Finals Season at U-M: What it Looks Like, How to Prepare, and More

Finals season is fast approaching at U-M! Whether you’re a prospective student or in your last semester, here’s what you need to know about preparing for finals.

By Maryam Masood April 13, 2021
flowing tree in spring on campus

We’re about one week away from the last day of the semester. How is that even possible? I remember being at home in August and trying to picture what fall would look like – back then when we had little idea what it would mean to swap our classrooms for bedrooms and daily walking routes between classes for 10 minutes of phone time that never seemed to be enough before hopping onto the next Zoom. And the next.

But now we’re in the home stretch, and many of us at U-M will soon be going through the wondrous time of year that is finals. Typically, finals week commences the week after classes end (this year, Wednesday, April 21 will mark the last day of the semester). In a regular year, you would typically take any written exams in person within a pre-scheduled two-hour time block.

Since this year classes have shifted online, finals have taken on more varied forms – from proctored exams over Zoom to exams that you can take at your leisure within a 24-hour period. For most social science/humanities classes, you’ll most likely have a final paper or project in lieu of a written final that you submit online, global pandemic or not.

Whether you are a prospective student wondering what it will be like to take your first ever U-M exams or a current student looking for study motivation, here are some tips to get you on the right track as you think about preparing for finals.

1. Start studying early

This advice might seem obvious, but it is trickier to implement at the end of the semester, when you are burnt-out and trying to complete final assignments. Instead of committing yourself to what you might normally consider “studying” – long hours of vicious practice exams and watching your word count slowly but surely crawl up – start small.

Compile any resources (notes, review sheets, formulas, readings) you will need before studying. Start looking through any posted review materials and thinking about what questions you have on course content. Work on a couple (even just one or two) practice problems that you know are bound to crop up on your exam. Flesh out an outline for any papers you might have, or just throw some ideas onto a page.

There is nothing worse than when you get to the day or two before your final and realize you have not studied at all. But if you have already started, even a little, you’ll feel less mentally overwhelmed and more prepared whenever you do take or turn in your exam.

laptop computer on desk

2. Prioritize prepping for your most stressful finals

Let’s face it: If you’re a full-time student at U-M, you’re probably taking anywhere from three to six classes, and that’s without accounting for any potential extracurriculars, work, or research involvements. Obviously, if you have the capacity to allot your time so that you can fully prepare for each of your finals, do it. But if you do not see this working out, be honest with yourself. What classes are causing you the most stress? Prioritize studying for those classes early and regularly, and then block off a day or two to focus on finals that you find less intimidating.

3. Take intentional breaks

Emphasis on the intentional. There is oftentimes a lot of guilt associated with taking breaks, especially during the days leading up to exams when you feel like you need to make use of every waking second. But whether you want to or not, at some point you’ll need to step back from your work to recharge. It’s almost always better to do so at a time of your choosing than because you're wiped out from studying all day. Whatever breaks look like for you – taking walks, watching your favorite show, or catching up with friends – schedule some time every day to relax.

steps going up on nature trail

At the end of the day, we’ve made it through an almost-entirely virtual academic year, so you’ve already won a large victory before even taking your finals. But for those of you who were looking for some study motivation for finals, I hope you found it here!

Maryam Masood

Maryam Masood (she/her) is a senior in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts majoring in Organizational Studies. During the year, she keeps busy managing the Michigan Refugee Assistance Program and working as a trainer at Rec Sports. Outside of class and work, she can most likely be found making another cup of coffee, procrastinating at the CCRB, or rewatching Kim's Convenience on Netflix.