashcards are just one way I review,” Price said.

CU freshman Santiago Gonzalez said he uses flashcards to prepare for some classes but he alters his study habits, depending on the topic and test format.

“It depends on the class for me,” Gonzalez said. “I have been using Study Blue online to make electronic flashcards, notes and take practice tests.”

Gonzalez said foreign languages warrant flashcards more than other subjects, but he tries to study concepts for social science classes.

Be the teacher

Price spent Thursday morning tutoring a younger Russian student while also preparing herself for her Tuesday final. She said teaching someone else is one of the best ways of reviewing the language.

“If you can explain it to someone else, you know it,” Levy said. “Helping someone else learn something is one of the best ways to make sure you understand it.”

Levy said teaching someone else will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of the subject using verbal communication. By talking through the subject, students are forced to explain the point to themselves before they can relay it to others.

Find five key points

Levy said for students who are waiting until the last minute to study, focusing on five main topics can be a good way to make the most of limited time.

“I would always suggest first that students try to review throughout the semester that way they’re not trying to cram it all in the night before,” Levy said. “But if you are waiting, focus on five main points and know them really well.”

Write it down

CU sophomore Maddison Moore said she’s already begun studying for finals and writing information down has been the easiest way for her to remember things.

“I rewrite and retype my notes,” Moore said. “Then I review my notes and that usually works best for me.”

CU freshman Laura Gordan said writing also helps her retain information but she may rethink her process after getting the results of her first final exams.

“I like to write things down in color and highlight,” Gordan said.

Levy said when students rewrite their notes, they’re not only copying it, they’re forced to reread the material as well, giving students a visual and motorized handle on the material.

Stay calm

Levy said taking care of basic needs is a common, but necessary tip that students should remember during finals week.

“Take care of your core needs, plan ahead and incorporate breaks,” Levy said. “Thinking about core needs throughout the week, eating well, drinking water, exercise and not drinking alcohol can put (students) in a place to perform well.”

Gordan said stress makes it difficult for her to perform well so she’s focused on staying calm and waiting until close to her finals to start cramming.

Levy said there is one tip that could help students like Gordan get through last minute: all nighters.

Brain Dump

“You could do something called the brain dump,” Levy said. “The second you get the exam it would be totally appropriate to start writing things down immediately on the corner or the back of the exam.”

The brain dump is a quick and dirty way to survive a final.

“If you’re holding information in the front of your brain, just get it down on paper as fast as you can,” Levy said. “Then you can refer to your notes during the test and by the time you get to the end, it’s still fresh.”

Levy suggests combining the five key points method and the brain dump to help maximize success.

“Get those five key points down before the test and then you can focus on the exam and use the notes you’ve written as a reference,” Levy said.