Dreading Finals? Profs Share Exam Tips

DON’T LEAVE ANSWERS BLANK

It can be hard to make your brain believe this while you’re frantically scribbling away, but even if you’re out of time—or worse, completely stumped—you gain nothing by not answering a question. If your answer isn’t satisfactory, you at least stand a chance of gaining a few points, but if it’s totally blank, you get an automatic zero.

Moreover, your professor might be more understanding than you’d expect. “When it’s clear that someone has run out of time and they’ve written me a paragraph that gives me, in broad strokes, their understanding of the question, and it’s clear that they understand it, that [student] is in a very different position than someone who didn’t answer the question at all,” Goluboff said. 

YES, STUDY GROUPS ARE WORTH IT

Are you more of a lone wolf? In that case, joining a study group could seem like a risky move, rife with distracting conversations and weird social dynamics. Nevertheless, Abraham said what you gain by discussing the material with your peers becomes clear when finals roll around. “If you haven’t done that in the course of the semester, you’re at a big disadvantage and it’s hard to do anything to make up for that disadvantage in two days of studying,” he said. Just do your best to find a group you mesh with.

If nothing else, remember this: Your professors probably want you to do well. “Often there are issues in the questions that I haven’t seen in advance, and it’s only as the students write about them and discover and uncover issues that I see some issues myself,” Abraham mused. “And it’s wonderful sometimes to read an exam about which I say, ‘Oh, I hadn’t seen that, that’s terrific.’”

Good luck!