Finals Week. It's the temporary trip to hell for every student, cramming and reviewing an entire semester's worth of material within a measly weekend, before being drowned within a sea of scantrons and multiple choice answers for an entire week. Essentially the true "nightmare before Christmas," finals week multiplies the stress and pressure atop students but also brings out the best. For me, I find myself becoming more creative and realizing patterns along the way on tips and tricks that teachers use to make their tests. Along the years, I've been able to recognize answers that definitely wouldn't be correct, as well as the actual important information that needs to be known for my tests. In all, it has helped me be a better student and preform better when taking these dreadful tests.
Tip #1: Know your teacher!
Now, I'm not saying that you need to be your teacher's best friend, but as s/he does her lessons in class, always keep watch on what she chooses to deal with/ figure out first when approaching problems. In math, for example, if s/he always chooses to simplify first, then distribute, etc. — simply first, too. For science, if your teacher chooses to draw the diagram, etc. first, then also draw the diagram first. Thinking about questions the way that your teacher would think about the question is a lot better and easier than guessing or trying to figure out a question unconventionally. After all, they're the ones that made the test, right?
Tip #2: Know yourself!
This may sound easy, but entering high school is only when I truly found out who I am and how I study best. Some people may study better in groups, thinking aloud and communicating, but for others, earphones and a quiet room is their best environment. Find your environment and make the best use of it. Try not to place distractions such as your phone near your study space and set small goals along the way as you go. As you continue to break these goals, you'll feel empowered to keep going. A mistake many people make is looking at studying as a whole, as a problem. Instead of seeing a semester's worth of work, they see a 70 paged study guide. This in itself is stressful enough, but through setting small goals, essentially dividing the work, you're also dividing the amount that you have to study. The 70 paged study guide is then broken up into units and lessons, and you'll be surprised how much you remember. By the end, you most likely only have to study around 30, both a win for you, your time and grade.
Tip #3: Be reasonable!
Final exams are just 100 minutes long, which may seem like a time constraint to just you, but it's also a time restraint to your teachers. Think about it this way, over the course of five months, you teach your class everything they have to know for the final: going into six units worth of work, material and lessons for them to know and be able to remember once they take it. However, the six units each are broken up into say, four different lessons each. That's 24 lessons in total, all with different information, main ideas and concepts. Now, you have to fit all this information within one test — only 100 questions max. What would you ask?
The answer is only the important information! Teachers can't simply afford to use test time and questions to ask vague material that's most likely not going to appear again in future lessons or in tests in the future, such as the AP exam. Finals are meant to test students on how well they're able to develop an understanding for the semester's worth of material as a WHOLE, not per unit or per lesson. Realizing continuities, how ideas build off of one another and how smaller details taught come together to form a grander picture in grander systems and theories is what's most important, and will most likely show up on the final. Many believe that in order to be completely prepared, it's essential to reread an entire textbook, which isn't necessary.
As long as you know yourself, your teacher and how smaller concepts come together and interact to form major concepts, an A is almost guarenteed!