Skip to main content

How to Study or Cram for Midterms or Final Exams

How to Study (or cram!) for Midterms or Final Exams

Final exams are coming up - aka dead week! 

For anyone setting a New Year’s resolution to get better grades or sustain good grades, this article should be super helpful in helping you exit the school year with a BANG.

Though it’s better to start studying for your finals early on, I know that some people will still end up being last-minute, so here’s a quick rundown on how to study for exams whether you have a long way to go, or are cramming last minute.

1. Figure out the most important things to study

What’s most Common on the test?

If you know what percentage of each topic the exam is based around - you’re extremely lucky! When you’re really pressed for time, stick to the topics that are the most prevalent. If a topic you don’t know is only 1% of a 100 question test - and you’re cramming - DON’T learn the content for that topic! Stick to content that you don’t already know but makes up a majority of the test - such as something that’s 20% or 45% of the test. 

What areas do you personally need the most work on?

To really maximize your time you have to figure out what topics you don’t fully know or understand.

If you're cramming: Just look at old Unit tests and see where you had the most trouble. Taking a practice test and also grading it might take a long time to work on.

Long-term studying: Take an online practice test or complete a review packet given to you by your teacher. This practice test can be anything whether that’s a vocab quiz (Quizlet) all the way through, a multiple choice quiz or even writing an essay. I suggest also studying any questions where you think you GUESSED because that means you don’t know the content as well as you should.

Once you’re finished with whatever practice test, check it honestly (or have someone else grade it for you if it’s an essay) and identify all your wrong answers in addition to why you got them wrong.


Question: Factor the expression 2x^2 + 7x - 30

My (wrong) answer: (2x+5)(x-6)

Why I got it wrong: Careless mistake, I was rushing. I already know how to function factors, I just accidentally flipped over the negative and positive signs.

What to study: Nothing. If it was a careless mistake you just need to be more careful, it doesn’t mean you don’t know the content.

Question: Among the intermolecular forces, which intermolecular forces are typically the weakest?

My (wrong) answer: hydrogen bonds

Why I got it wrong: I honestly don’t know/understand any of the intermolecular forces in Chemistry.

What to study: Go back to old lessons and practices to actually learn the content. If you don’t know something, go back and learn it.

2. Schedule your time for Studying

Schedule time to study

If you only have 5-7 days or less left before your Final Exams and you haven’t studied ahead of time - you may need to spend a LOT of time studying for the next few days to really guarantee yourself a good grade.

Your first step in studying for Finals is to divide each class into units and write these units out into a list. Then assign yourself a few units for each day and make a schedule - you can write this anywhere you’ll remember to look at it, whether it’s a planner, google calendar, spreadsheet, or a scrap of paper.

PSST! Here’s a free spreadsheet you can make a copy of to help organize. :)


Math Final date: May 14th

Take practice Test                                        May 4th

Complex numbers                                       May 5th

Function Algebra                                          Cut out*

Graph Behavior                                           May 6th

Polynomial and Rational Functions             May 7th

Exponential, Log, and Piecewise functions May 8th

Conic Sections                                             May 9th

Sequences and Series                                  May 10th

Full Review                                                 May  11th

Full Review                                                 May 12th

* If there’s a unit/topic that you know really well, feel free to cut it out of your schedule to spend more time on other parts of the class. As you can see I’ve also placed Full Review days towards the end to just review everything all together once again. This might involve more practice tests. If a subject is harder for you make sure to adjust your schedule to spend more time on harder classes/units.

3. Actually start studying!

Get out your flashcards, notes, old lessons, videos, textbooks, and prep books, that might help you study! Use any of the strategies below (or your own!) and work through the schedule you made for yourself.

Closed Textbook Notes

For this method, write notes or make a model of what you remember from a class - but with your textbook closed. Afterward, double-check with your book and notes to fill in any gaps of information you might have missed.

This strategy is efficient and requires you to use active recall skills that stimulate your brain and will be better at moving information from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.

Make a Visual

Regular visuals and organizers are really helpful for storing information in your memory for longer.

If it’s for a History class try creating a
  • Venn diagram
  • A web
  • A timeline. 
  • Cause and Effect organizer 

If it’s for a Science class:
  • Draw a scientific process step by step (i.e. Protein Synthesis, Cellular Respiration, etc.)
  • Draw and label a diagram (i.e. The human skeleton)
  • Venn Diagram (i.e. Different types of classifications)

But it’s also possible to attach an image to vocabulary words that you use in language classes and other subjects. Linking a very dramatic mental image to a word can be super helpful.

For example, to remember the Spanish word “caber” which means “to fit” you can visualize a large bear trying to fit itself into a taxi cab. This is helpful because it helps you remember that its pronunciation sounds like “cab” and “bear” together, and it means “to fit” because the bear is trying “to fit” itself into the cab. Images like these are really descriptive and are wild enough to be remembered.

Logically, this makes sense - because think about your last 5 years of life - what sticks out? Most likely what sticks out is big events, ends, and beginnings - probably not a mundane memory of you brushing your teeth a month ago.

