Mason Family Flash

Academic Tips to End the Semester Strong

As the semester starts to wind down, assignments, papers, and exams start to pile up. Your student may start to feel overwhelmed. You can help them maintain their motivation and continue their positive progress by encouraging them to review the following tips.

Make a schedule: As soon as your student learns that they have a test, they should find out when it will take place, what kind of test will be given, and what content will be covered. The Registrar’s office sets the exam schedule for finals week. Your student can identify the date and time of a final exams at  Students who have more than two exams scheduled on the same day should consult with their instructors to request rescheduling so they are not overwhelmed. Encourage your student to write exams, papers, and projects on a calendar and post it where they can see it every day. A calendar helps students identify their busy times and helps them see the passage of time, which makes it easier to avoid procrastination.

Make a study plan: Now that your student knows what is due, they can make a study plan. For each exam, paper and project, your student should make a list of strategies, such as creating flash cards, outlining answers to essay questions, completing practice problems or practicing presentation delivery. Students should break down their studying into pieces. They need to be specific about what they plan to do.

Use self-testing: To prepare for exams, your student’s focus should be on self-testing rather than re-reading. In re-reading, students get a false sense of mastery because the material seems familiar. Instead, your student should quiz their memory on the material and can do this by answering the end of the chapter questions, completing additional homework problems, turning textbook headings or PowerPoint slide headings into questions, and adding questions to their notes based on the main ideas.

Take breaks: The brain prefers learning information a little bit at a time over several days. Instead of planning mega study sessions, your student should plan to work in short, intense bursts of 25-30 minutes followed by a five-minute break. After four rounds of studying, your student can take a longer break of one hour. Breaks are important because they give the brain time to consolidate new memories. Sleep is also essential for memory formation. Research indicates that cutting back sleep for a few extra hours of studying results in poorer performance.

Ask for help: Your student may be reluctant to ask others for assistance. Now is a good time to check with your student to see how they are doing academically and emotionally. Reassure your student that they are not expected to know everything and can access resources at Mason at Friends and classmates may be able to offer advice or may be willing to participate in a study group. Encourage your student to communicate with the professor if they miss class, have questions about an assignment, or want to improve their performance on exams. A list of virtual tutoring resources at Mason is available online at

Prepare for online exams: Since the university will be moving to virtual learning after Thanksgiving Break, it is likely that your student will have online exams. They should be sure to download any necessary software to the computer they will be using to take the test such as the Respondus Lockdown Browser in advance so they have time to request help, if needed.  Also, the student will need a secure, fast internet connection. If your student will be taking the online exam at home, it would be helpful to coordinate with people in the household to limit the use of high internet bandwidth apps such as Netflix and online gaming while the student is taking an exam.  In addition to determining when the exam will take place, the student should address the following questions:

    • Will the exam be held at specific time? Or can the student take it anytime within a certain window of time?
    • Will there be a time limit?
    • Will there be multiple attempts?
    • Can the student save their answers and pause the test?
    • Can the student skip a question or switch between questions?

We hope these tips will make the end of the semester more balanced and less stressful for you and your student. We wish your student success on their final exams!

Learning Services provides individual Academic Coaching to help students navigate the demands of the semester including time management, note taking, reading strategies, and exam preparation. Encourage your student to schedule an appointment online at by entering their Mason NetID and password to see the available times for academic coaching. If they have questions, they can call (703) 993-2380 or email

Vicki Dominick
Associate Director
Learning Services

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