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When Did We Learn This?: The Art of Studying for Finals

With one week left before finals start, most people have started stressing out and losing sleep over taking the finals. To help everyone out, I’ll go through a few easy steps, which I follow myself, for preparing for final exams.

With one week left before finals start, most people have started stressing out and losing sleep over taking the finals. To help everyone out, I’ll go through a few easy steps, which I follow myself, for preparing for final exams.

‘ ‘ ‘ Let’s say you start to consider studying Monday night one week before finals start (because why would you ever start any earlier? You never remember anything beyond a week).
‘ ‘ ‘ You start off by getting everything together you need to study for exams. You have an environmental science, English, ITM and math exams.
‘ ‘ ‘ You’re automatically going to rule out studying for the English because you think, ‘what could I possibly look at for English, I know how to write and I can speak the language. The question will probably be something like ‘Describe a time in your life when you felt discriminated against or left out. Tell how you overcame this and why it’s important to be accepting of others in the world.”
‘ ‘ ‘ After feeling as if you accomplished something by disregarding English you also think, ‘Why would I study for ITM? I’m on Facebook and Youtube for like six hours a day. I know how to use a computer.’
‘ ‘ ‘ At this point you’re already half way there!
‘ ‘ ‘ See how easy finals have become?
‘ ‘ ‘ Now you only have two finals left to study for!
‘ ‘ ‘ You figure you have eight environmental science PowerPoints with about 40 slides in each totaling at 320 slides. With seven days until that exam you can study 45.7 slides per night. Easy right!
‘ ‘ ‘ You figure there are about 15 key math formulas you need to memorize to do fine on the exam so that’s just 2.14 formulas per night to memorize and you’ll be fine!
‘ ‘ ‘ After figuring out exactly what you need to do for your finals you decide you might as well get your first night of studying done. As you sit down your suitemate comes in and says, ‘Halo tournament in five minutes, you better be there.’
‘ ‘ ‘ Now of course you’re more disciplined than that and you’re not going to let him get to you that easily.
‘ ‘ ‘ He responds with, ‘Oh that’s fine I guess, I just didn’t know you were a (insert random profanity).’
‘ ‘ ‘ Well obviously you’re not whatever he just called you so out of self respect you have to play with him for the next two to three hours. By time you’ve finished playing and almost getting in a physical fight because you swear your friend is ‘screen looking’ it’s now 11 p.m. and there’s still some time to study.
‘ ‘ ‘ Oh but wait, you just realized a new episode of ‘Tool Academy’ is on and god knows you’re not missing that. You can study tomorrow.
‘ ‘ ‘ As the next night comes around you sit down and start reviewing those environmental science PowerPoint’s. You read the same slide six times and realize you can’t recall anything you’ve read or even what the picture is on the slide. After reading it in your head then reading it out loud because you convinced yourself that will drill it into your brain, you still have no idea what an ‘Aridosol’ is.
‘ ‘ ‘ Then you think, ‘Maybe if I just go through every slide really quickly I’ll pick up a few things!’ So after going through 40 slides in 15 seconds you realize that doesn’t work either. Time for a break, even though you haven’t accomplished anything you feel like you deserve it because you’re ‘trying really hard’ and that’s all that matters. It’s now 1130 p.m. and as you sit back down to study you realize ‘Old School’ is playing on TBS and you haven’t seen that movie in so long and you have to watch it because who knows when it’ll be back on TV (most likely the next day).
‘ ‘ ‘ So it’s been two days now and you’ve gotten nothing done (and what happened to studying math?) but today you know you’re getting it done. As sit down at your desk you see the huge stack of books next to you and realize, ‘I could sell these back right now!’ You can get it out of the way early while there’s no lines and make plenty of money back (without telling your parents of course). As you walk to the book store you start doing math in your head (which is kind of like studying) for how much money you should get back for each book.
‘ ‘ ‘ You think, ‘Hopefully they’ll give me back around 50 percent of how much I paid for each book. That would be fair.’ As you hand the cashier ‘What is the What,’ you figure you should get around eight or nine dollars back. ‘We can buy this back for $1.25 sir,’ the cashier says.
‘ ‘ ‘ Unless you misheard the cashier, which is what you’re hoping, a book you haven’t even read has depreciated in value by 95 percent since you bought it. You’re going to take the money anyway because what else can you do with a book. Read it?
That’s not going to happen. Now as you hand the cashier your math textbook you’re thinking, ‘This is the big one I paid $100 for this, please give me something back.’
‘ ‘ ‘ ‘I’m sorry sir we can’t buy this back. See you have the September 2008 edition of the calculus book, and the school now only sells the new February 2009 edition. Your book is worthless.’
‘ ‘ ‘ That’s great! How much could have possibly changed in the math world between those few months to constitute a whole new book? At least you have something to burn now if you get bored. After walking back to the dorm with your new used book fortune of $8, you’re too pissed off to study tonight because of how the school screwed you.
‘ ‘ ‘ As the weekend comes around you still haven’t studied at all and aren’t prepared in any way for your exams, but you can’t study now it’s the weekend, come on! Time to go out!
‘ ‘ ‘ You decide you don’t want to get too crazy though because finals are coming up which means drinking one less beer (maybe) and coming back to the dorm at 2 a.m. instead of 3 a.m. By setting rules like this it’s easier to keep that goal fresh in your mind to do well on your exams.
‘ ‘ ‘ Somehow it’s already Sunday night and you’re first final is tomorrow morning. You don’t know where the time has gone and think, ‘I swear I’ve studied some, I must have.’ But secretly you know you haven’t.
‘ ‘ ‘ Now it’s time to get serious. It’s 9 p.m. and you locked yourself in your room with the shades closed and only your desk light on. No distractions. You just pounded down two Red Bulls and are more focused than ever.
‘ ‘ ‘ You’ve been going over your math formulas for the past hour and you’ve become so consumed in it when you look up you feel like Neo in the Matrix because the world has just turned into a stream of numbers. You’ve studied for a good two hours and it’s time to move onto environmental science.
‘ ‘ ‘ As you’re going over the PowerPoint slides in ‘the dungeon’ as you now call your room, your hands start to shake from the caffeine but there’s no time to think about your health.
‘ ‘ ‘ It’s now 3 a.m. and the only things you can think about are how to solve the limit of tangent x over x as x approaches zero, and how everything humans do is killing the environment. You can’t even remember your own name or where to go to college anymore, but you did it, you’re ready for your exams.
‘ ‘ ‘ As you wake up the next morning and take a seat in your math class feeling confident and ready, the exam is handed out and you look down at your first question and think to yourself, ‘When the hell did we learn this?’

John Jacobs may be reached at jjacobs@ut.edu.

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