Testing Tips and Tricks for Finals Week

Laptop with books and glasses
December 9, 2021

Are you ready for finals week? We've put together some tips to make the end of the semester easier, courtesy of the SCTCC Success Skills Team. Take a look!

Math Testing Tips

  • Use practice tests, review questions, past homework, and/or study guides as a way to get in the testing mindset. These are likely structured very similar to the test questions you will see.
  • When doing the test, do the ones you know first, and save the harder questions for later. It helps build confidence early in the test, ensures you don't miss out on points you could have had, and allows you to best manage your time during the test.
  • Do word problems scare you and lave you unsure where to start? Look for key words or phrases to help you find that starting point. Words like “mean” or “proportion” can help you determine which equation and table to use in statistics. Or phrases like “or equal to” being there or not can help you determine if a graph needs a dashed or solid line.
  • Know your calculator! Whatever calculator you plan on using during the test, use that when you practice so you know where the key functions are and how to navigate the device. It will save you a lot of stress the day of the test!
  • Write out your steps, even the ones that went in the calculator. This helps keep you organized and can even give you a starting point for those difficult questions rather than feeling nervous over not knowing what to do.

Science Testing Tips

  • Draw pictures of problems whenever you can, and label everything correctly.  This works well in chemistry and in the later chapters of biology with pedigrees.
  • Always answer the question that is asked.  Don’t try to add your own reasoning to the question.
  • Make flashcards to help remember key terms. The prefixes and suffixes can also give you hints as to the location of terms on a body, or the type of process taking place.
  • Try to answer the question before looking at the options. This helps you potentially avoid being stuck between a few choices and focus more on the question vs. the answer.
  • If the question is about a process and you don’t know where to start. Start with what you know!  You might not know the first step, but maybe you know the third step and are able to work backwards from there. 
  • If you feel anxious during the test, take a second to look away from the test and wiggle your fingers and toes and take a deep breath.  Like a mini reset.

Writing Tips

  • Pre-writing is an important step when working on a paper. This allows you to discover new ideas and possible directions that you can take with the paper. Pre-writing can involve creating lists, brainstorming, clustering, asking questions, and freewriting. Use pre-writing as an opportunity to get the creativity flowing.
  • Outlining allows you to map out the paper you intend to write. It allows for flexibility, but is beginning to provide you with the direction needed for the paper. Using outlining can help you discover areas that require more thought and research as you prepare to write your paper.
  • Researching is a key component of many essays. Reliable sources can be found on the SCTCC Library Website or Google Scholar. Research can be time consuming, so give yourself plenty of time to find sources that work for your paper. Also, be sure to read all of the article to ensure that it works with your argument. Sometimes research may cause you to modify the direction of your paper. If this happens, follow the research and modify your paper when appropriate.
  • Now that pre-writing, outlining, and researching is done. You are ready to write your first draft. The first draft will likely be rough and require considerable work. Don’t worry so much about that. Rather get your ideas on the page.
  • Revisit your paper and make the necessary changes. Some changes may be larger such as rewriting portions of the essay. Other parts may require minor revisions such as modifying word choice or reordering sentences. Editing requires the review of spelling and punctuation rules to ensure the correct placement of commas and appropriate spelling.  
  • See how long you have for the test and budget your time accordingly. If you tend to be taking too long on answering, finish quickly, and proceed to the next question. Be sure that you are answering what the question is asking and not what you think it might be asking. You can always return to an answer and expand if necessary.
  • Since you don’t have time to give the exam essay as much thought as a traditional essay, write it in plain language. Be straightforward in your answers. Answer only what you need to display your knowledge to the teacher. Do not get distracted by extra details.
  • If time allows, review your answers making sure they make sense, and add anything that might be missing. Double check the questions to make sure you have adequately answered them.

General Tips for Stress/Anxiety

  • Taking care of your basic needs is essential to function as your optimal self. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to navigate this busy and stressful time. Putting energy into getting enough sleep, eating healthy, nutritious foods, staying up on hygiene routines, making time for social connections, and finding ways to relax will actually keep your energy charged up to power through what you need to. This is the number 1 tip for a less stress finals week.
  • Using social media can make it more difficult to focus on tasks and drains time. The “quick check” of Facebook or Instagram can turn into significantly more time spent than intended. Raise your hand if you’ve ever lost track of time swiping through Tik Toks. It happens, even with the best intentions of not getting sucked into it. It is best to take a break from social media while you need to focus on finals prep, or at the very least restrict your use to a set time once a day.
  • It can be helpful to put down on paper the tasks floating around in your head. Once you can see what needs to be accomplished, it is easier plan, prioritize and make efficient use of time. This can also help make your to-dos feel more manageable. Plus it feels good to cross things off that list once you’ve completed them!
  • Often times, our perception of time, or lack thereof, can increase our stress and make the to-do list feel impossible to complete. Managing time efficiently can help you make the most of the time you have. Write out a schedule and include all of your basic needs too (eating, sleeping, showering, taking a break). Rewards or incentives after completing tasks worked into your schedule can also be a useful motivator.
  • Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is vital for our brain’s ability to retain and recall information and function most efficiently. Lack of sleep impairs your memory, mood and ability to process information. It may seem like a good idea to skip out on sleep to give yourself more time to study, but this will likely lead to increased stress.
  • This may seem like counterintuitive advice, but caffeine can contribute to problems with sleep and may increase anxiety, neither of which are ideal to be dealing with during finals time. If you are going to consume caffeine, try to avoid it in the afternoon and/or evening hours and balance your intake with equal amounts of water.
  • Relaxation doesn’t have to include scented candles and massages. It might, but there are many possibilities to what relaxation may entail for you. Listening to peaceful music, breathing exercises, letting out your artistic side, playing basketball with a friend, working on a puzzle, going for a walk, trying a relaxation app (such as Calm, Headspace, Breathe2Relax)… Explore what may work for you! A simple breathing exercise can provide some great relaxation, plus it’s fast and free! Try box breathing: breathe in for 4 counts, hold 4 counts, exhale 4 counts, hold 4 counts. Repeat this process 3 or more times for added benefit.
  • If you need to talk to someone about anything, SCTCC has a counselor for students that is free of charge. You can make an appointment with the Mental Health Professional at this link.

Need a little extra assistance with studying or a subject? SCTCC students have access to free tutoring at the CAS.

Kate Wallace