It's getting close to the end of another term. Whether it's your first or your last, here are some suggestions to help you prepare for final exams.

"I don't love studying. I hate studying.

I like learning. Learning is beautiful."

Natalie Portman

Thinking back to when you were first considering enrolling in an online degree program, you probably recall someone telling you that online courses were easy.

But had that person actually taken an online course?

Now that you are an online student, you can dispel that myth. Online courses are not easier than traditional on-ground classes.

The truth is that online classes are often more rigorous: not only are they reading and writing intensive, but shorter terms for online degree programs make coursework more demanding.

In addition, online learners need be self-disciplined and self-motivated.

With that in mind, here are some ideas that may help you as an independent and self-reliant adult learner prepare for final exams.


1. Jump the gun.

Start early. Research shows we retain information more effectively when we learn across multiple study sessions rather than cramming. Give yourself plenty of time for review.


2. Make a study plan.

Identify the pockets of time in your week you can dedicate to studying. Then maximize that time by creating goals focused on specific outcomes. Chunk up large tasks such as writing a paper into smaller, more manageable pieces. Set mini deadlines. And write it down on a calendar. Putting your plan on paper holds you accountable and enables you to stay on track.


3. Communicate your study plan.

Let family and friends know when you have scheduled time to study and ask for their support and flexibility when scheduling family events or other obligations.


4. Start with the most challenging concepts.

It's easy to put off studying the material that is most difficult because it's uncomfortable. Avoid that temptation by doing what's hardest for you first.


5. Pace yourself.

Be realistic in determining what you can accomplish each day or during each study session. This is an important element in making a study plan.


6. Separate the essential from the non-essential.

Time is limited and you can't study everything. So sift through your course materials and determine which concepts are the most important. What has the professor emphasized?


7. Create study guides.

Throughout the term, take notes and summarize passages as you read. Then before finals, go back through your notes and course materials and create a study guide in the format that's best for you: note cards, outlines and summary sheets are a few examples.


8. Find a place with minimal distractions.

Writing a discussion post at your desk during lunch might work during the term, but for more concentrated study you may need quieter surroundings.


9. Ask questions.

Professors want to see you succeed. It never hurts to reach out to get a better idea of what topics will be covered on the exam. Most will be happy to share more details.


10. Work when you're at your best.

If possible, schedule studying for the time of day when you feel most alert. Tune into your biological clock – highs and lows in your energy level – so you can optimize your peak performance times.


11. Don't overcommit in your personal life.

This is important throughout the term to allow yourself time for your education, but it's critical during crunch time at the end of the term. Clear your calendar so there are no excuses.


12. Self-test.

Self testing increases retention rates and can help you gauge your weaknesses. Use practice quizzes and tools like Quizlet or Study Stack. Answer the questions at the end of a chapter or step through subheadings and explain the section to yourself without re-reading.


13. Stay positive.

Approach your studying with a positive outlook, even if you are tackling a challenging subject. Staying positive will help you grasp the material.


14. Do one thing at a time.

In our multi-tasking world, staying focused on one thing at a time takes discipline. First of all, stick to your study schedule. Close all programs and browser tabs you don't need for the task at hand. Turn off your phone. Set a timer.


15. Take breaks.

In addition to improving your concentration, breaks enable your brain to process the information you've been studying. Even a short break can be an effective transition clearing your mind for the next task. Remember to stand up and move around if you've been sitting for a while.


16. Prepare your body for the exam.

You've worked hard studying to prepare your mind for your final exam. Do the same for your body. Get a good night's rest. Eat a healthy breakfast. Stay hydrated. Give yourself a few moments of quiet before you take the test.


17. Remember these test-taking tips.

  • As soon as you start the test, write down any critical information you think you could forget during the exam.

  • Preview the entire test and anticipate how long it will take to complete.

  • Read all instructions carefully. They contain important information.

  • Answer the easy questions first. This increases your confidence and then you can plan how you will work through the rest of the test.

  • If you don't know an answer, leave it blank and move on.

  • Answer the questions you initially skipped, guessing at any remaining questions. Remember not to make questions more difficult than they are.

  • Review the entire test before submitting.

  • Use all of the test time.


18. Tap academic resources early.

As an online student at Saint Leo, there are multiple resources you can access for extra help – the Learning Resource Center; Cannon Memorial Library Writing and Research Support and the digital resources librarian.


19. Remember your motivation.

Remind yourself why you're working so hard and what your goal is – the longer-term benefits of a college degree for short-term sacrifice. If it's important to you to be a role model for your children, tack their photo to your monitor. Whatever it takes to keep your eye on the finish line.


20. Reward yourself.

You've earned it! Rewards don't need to be material. Do something fun. Have a date night with your significant other or take an excursion with your children or a friend – a bike ride, picnic or hike. It doesn't matter what you do as long as it lifts you up, refreshes your mind and body and gets you ready for the next term.

Do you have any other tips for end-of-term success? Please share in comments below!

Image credit: restyler on Shutterstock