The sound of Christmas bells can be heard around campus as students are cranking out their favorite Christmas tunes. The holidays are fast approaching and the long-awaited reprieve from papers and tests is close enough to see. But there is one obstacle keeping students from enjoying winter break: final exams. This phrase can send students into panic mode like no other phrase except possibly “you failed.” But final exams are coming and now is the time to prepare.

As college students, most of us are procrastinators. We believe we do our best work at 3 in the morning the day an assignment is due. While this method can on rare occasions be successful, it’s not a practice that should be used when preparing for exams that can determine upwards of 25 percent of a final grade.

Each student prepares for tests and exams differently, but there are some proven ways to help raise your score on that make-or-break exam:

  1. Know when the test date is. You cannot expect to do well if you didn’t know you had a test until the professor starts handing them out.
  2. Start studying early. Finals are in a couple of weeks. Start studying now to give yourself time to digest the material and cover everything, including the stuff professors said wouldn’t be on the test.
  3. Get organized. All those notes you crammed in your backpack throughout the semester are vital to success. Rewrite your notes in a clean, organized manner. Rewriting can help refresh your memory and you are more likely to remember something if you write it down.
  4. Look at your old exams. Often times professors will pull questions from old exams and put them on the final. Even if the questions aren’t identical, you can still get an idea of what information is most important based on what they tested you on before.
  5. Study in a group. You probably didn’t catch every minute detail a professor said in that 8 a.m. class on Monday mornings, but someone else most likely did. Working in a group can help you fill in the missing blanks in your notes. As a bonus, being in a group means if you are stressed, you have people to vent to.
  6. Don’t constantly study. You need to study, yes, but studying every second of every day means that your brain doesn’t have time to rest.
  7. Pack your exam bag the night before. To some this may seem crazy, but making sure you have everything ready to go the night before can alleviate some of the stress the morning of an exam. Searching for your car keys, blue books and pencils is not a great way to start an exam day.
  8. Get some sleep before the exam. This does not mean go to the library and claim a table in the corner to catch some Z’s. Go to your dorm or apartment, relax and get some sleep. The night before the exam is not the time to cram material (see tip 2.)
  9. Wake up early. I know this is the bane of most college students’ existence, but waking up early ensures that you don’t sleep through the exam. It also helps your brain wake up. You don’t want to go into an exam still half asleep because you just woke up.
  10. Eat breakfast. You know what they say – it’s the most important meal of the day. Plus, your stomach won’t be demonstrating a whale’s mating call during your exam.
  11. Go to class early. Get in your seat and get comfortable. Lay out your materials for the test. This gives you time to go get something you discovered you forgot to pack the night before. Look over your notes briefly before class. Don’t use this time to cram but rather refresh your brain and focus on what is important.
  12. Take your test. At this point, that is all you can do. Don’t stress and just do your best.

Final exams are terrifying. So much of one grade  can hinge on whether or not you know the answer to the questions on a single packet of paper. Preparation is key to passing final exams and moving on to winter break.