The four phases of studying for final exams

College students are no strangers to the most dreaded week of the semester – finals week. Freshman year you are likely to make a lot of mistakes regarding studying for exams, such as preparing too late or not preparing at all.

Even after learning what you absolutely should not do when it comes to finals week – you will likely still continue to make those mistakes. College students will time and time again cycle through the four phases of studying for finals, which almost always result in panic and chaos.

Phase 1: Three weeks before finals

The first stage of studying for finals usually starts about three weeks before exams, when the hellacious week seems far away and you are convinced that you will set aside time each week to do a little bit of studying.

During this phase, you feel like you have years, heck, even centuries until exams and you are not worried at all. Even though every semester you don’t even open a book until the night before an exam, this time will be different. You are going to be an absolute shining example of college student productivity.

Phase 2: One week before finals

The second stage of studying for finals starts around a week before exams. At this time you realize that you once again did not start studying for exams early like you swore you would. You still have an entire week to study for those finals, and everyone knows in college time that this is at least the equivalent of three months. You are going to start studying this weekend and then a little bit every day until your exams. You’re not worried at all!

Phase 3: Three days before finals

Studying over the weekend did not happen. You decided to watch the pilot episode of “Orange is the New Black” because your roommate wouldn’t shut up about how addicting it is. Well, Netflix kept playing the next episode, and you kept watching. Eight hours goes by really quickly when you don’t leave your bed all day.

You now realize that your exams start in three days, but that’s still plenty of time. You are going to go directly to the library after class and get started.

Phase 4: The night before exams

Three days is not as long as it seems. You spent the last two days doing anything but studying. You brushed your cat; you cleaned your ceiling fan; you organized your refrigerator; and remember that time you tried your hand at knitting—what better time to have a second go at it?

Procrastination was successful because it is now officially the night before exams and you are just now starting to study. Naturally you run through your most promising options: 1. Drop out of school, 2. Pretend to faint when you get to class for your exam or 3. Cry.

Ultimately, you pull an all-nighter and as 5 a.m. approaches you vow to start studying weeks in advance next time. You go into your exam looking like you just rose from the dead, but you take the exam, pass it and the world doesn’t end. You continue to pull all-nighters the remainder of exam week, and then go home and sleep for 15 hours. And when it comes to next semester? You do it all over again.


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