Preparing Students for Final Exams

Final exams can often be stressful for professors and students alike. Most students have multiple exams to prepare for and can become overwhelmed and frustrated with their studies. As a professor, there are a number of ways you can help alleviate stress and prepare your students for success. The following suggestions can help you to prepare your students to achieve student learning objectives, understand (not just memorize) course material, and retain knowledge acquired from the course. 

Communicate Expectations

It is important to clearly communicate what students can expect on the final exam. Some professors choose to only include material from the last quarter on their final exams, while other professors believe cumulative exams are the best route to ensure student learning objectives are met. Whichever format you choose to use, it is important to inform your students so they can prepare accordingly. Some students also appreciate knowing what the test question format will be (i.e. multiple choice or open-ended questions). 

Review in Class

Reviewing questions similar to exam questions in class is often a helpful tactic to prepare students for what to expect on the final exam. Some professors choose to gamify test review by playing a game such as jeopardy or bingo. Others end class each session by asking a review question that may or may not appear on the final exam. Other forms on in class review could include graded or ungraded quizzes, study guides, or after class review sessions.


Using questions from previous exams helps to reinforce learning objectives from preceding lessons. Some professors choose to include a question from the preceding chapter on each quiz or test in order to keep the material fresh in student's minds and give them a chance to answer correctly if they had previously answered the question incorrectly. Acclimating students to answering questions from previous lessons will help to prepare them for a cumulative final exam.

Student Generated Questions

Finally, allowing students to participate in the exam question generation encourages them to think about the material learned over the course of the semester. Professors may ask students to each submit one exam question for consideration. Three to five of the student-generated questions could be used on the final exam.

Giving your students the tools they need to succeed will help reduce stress for both them and you!