Executive Function Strategies Blog

Study Tips for Finals: 4 Steps to an Effective Game Plan

The scent of June’s peonies in the air brings the promise of blissful interludes at the beach for our students. But hold on. Keep the cap on the Coppertone for now. Preparing for final exams is now top priority for our weary scholars.

No mas!” a sophomore exclaims. “How the heck am I supposed to get ready for 5 exams in the next few days?”

“Planning,” we say, all cool and confident.

As Executive Function coaches, we are busy sharing study tips for finals with our students. The first step is creating a game plan. Here’s one great real-life example of what that planning can look like (plus a bonus example!).

This week, one of my students decided to use a whiteboard to plan out her studying. Karen (not her actual name) could have used her google calendar, but having a large version was important to her. She admitted that the thought of finals was pretty overwhelming, so she knew that a large format calendar posted in her living room where she does her homework would help her stay stay focused and feel in control. Karen felt that it was too stressful to have it posted in her bedroom. We love when students gain insight about their learning styles and apply that knowledge effectively!

This is how she filled out her calendar:


1) First, we counted how many days until the end of finals, and put a grid on the whiteboard with a cell for each day between now and then. Days of the week and dates were filled in at the top of each cell.

2) Then, we determined other commitments that affected her time. Notice here, Karen X’ed out the entire day of Friday, 5/29. She has a family member graduating that day, and she made a mindful choice to sacrifice studying that day in order to fully enjoy the family celebration. Her friend’s graduation party on the 31st, by contrast, will be a shorter chunk of her Sunday, bookended by studying.

3) Karen loves to use color-coding, so no convincing was needed to select a different color dry-erase marker for each of her subjects. We like this method because it can give a quick sense of how well a student is distributing their study time across subjects. (Only see orange in a couple cells? Oops! You’ll need to add in more time for studying Spanish.)

4) Finally, we divided her days into study chunks by subject, with specific items to review. Karen listed the items in the order she wanted to do them on each day. Notice that each day covers multiple subject areas. That’s because studying in chunks and switching between subjects is more effective than slogging through an entire day of US History, for example.

Karen heaved a sigh of relief as we finished her game plan for studying for finals.

“OK, I’ve got this!” she said, “Now I know exactly what I should be doing and when to do it.”

Here’s what another student’s plan looked like on a google doc we shared (if the dates and classes look familiar, it’s because the two students from these examples attend the same school!):

Study tips for finals

Whether you use a whiteboard or prefer an electronic version, consider introducing this method if your child is feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of studying for finals. She’ll learn how to plan, prioritize, and keep cool during exams. And likely, so will you!

Does your child need more study tips for finals? Executive Function coaches help students create and stick with their game plans for studying. Click below to find out more.

Executive Function Skills Assessment to find out if Executive Function coaching is a good fit for a student.



Jackie Stachel is the Director of Communications for Beyond BookSmart. She joined the company in 2010 and is based in our Boston branch. Jackie leads Executive Function presentations for parent groups throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Additionally, Jackie manages our You Tube channel as well as our company blog content through editing submissions, writing articles, and collaborating with professionals from outside Beyond BookSmart to create useful, informative content. Finally, Jackie coaches students supporting them in learning and developing Executive Functioning strategies. 



Share This Article ›