Finals are coming.

I’m guessing you haven’t forgotten this. Some of you have had last projects, last papers, or maybe even “last class” parties in Astronomy or whatever. But amidst that, lurking in the back-ground, remain finals.

1. Set Your Schedule

It’s important to look at a few factors when setting your most successful studying schedule. First, what finals do you have and when are they due. That’s the obvious one. But then you have to ask which ones are the easiest, which one you’re going to bomb no matter what, and which is you’re can’t-screw up one. You also have to pick your studying strategy; do you put your most time into your worst classes, or do you try to make sure you ace your best classes, and, since studying for your worst class is hardest, do as little as that as possible under the assumption that it’s a waste of time. Whatever your strategy is, make sure you divide your timing to best fit your goals.

2. Teamwork!

Play well with others. You learned this in pre-school, but it applies here as well. If you study hard, even by yourself, you only have your own materials to work with. Your notes might not be enough, or they might be wrong, or you might forget to check something out. Studying with someone else makes sure that you have at least another person’s mind and notes to double-check your own assumptions. That way, even if you screw up, you know someone else did too.

3. Alone-Work!

Okay, teamwork is great, and an important tool for studying. But it isn’t the only tool. The biggest problem I have- and other people have too- is lounging around in groups with friends and then calling it quits. Because you’re with a bunch of other people it can be easy to assume you’ve worked hard enough even if you haven’t; after all they think they’ve studied enough; haven’t you?

Maybe, but maybe not. So after your teamwork, put in some extra time alone where you can’t be distracted or rushed to accept something you aren’t quite sure of.

4. Pacing!

You cannot cram as well as you think. That’s a fact. Finals week is a marathon, not a race. So study over the weekend; put in an hour here and there before you think you have to, and be sure to separate any big chunk of studying with a meal or a break to keep your mind sharp.

5. Sleep

This is an enormous one; I’d say it’s a rookie mistake, but even seasoned vets fall for it. So, let me say it here and now: an-all nighter is a siren call. It’s a trap. I know, I know- you’ll pull an all-nighter, take the test, nap, study, study, nap, study…it doesn’t work. Just one slip in that pattern and you lose your gains, and trust me, you will slip. At the very least, your sleep-deprived studying won’t be effective enough and your test will feel groggy and sloppy. An all-nighter fits a very specific need: it’s for pure desperation, or, to be used for your last project of finals if it’s a project; an essay, for example, is much better to write over the course of a night than an essay is to be taken sleepless.

6. Bonus Hack!

A quick bonus hack: Pepsi Max has the most caffeine per penny of any drink on the market when it comes in one of those big two-liter bottles. It also has zero calories. Two bucks should give you more than enough caffeine for the whole finals week.