Spring is the time for finals, AP/IB tests, and a variety of other end-of-school year exams. Doing well usually means studying, but students sometimes run into snags while they’re working toward high grades. In fact, it’s possible that when they’re “studying”, they  actually may be wasting valuable time. Here are a few tips for making your studying as productive as possible.


1. Know what will be tested. This may seem obvious, but not all final exams are cumulative: your teachers may decide to use their finals to test only the second half of the year’s material, or may give you a list of topics that the final will test in more detail than others. You have a limited time to study, so make sure you’re focused on reviewing the right content!

2. Once you know what will be on the test, make a list of your weakest topics/areas. Of the material to be tested, there are probably a few concepts or topics that gave you trouble the first time through. Look back at your old tests, quizzes, homework assignments, and notes to distinguish these concepts/topics. Make a list and designate these as your first priority for review.

3. Adjust your approach where necessary. Let’s say that in February, you just couldn’t get your Civil War timeline straight, or that in March, rational functions really got you down. Obviously, something didn’t click the first time around, so don’t expect to achieve better results on your finals by studying these topics the same way. For reading-heavy subjects like history, find a different way to outline and summarize the information: drop the index cards and instead build yourself timelines detailing historical periods, outlines of important events and people, and summaries of overarching topics. For logic-oriented subjects like math, make sure you understand the underlying concept, not just the rote procedure. Work through old problems and take special note of where you get stuck.

4. Seek help if you’re struggling. If you’re unable to figure things out yourself, seek help from a friend, a teacher, a tutor, or the wealth of instructional videos and virtual books available on the internet. The information and expertise is out there, and it’s likely that with the right combination of resources, you can do very well. You simply have to take the initiative to get help when you need it.