Finals Season: The Art of Exam Crushing

It’s season of finals! (I’m talking mathematics examinations, not these or these finals 🙂 Here are five quick tips for crushing exams.

  1. (Night B4)^2. Unfortunately, many exams require lots of memorization. The universe sucks in this respect, but it’s true nonetheless. So if you have serious exam cramming to do, remember to do it the night before the night before. Your brain needs more than a single night to absorb. Two days before your exam, do all your big memorization. The actual night before is better spent otherwise.
  2. Cartoons. After doing all of your cramming and crunching the night before the night before your exam, you have time to chill. And you have to force yourself to chill. The night before your exam, you should watch cartoons. Relax. Have a beer if that’s your routine (moderation!). Laugh. Have fun. Try to keep your mind off your exam. And most importantly, get lots of sleep the night before!
  3. Flash Cards. Don’t be ashamed. They may seem nerdy. They may remind you of elementary school. They are analog. Whatevs, flash cards are a bomb study tool. They’re not only good for cramming definitions. They can be useful to remember or to organize your thoughts. Get your exam homies together, and write every theorem, corollary and lemma for a given course on flashcards. Then, spread the cards out on your floor in a way that reflects which results are closer to each other. That’s an awesome way to construct a visual representation of course content. There’s a million ways to use flash cards. Get creative. There’s no shame in doing so.
  4. Old Exams. Just like Dr. W. told us in her post about quals, it’s a great idea to ask faculty or the department administrator for copies of old final exams. If they don’t have any, you’re no worse off. If they do have exams, they usually add great insight into the level of difficulty, emphasis and format of your exam. Solving problems on old exams is a great way to study.
  5. Study Buddies/Exam Homies. Perhaps most importantly, don’t go it alone! Discussing mathematics is crucial. Don’t only study alone. Even if, here at the end of the semester, you have no friends in your class, it’s still cool. Just ask some folks to form a study group. Set up some firm meeting times. The union of your knowledge will be more than any individual, so everyone benefits. And your exam homies can explain material to you in a way that’s different from your instructor or TA’s. Make it a team effort: you and your homies against the exam, instead of a competition between students.

This is your time to shine, like a CP3 tripple double, or a Messi corner. Go forth and crush your exams!

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