Thursday, May 10, 2018

How to Study For Science Finals

It's finals week for me, which means I'll be drinking double the coffee, getting half the sleep, and my stress levels will be off the charts. College is funny because a lot of people believe that "Cs get degrees," but my plan for a while has been going to graduate school after I get my degree, so it is really important for me to do well and get good grades. Everyone studies in a slightly different way and people have different goals, but this is how I study for my finals. 

First off, just a little background. I'm taking five classes this semester and I have finals for four of them. I have molecular biology, a molecular biology lab (with a written final), evolution, and molecular biophysics. None of my classes this semester have been math or computational heavy, so I spend most of my time on conceptual questions. 

The most important thing to do before finals is to calculate the minimum score you would need to get the grade that you want. I know some teachers don't apply curves to the class until the final grades are in, so assume there isn't a curve when calculating this. Once you have this calculated you can combine it with your finals schedule to determine where you need to spend most of your time. For example, I have very solid grades in molecular and biophysics, so those are on the back burner for me. I have my lab final earlier in the week, so until I take that test, most of my time is focused on that, but after that test is done, all of my energy shifts towards evolution. 

After that, I go through a list of all the concepts covered during the semester for each class and highlight the topics that need a lot of help. If your syllabus has a schedule, that is the easiest way to get a topic breakdown of the semester. 

Next, I read through my notes fully. I take really thorough notes, so most of the time this helps me fill in any gaps in my conceptual knowledge. If not, I go through online lectures or powerpoint and try to get myself feeling confident about the material. 

Then it's time for practice tests. I am a huge believer in reading through notes and reviewing material before taking practice tests, which is why this is one of the last things I do. If you take practice tests first or if you take it with open notes, you're not getting an accurate idea of what you know and don't know. After the test, I see if there are any big concepts that I've gotten wrong, and study that material again. 

I like to start studying for finals around a week and a half ahead of time and I never, ever, cram the night before. Make sure you're not over-caffeinating (I have a friend that got really sick from this) and that you're getting enough food, water, and sleep. If you're still in high school or college let me know in the comments how you like to study for finals! And if you're not in school, let me know what you're most excited for this summer!


  1. Man -this brings me back to school days! I graduated now almost 2 yrs ago. What always worked best for me, other than learning the material, was doing tons and tons and tons of practical papers!

  2. That's so true! I love re-doing tests and practice problems to study.