Study with friends

Grab a friend or two for a quick study session and ask each other questions about the parts you don’t know. It’s a win-win for everyone because everyone’s questions are answered, and will also reinforce the concepts for whoever’s teaching or explaining. Just from discussing different parts with each other, you can learn a lot.

To motivate yourselves as a group, put a timer for one to two hours just for studying, and then plan to do something more fun afterward. But if you’re cramming and really pressed for time be sure to pair up with friends who won’t distract you. 

4. Ask your teacher questions - before it’s too late!

If your teacher has office hours during the school year, go visit them for extra help or shoot them a quick email. Hopefully, most of them will be happy to help. But make sure to ask them early on - the last thing you want to happen is to ask the teacher a long-winded question five minutes before the final! A lot of teachers probably won’t appreciate lateness.

5. Use your spare time, especially if you’re cramming

This may be extreme for some, but if you take the bus or are driven to school - that’s time you can use to be studying. Pull out the Quizlet app on your phone, or even paper flashcards and start drilling your facts. Even if you drive yourself to school, you can switch out Spotify for a YouTube video on a tough concept. If you finish your work early in a class, that’s time you can use to study. Remember, if you only have a week until finals but hate studying, remind yourself that you won’t have to study for long, so suck it up and keep working.

Tips for the Day Before

Take it easy and have some fun

Acute stress for even a few hours can negatively affect your memory - so take it easy. Preferably, don’t study the whole day before the final you’re taking. Cramming too much the day before might cause fatigue or bad performance. And after working hard for the last few days straight, nothing could be worse than seeing your grade drop lower after finals.

So don’t psych yourself out by thinking too much about your finals tomorrow. Plan to do something fun, completely unrelated to the exams the night before - maybe hang out with friends, watch Netflix, or work on a hobby.

Sleep for at least 8 hours (the more the better in my opinion)

How to  Study/Cram for Midterms

Obviously, without adequate sleep, your memory will not perform its best. Plan to unwind or do something that makes you sleepy - for some people that might be reading a particularly boring book or taking a hot bath before going to bed.

Screenshot for an easy To-Do-List based on whether you’re cramming or studying in advance:

  1. Take a practice test OR glance at scores for old tests
  2. Plan to work on what you don’t know and the subjects that make up the biggest portion of the test.
  3. Assign a certain number of units from each class to each day
  4. Start Studying (Use your time very wisely!)
  5. Ask teachers and peers questions for clarification

  1. Take a practice test to figure out what you need to focus on
  2. Assign a certain number of units from each class to each day 
  3. Start studying
  4. Ask teachers and peers questions for clarification

Related Articles:

📌 How to Study or Cram for Midterms or Final Exams

Pin it for Later:


Popular Posts

ACT Tips and Tricks to Score High

How to get a 30 or Higher on the ACT Are you taking the ACT to get into your dream college? Or do you have to take a school-administered ACT as an upperclassman? Well, no matter why you’re taking it, here are my top tips for the test and what I would do differently next time (Scroll down for detailed tips for each subject). I took my first ACT as a sophomore - and I scored a 33 composite (not a 36, but I’m still proud). I had scores of 31 in English, 33 in Math, 36 in Reading, and 30 in Science. Additionally, I took the optional Writing test and got a score of 10 out of 12 total points. I started studying in mid-July and booked a test appointment for October 10th. That’s around 3 solid months to practice, revise, and learn content.  General ACT Tips  Set a goal: What number do you want? This way, each time you score your test, you’ll have a general idea of how many questions you can get wrong, but still get the score you want.  If you’re trying to get into a certain college, you can

Free ACT Test Prep Resources

  The ACT is one of two standardized tests American High School students take to get into private colleges. Many students are aiming for a high score but are extremely stressed about it. The following free resources (and a few paid books) should help you get your best shot at a 36.  Online Practice Tests & Questions S ACT Prep Scroll down on the website for free full-length ACT Practice Tests. ACT Academy Free ACT prep straight from the company. Magoosh App Free real ACT Questions right from your phone with video explanations for more than 600 practice questions in all ACT sections. 2020-2021 ACT A new full-length ACT Practice Test along with a study guide, test rules, and strategies.  Khan Academy SAT I recently saw a Tik Tok of someone saying they got a 36 by using Khan Academy’s free SAT practice. Though using the SAT practice might sound weird, both the tests have many commonalities, so this is probably a great idea if you’re taking either of the tests.  T

5 Steps to Eliminate Chronic Procrastination

In 2020 I made one New Year's resolution - and no it was not about my health - it was to stop procrastinating, or to "Take action".  As a rising sophomore in high school, I may not have as much to do as an adult, but the responsibilities are mounting! More schoolwork, extracurricular activities, sports, getting ready for my future, all while trying to maintain good relationships, happiness, and health.  Towards the end of 2019, I was a freshman which was around the same time TikTok became popular, and - need I say more? I was often sleep deprived because I wasted all my after school hours on my phone and then finally started working on homework late at night. It was procrastination at its finest.  I knew logically what I should do, but I couldn’t figure out how to motivate myself to do it.   Before January 2020 I decided that I was tired of living like this. I had procrastinated for months - at it didn't feel good.  Let me walk you through the 5 steps I took to