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Laney in front of the Old Well


Hi Tar Heels! My name is Laney and I’m a junior double-majoring in Music and Psychology here at UNC. I’ve loved my time at UNC so far, but if there’s one time of the semester that I start to dread — it’s finals week. Thankfully, I have had some time to find study tips that work for me and make every test just a little bit easier. I hope you all enjoy these tips and maybe even add them into your own study routine!


Tip #1 – Generate a Study Plan


An open planner with a pen on the paper


I am a planner. Between classes, music rehearsals, and my job on campus, I am bound to forget something if I don’t write everything down! I personally enjoy a good old-fashioned planner where I can plan out a basic outline of what I have going on during the week and then create more detailed daily plans. Nearing finals (about a week before), I begin to carve out about an hour per day to focus on the classes I have exams in. This allows me to focus on a different class every day, which helps to keep things from becoming monotonous and keeps me from having to cram as well (we’ve all been there, but why not try something new this semester?).


Tip #2 – Be Sure to Take Study Breaks


Cup of coffee in a mug that says but first coffee

Breaks ARE productive! Anyone who tells you otherwise is stressing themselves out a lot more than they need to. It’s psychologically proven that the brain retains information better when given breaks even as small as five minutes in between large chunks of information (say, a chapter that you reread.) Personally, I like to take 20-25 minute breaks after I finish tasks like annotating class outlines. This may feel like “wasting time” if you are not used to it, but in reality, this time that you take for yourself to eat a snack, listen to music, or even scroll on your phone helps to recharge you for more studying!


Tip #3 – Find a Cool and Comfortable Study Space


Students sit in chairs in the library wearing masks


The place where you choose to study is equally as important as how you choose to study. This is because study spaces that are distracting, too warm, or even too comfortable can sabotage your study efforts. Luckily for you, UNC has some stellar study spots. Into coffee shop studying? Try Port City Java (my freshman year go-to). Like a space with a view? Try the top floor of the Student Stores or the UNC Music Library Fishbowl with a view of the bell tower!


Tip #4 – Find a Study Partner or Group


Wilson Library and the quad

Group studying can be super helpful, especially if you are studying for a test with a lot of material. In this case, you can divide up topic areas and have one person in the group be an “expert” on each topic and then teach the other group about things they may not have realized about the topic. Teaching other people about something actually improves your own knowledge, as you have to explain the topic clearly enough so that your audience understands it! I also love having study dates with just one other person so we can bounce ideas off of each other. If you personally don’t understand a topic, there’s a good chance your partner might! One of my favorite study date spots is the quad!


Tip #5 –  Get Yourself in a Calm Mindset the Day before your Exams


The Old Well behind the bushes

After you’ve studied and understood the material as best as you can, the next step is to actually take the test. Test anxiety is a real and sometimes debilitating reality of many students worldwide. There are many ways to subvert the occasional anxious feelings before a test, including but not limited to: guided meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and my personal favorite, getting outside and taking a walk. I always find that time outdoors calms and helps me to feel grounded. While these techniques should help with occasional test worries, remember that you can always reach out to UNC Counseling and Psychological Services for assistance if that test anxiety becomes overwhelming. Your mental health and wellbeing is more important than a perfect final grade, and there are people here who will support you no matter what.


Tip #6 – Reward Your Hard Work


Lanza's Cafe sign on the side of a building

Congratulations! You took a final! It’s important to reward yourself for the long hours you put in working towards that goal. By far my favorite way to treat myself is with coffee. I LOVE trying new coffee drinks and getting adventurous with toppings and add-ins. I also love the coffee shop environment because it’s warm and inviting. I really could sit there all day. Since I currently live in Carrboro, one of my favorite coffee shops in the area is Lanza’s Café. They have a wide variety of espresso drinks, coffee, and teas. My personal favorite drink there is an oat milk latte with raspberry syrup. It may sound odd, but trust me, it is worth a try.


Finals season at UNC can be stressful, but with these tips I hope you feel a little more at ease about taking your tests to the best of your ability. Remember to be kind to yourself this December and be on the lookout for a video of these tips coming to UNC’s social media soon!

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