How to Study For Finals or Semester Exams Over Winter Break

If your school’s final exams (or semester exams) are after your winter holiday, it can be easy to fall into one of two extreme camps: either you spend the whole break studying (or at the very least, worrying about studying) or you don’t do anything at all because, hey, you’re on break!

Here are some other options that hopefully will allow you to strike a better balance between chaos and over-regimentation.

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(don’t slip up over winter break like this baby)

The “One Hour a Day” Finals Study Plan

Many students promise themselves they are going to study hard over winter break, but since vacation time can be so unscheduled, whole days often slip by before they realize they haven’t done anything at all. Prevent this slip-up by incorporating just a little bit of discipline into your days.

Schedule a “final exam review/essay writing/winter reading/whatever you’ve been assigned to do” period in every day. Sticking to the same time will help this plan be more successful. You can boost your discipline by scheduling some fun me-time around this as well. For example, “Yoga 9-10 AM,” “Study Time 10-11:30 AM,” “Video Game Break “11:30 AM-12 PM,” then keep the rest of the day open-ended if you want.

Over winter break, you’ll be gifted about 8 or so hours per weekday that were previously taken up by school, so it hopefully shouldn’t be too painful to keep a few hours of your morning regimented, and then allow yourself to take the rest of the time off.

The “Take a Break First” Final Exam Study Plan

If you are entering winter break feeling completely burned out by school, it’s understandable if you don’t feel like scheduling study time into your first morning of freedom. If this is the case, it’s ok to allow yourself a few days (or even a week if you have longer break) of total decompression. Put your backpack in your closet and get fully rejuvenated. It may mean you need to put more hours of work into each day once you resume studying, but if you are feeling completely refreshed when you do, you will likely get more out of your efforts.

But just so the procrastination train doesn’t go completely chugging off the ends of the earth, I highly suggest you spend the first evening or morning of break making a list of everything you need to do and how much time you think you need to devote to studying overall. Then determine how many days you can take completely off and when you will resume your studies. Once you’ve done this, you can put it all out of your mind until it’s time to pick up those books again.

The “Holiday Rewards” Finals Study Plan

There’s often no time like the holidays for gratuitous treats. When I was a kid, we always got chocolate-filled Advent calendars from my grandmother. Every day of December, you opened the door and got a chocolate, but my mom used to make me wait until after homework to eat mine. The wait was agonizing, but it made the chocolate all the more sweeter and helped stave off the procrastination that otherwise would have inflated my homework time. Find your own holiday or wintertime rewards that help you get your studying done: whether it’s a cookie or evening ski time with friends. No reward unless you finish that day’s (or hour’s) studying task.

The “Avoid-My-Relatives” Final Exam Study Plan

I’m kind of joking about this one (but only kind of). Winter break often involves some family time, and sometimes it involves a lot of family time. Now, I hope you love spending time with your loved ones, but if it gets to be a bit much, you might be able to strategically schedule some study time around it. So make sure you know what your family’s winter break plans look like. Studying for your history test or writing an English essay just might get you some much needed alone-time holed up in your room instead of endless rounds of board games with your cousins. And don’t forget to make full use of travel time. Several hours on a plane or in a car without wifi can provide some distraction-free study time and might help you put a lid on that harmonized family sing-along. Ok, ok, get in one round and then slip on the headphones; your parents can hardly complain about your studiousness :).

Enjoy your break with a little study-time snuck in, and you’ll be ready to head back to school both refreshed and ready to conquer those exams!

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  • Kristin Fracchia

    Dr. Kristin Fracchia has over fifteen years of expertise in college and graduate school admissions and with a variety of standardized tests, including the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, with several 99% scores. She had a PhD from the University of California, Irvine, an MA degree from The Catholic University, and BA degrees in Secondary Education and English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park. She was the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Club Fellowship from the University of California, Irvine. She’s worked as a high school teacher and university professor, as an independent college and graduate school admissions counselor, and as an expert tutor for standardized tests, helping hundreds of students gain acceptance into premier national and international institutions. She now develops accessible and effective edtech products for Magoosh. Her free online content and YouTube videos providing test prep and college admissions advice have received over 6 million views in over 125 countries. Kristin is an advocate for improving access to education: you can check out her TEDx talk on the topic. Follow Kristin on LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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