By Alex Bacon/The AS Review

As dead week and finals week inch closer with every tick of the second hand, more and more students are beginning to think about studying for finals. 

"Last minute studying is no substitute for good learning practices throughout the year," Assistant Director of the Tutoring Center Barbara Quick said.  If people haven’t been keeping up throughout the quarter nothing is going to make a huge difference, she said.

The best place to start when studying is to review notes from lectures and textbooks, Melissa Reed, a study skills tutor at the Tutoring Center, said. 

"Review is the most important part of retention of material covered," Reed said.  What a teacher says in class is usually what they think is the most important, she added. 

Another good thing to do is form a study group, Reed suggested.  A good way to help yourself remember the material is by teaching it to others.  A study group is also a support group that can help you by explaining material you may not understand. 

Students should prioritize their studying based on what material they have the hardest time remembering and how their finals schedule is set up, Reed said.  By now, students should know the format of the tests in each class since midterms are over.  They should also know which tests will likely give them the most trouble. 

For students who don’t know how to study effectively, Reed suggests reviewing notes and using flash cards, timelines, charts, mind maps and detail trees.  Mind maps and detail trees are drawings with the subject in the center of a page and lines connecting ideas and details to the subject.  Mind maps and detail trees are especially effective for visual learners, Reed said. 

Reed also suggested talking to professors about the material the tests will cover.  Asking for sample questions or study guides if they aren’t already provided is a good idea. 

For essay tests, it can be helpful to make an outline for sample questions the teacher might have posted or that students make up for themselves, Reed said.  She also recommended that students time themselves as they write their outlines, as finals are generally timed. 

While it is ideal to leave plenty of time to study for finals, some students may find themselves with too much material and too little time. Cramming, however, should be a last resort.

Cramming usually includes all-nighters and students need a good night’s sleep before tests, Reed said.

"Cramming is not good because with daily and weekly review and proper amounts of study time, you’ll retain information better," Reed said.  "Studying stores knowledge in your long-term memory.  Cramming stores it in the short-term.  Constant review will help you remember information better."

But if you find yourself needing to cram, there are three steps to make the most out of a cram session, Reed said.  Step one:  be selective.  Use chapter summaries and concentrate on class notes.  Chapter summaries and class notes are usually what the author of the textbook and the professor consider to be the most important things to remember.

Step two:  avoid all-nighters. "Fatigue increases anxiety and decreases your reasoning ability," Reed said.

Step three:  take breaks.  Reed suggested working in 30 to 90 minute blocks with a five to 10 minute break every hour.  She said a healthy break would be getting up to take a drink of water, getting a snack or going to the bathroom.   

Whether it is for a cram session or a quick review, picking the right environment to study in is also an important consideration. Where students study most effectively depends on the student, Reed said.  Some students need complete quiet.  For those students, she suggested studying on the fifth floor of the library, which is a "quiet floor," or studying in empty classrooms. 

Other good places to study are the Tutoring and Math Centers or other departmental tutoring centers, Reed said.  She suggested studying where you won’t get distracted. If people are coming in and out constantly it’s hard to concentrate.

Students who experience test anxiety can talk to the staff at the Tutoring Center.  If a student suffers from a physiological or mental responses, such as sweating palms or nausea, that make it difficult or impossible to perform at a normal level on tests, they can talk to the Counseling Center, Quick said.  If students are diagnosed with test anxiety, disability services can arrange accommodations.