How to Study for a Comprehensive Final Exam

One of the great difficulties between high school and college is the prevalence of comprehensive final exams. In high school, most courses test primarily on the material that has been covered since the previous test. In college, suddenly students are expected to know material that has been covered since day 1. By the time that the final exam rolls around, this could mean material that was covered almost six months earlier. For students where learning new information often seems to force out old information to make room (just kidding), the comprehensive final often serves as a bit of a culture shock. Luckily, there are some tips that can be followed in order to best assure that students can make this adjustment and excel in their collegiate careers.

* Proper Note Taking: It sounds cliché, but there really is no substitute for good note taking in college. This means more than just taking a lot of notes. Anybody who knows shorthand can write down everything that the professor states, but that does not mean that they will have a good list of notes to work off of. In fact, this would lead to information overload and the student would never be able to filter out the important information that they need to focus on. A great way to ensure that notes are organized in a manner of importance is to take them in outline format. Outlines allow the student to organize their notes into grouped topics. The important matters of the class discussions are shifted farther to the left in the notes while the details are located more to the right.

* Regular Reviews: The worst thing that a student can do for a class with a comprehensive final examination is to wait until right before the final before reviewing the notes dealing with earlier topics. At some point, 'out of sight, out of mind' factors in and the student will never be able to recall all the important details throughout the semester based solely on their previous notes. However, this is easily countered by reviewing previous topics throughout the entire semester. This does not mean that the student needs to study everything every night. But rather, they should make sure that they have gone through all their notes on more of a weekly basis. They will likely find that even if they do not study every detail, the details will still stay fresh in their mind thanks to simply keeping the information in the short term memory queue.

* Do Not Panic: It sounds daunting, but at the end of the day, the comprehensive final is still just another test. It is likely going to be in a similar format to the tests taken earlier in the year - and if it differs greatly, the professor will almost always lay out those differences. In fact, many students often find comprehensive finals to be easier than sectional exams. This is because there is so much material to be tested on that the test givers may focus primarily on the most important and most easily recalled material. Meanwhile, typical exams may dig deeper into the details and harder to find items since there is less overall material to be tested on. It is also not uncommon for comprehensive finals to regurgitate test questions from previous exams that the student has already taken. At the end of the day, it is important for the student to keep to what works for him or her. Incorporate the items above into their previously successful studying habits and they will find the final exam to be no sweat.

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