The Final(s) Stretch: Why Finals are Easier than Midterms

With final exams in the imminent future, some of you may be experiencing a slight case of PTSD thinking back to the life-draining nature of midterms. Well, I’m here to tell you that in many respects, final exams can/should be much less stressful than your midterms were.

I know it may sound crazy at first, but let’s think about it this way: in some classes, midterms are the first big assessment (maybe even the first assignment at all) of your knowledge that you have had in a given course. At that point in the semester, you have no idea who this professor truly is:

  • What are my professor’s expectations of me?
  • Have I been studying the proper material?
  • How will my professor grade their exams/large paper assignments?

So at times it can feel as though you’ve entered into a battle that you weren’t prepared for whatsoever.


But what happened once you finally finished midterms? After “catching up” on your sleep, you more than likely reflected back on your experience. (Or if you didn’t, do so now!) You’ve armed yourself with very valuable information that you didn’t have going into your first experience with that professor. You can now rest assured that you know what their plan of attack is, for the most part, and what you can expect from them. You have a sense for how detailed they’re going to expect you to be on the short answer section, how many multiple choice questions they’ll have, and you may start to notice there are patterns as to which essay questions they choose to put on the exam.

Often times, the best test-taking strategy is the same as any competition or battle – the better you know your opponent, the more successful you can be at besting them.


Sometimes you can get lucky, however, and professors will handout study guides that tell you exactly what material will be on the exam as well as their expectations of you. Those study guides and practice tests are important – take time to do them ahead of time so you can clarify any questions with a classmate, TA, tutor, or the professor before the exam date.

After spending years in college, I’ve realized that many people go into finals in a blind frenzy of anxiety and panic, forgetting to reflect back on what they’ve learned about the professor and how to be successful in any given course. My message to you is don’t get heated and frenzied like a bull in a bullfighting ring: take a moment to step back, ground yourself, and come up with a strategy for your finals that fits your learning abilities and the expectations of your professors. Always remember: Take a deep breath. Plan. Reflect. Work smarter, not harder!

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