How to Prepare For Your Final Exams

Even at Harvard, “exam season” is the most stressful time of the year for students. All of your effort, studying, and preparation culminates into a single test that decides your final grade. With so much weight put into a single exam, it’s no wonder that students feel anxious and pressured to perform well.

We’ve compiled a list of the best advice from Harvard students to prepare for an important exam to help you ace your next test. Check out these tips to ensure you walk into your next exam stress-free.

  1. Preparation starts early
  2. Always come over-prepared
  3. Make sure you feel well-rested and focused
  4. Relax and see your friends

    Preparation Starts Early

Many students make the mistake of only thinking about preparing for a final exam a week or two before the exam date. However, the best way to make sure you’re prepared is to think of the entire semester as preparation for that one exam.

Ensuring that you keep up with the coursework, understand all the material, and do all of your assignments well at the start of the semester makes your exam preparation feel much less stressful. The students who struggle and don’t do well on an exam are usually the students who start their exam preparation without already understanding the material.

It’s best to think of your exam preparation as a chance to review what you’ve already learned, not to learn things that have already been covered.

Always Come Over-Prepared

The easiest way to start your exam stress-free is to walk into your exam feeling confident. That means studying to the point where the material from the class is starting to feel redundant.

In my opinion, the best way to study is to practice answering questions that are similar to the ones given on the exam. For large tests like AP exams, IB exams, the ACT, or the SAT, there are a plethora of practice materials available that you can use to get used to answering every type of question. For smaller tests, often teachers or professors will make practice exams that are really helpful for studying the material and the types of questions you’ll get on the exam.

Once you’ve drilled the problem-solving strategies necessary for the exam enough, the questions will all start to feel similar to things you’ve already seen and practiced. That’s the point where you can say you’re “over-prepared.”

Make Sure You Feel Well-Rested and Focused

No matter how tempting it may be, pulling an all-nighter right before an exam is not the best way to prepare. Sleep is incredibly important to help you store information in your long-term memory and feel energized for the test.

Ensuring sure that you feel alert and focused during the test will help you perform much better. This is especially important for very long tests, like the ACT or SAT, where staying focused for several hours in a row is challenging. This means getting at least 7 hours of sleep the night before a test, and many students also like to drink coffee or energy drinks before the exam to help them stay alert throughout the exam.


If you’re ever feeling extra anxious leading up to the exam, it’s important to remember that you’re going to do amazing! Taking a break to talk to your friends or play with your dog is a great way to prevent burnout and help you feel more confident.

Hopefully, you’ve already done enough preparation leading up to the night before your exam, so you can relax, take a break, and do something that you enjoy to take your mind off of the test. Keeping a strong mindset and staying well-rested will help you feel confident and perform your best.

If you’re feeling truly overwhelmed or are ever looking for a helping hand, we would love to help you get rid of your stress. As Harvard students, we’re experienced in dealing with anxiety and preparing to feel confident for exams. Finally, if you don’t remember anything else, YOU GOT THIS!