Ready for Finals Week?

Finals week is here! Whether it’s your first semester or your last, finals week can be a challenge. Here’s our take on how to minimize the stress and anxiety it might bring.

Plan & Prioritize
Is your finals week full of exams, or are you going to be spending the next few days writing papers? It could be that you’ve got loads of online homework assignments to finish up, or maybe you’ve got a mix of things to do. No matter what your schedule looks like, the best way to prepare is to create a plan that helps you prioritize your time.

Creating a plan keeps you focused on the exams and deadlines that are coming up first. The better you plan and the more you stick to your plan, the less likely you are to begin feeling overwhelmed.

Studious Surroundings
Preparing for exams means you’re going to have to study, but studying doesn’t just involve putting your nose in a book and hoping something will stick. Everyone studies differently. Some prefer complete quiet, others enjoy listening to music, and many people benefit from studying in a group.

The Silent Zone
If you find yourself distracted by a lot of noise and need to focus on tomorrow’s exam or the paper that’s due at midnight, you may want to try to find a quiet place on campus that will allow you to be productive. The newly renovated 5th floor of the Library has some pretty awesome study pods, but if those are all taken up, you may be able to find a spot in the Marshall Student Center or your residence hall. If you commute to campus, check out your local coffee shop for a cozy spot that’s already stocked with caffeine.

The Creative Thinker
Need to focus? Try listening to a playlist of instrumental music. Research has shown that listening to music while studying can help you memorize the information. There is one caveat; if you’re trying to memorize things in order, say, the steps in photosynthesis, then listening to music might hinder your ability to recall the steps in the correct order.

If you can’t listen to music, or if music is hurting your chances of remembering something later, there are plenty of other ways to study creatively. You can use colored pens, markers, and highlighters to make memorizing information more engaging and fun. Mnemonic devices – patterns of letters or ideas – are another common way of helping you remember things. For example, PEMDAS is a mnemonic acronym for the order of operations in math, and the phrase “My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas” helps us remember the order of the planets in our solar system.

The Group Effort
If you benefit from learning in a group setting, consider stopping by the Academic Success Center for Tutoring, or see if your class will have a study session as part of the Marshall Study Center finals week events. If those options don’t work for you, try posting in the discussion section of your Canvas course or on your class Facebook page to see if some of your classmates would like to get together.

Treat Yourself
As you create your finals week plan, be sure to build in time for breaks. Breaks allow your mind to process information and recharge, and can help you if you’re feeling stuck while trying to write. If you make time for your breaks, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan and you’ll always know how much longer you’ve got to stay focused!

When you take a break, consider going for a walk or exercising at the Rec Center, cooking a hot meal, watching a show or movie with your friends, or checking out one of USF’s many finals week Wellness Activities. Do something that makes you happy and reward yourself for your productivity!

Once your break is over, you’ll be ready to knock out more studying!


Good luck on your finals!


Are you graduating? After you ace your finals, come back here to see how we’ll help you walk across the stage and into your career.



Preparing for Graduate Exams

Your mind is set! You want to go to graduate school but, wait, you have to take an exam to apply? That’s right! Mentally and physically preparing yourself for graduate entrance exams can be a lengthy process. But, if you’re strategic in your study approach, you’ll get through your exam with ease! Here are are a few suggestions to help you get your head in the game.



Every graduate school is different, so program research should be on top of your to-do list. Which exam does the program you are applying to want to see as part of your application? Does it have specific required or recommended scores? Does the program administrator recommend taking an additional subject exam to explore your in-depth knowledge of a subject?

Once you know which exam you will need to take, begin researching the exam itself. How does the exam’s scoring system work? Does it contain a writing portion? How long should you expect to set aside to take the exam? How much is it going to cost?

Answering these questions before you begin preparing for an exam is important. Don’t stress yourself out for an exam you may not have to take, and make sure you spend time preparing for the sections that may be more difficult for you rather than focusing on the questions that you can answer easily.



With graduate entrance exams, practice is critical. Not only will you need to answer questions about a variety of subjects, but you will need to answer these within a certain amount of time.

Start by taking a diagnostic test to see where you stand and which areas you need to improve in order to achieve your ideal score. If you’re not a good test taker, or if you are really struggling with a certain area of the exam, consider purchasing a test preparation package. These can be expensive (like $800!), but you can get a deep discount on either the GMAT or GRE test prep packages by attending our Graduate Pathways events this month. If you’d rather spend only $50 on a test prep package, click here.

Once you feel like you’ve improved enough, begin practicing the exam in a simulated testing environment. Time yourself and limit distractions, like snacks or music, that you won’t have when you take the exam for real. Practicing the exam this way physically and mentally prepares you for the exam and helps you become comfortable with the testing structure.



It would be wonderful if we could put life on hold to study for entrance exams, but we all have places to be, things to do, and people to see. Creating a study schedule that accounts for your normal routine and class deadlines can help you stay on top of your preparation for each section of your exam. When making your schedule, keep your exam date and graduate program application deadlines in mind and build back from that, leaving plenty of room to retake the exam if you need to.

Be sure that your schedule is flexible. You may not think that you want to take part in an online or in-person test prep course, but once you start studying, you may find that the level of structure it provides could be helpful. You also want to make sure that your schedule isn’t so rigid that taking a break from it will put you behind. If you’re not feeling well or if you have to complete a class assignment you weren’t anticipating, don’t force yourself to study. Give yourself time to heal or finish other projects, and then refocus on your exam.



Graduate exams are important, so take them seriously. Taking time to prepare will give you the best chance to score well so that you have a compelling application to your future graduate school!


What’s next?


An Evening with Don Asher

Tuesday, October 24 / 6:00p.m.- 7:30p.m. / MSC 2709

Don Asher returns to USF to share current tips, tricks, and techniques for successfully applying to and pursuing graduate and professional school studies. Come out and enjoy free pizza! Oh, and by the way, Don Asher has a history of handing out money at this signature event! Don’t miss out!


Graduate & Professional School Fair

Thursday, October 26 / 11a.m. – 2p.m. / MSC Ballroom

Explore graduate and professional schools from all over the country and meet with admissions staff to discuss their program details and application requirements.


To be eligible for the test prep discount, you must attend four out of five of our Graduate Pathways events this month. If you weren’t able to attend one of the three workshops we’ve held over the last couple of weeks, visit our website to find out how you can still get your attendance counted by viewing them online.