Your Finals Survival Guide

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Finals season is here. It’s time for us to push through the last few weeks of the semester and finish off in a positive way. 

With final projects, essays and tests to worry about, this time of year can be extremely hectic and stressful for students. It can be daunting to find motivation during finals week when all you want to do is cuddle under a thick blanket and drink hot chocolate, but don’t let yourself off the hook just yet! 

To help you survive finals week, we’ve gathered tips and preparation advice from Austin Community College students and academic coaches. 

ACC student, Victoria Regalado, keeps the studying habit of slowly exposing herself to the content of her class over time. 

Regalado likes to run through the materials posted on Blackboard before class to become familiar with what her professor is going to talk about. This practice keeps her engaged with the materials that may appear on future tests and lessens the burden of cramming in all the concepts at the last minute. 

Like most students, Regalado has had some difficulties preparing for her finals in the past. Last semester was Regalado’s first semester at ACC and she admits she did not know how to prepare for exams or what to expect during finals. 

“I was in a class where we weren’t given that many details about what would be on the final, so I had no idea what to focus on,” Regalado said. “I was freaking out.”

To push through that difficult time, Regalado reached out to her classmates to exchange the information they had about the finals. She also looked over past exams to try to identify the professor’s testing style. 

“It’s kind of comforting to know that many people are on the same boat with you,” Regalado said. “We helped each other and the final results turned out well.”

Being an engineering major at ACC demands Alya Mansoor to be a strict planner. Mansoor says she works on school work from the afternoon until evening time. 

An image of a young woman wearing glasses and headphones studying for an exam using her textbook and her laptop computer.
Alya Mansoor, engineering student at ACC, studies for an upcoming exam.

“A big thing that I do to keep the balance between my work life and study life is to create a structured schedule,” Mansoor said. “At the beginning of the school year, I’ll get a big calendar and write down all of my deadlines for homework and exams. As time goes on, I’ll fill in things that pop up too” 

This calendar helps her keep track of due dates and allows her to plan out her work ahead of time. 

To study for finals, Mansoor formulates a study plan catered to each class based on previous exams and the professor’s formatting. If she has an upcoming textbook-heavy exam, she will focus on her textbooks and support her studying by reviewing notes and homework. 

“If I have an exam that relies on homework and practice, like Calculus, I’ll work through problem after problem and review my notes again.” 

For a cumulative exam, Mansoor takes a different approach. “That’s a longer process and I have to start ahead of time and pay close attention to the course materials from the beginning of the class,” Mansoor said. 

Because Mansoor says she fidgets frequently and is not good at concentrating for long periods of time, she uses the Pomodoro technique to study productively. 

Using this method, you break down your working time into 25-minute chunks (pomodoros) separated by five-minute breaks. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This technique can help anyone who feels distracted or overwhelmed to focus their attention on the task at hand. 

“I’m using the Pomodoro method and I’ll keep using that,” Mansoor said. “It helps me keep my concentration better, especially for something big like finals.”

Sherry Yang, an academic coach at ACC, notices that a common mistake students make when studying for finals is procrastination. 

An image of a beautiful smiling woman with long hair looking towards the camera.
One of ACC’s many academic coaches, Sherry Yang.

“Some students didn’t plan ahead and didn’t know how much time they needed to prepare for finals,” Yang said. “In worse cases, some students barely studied until the final days.” 

This habit of barely studying leads students to cram all the information at the last minute and results in poor retention of the material and lower test scores. 

“If you try to stay up late to memorize as much as you can, usually you’re going to feel tired the next day and not going to remember a lot of information,” Yang said.

When students come to Yang for advice, she recommends at least two weeks to prepare for a big test. 

“Let’s say if they have a test on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., we recommend students to study in the afternoon from 2 or 3 o’clock for the two weeks before the final,” Yang said. “That way, you can get used to doing those kinds of subjects in that time frame. On the actual test day, you’re not going to get super anxious and stressed out.”

This semester, ACC has been hosting a mix of in-person and virtual classes. For either type of class, Yang recommends familiarizing yourself with the environment you are going to be in during your exam. 

“If you’re going to take your test in front of your desk, you’ll want to study in front of your desk a while before the exam day,” Yang said. “If you’re going to take a test in a class, it might be better to study in a library or a public place. If you get too comfortable studying at home, taking a test in a different environment with people around may make you feel anxious and overwhelmed.”


Preparing for your final exams can be overwhelming, especially during the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. If you have had difficulty studying for finals, book an appointment with ACC academic coaches at their website. Academic coaches are available on several campuses district-wide.

Good luck to everyone with your finals!

How to Create a Remote Workspace

By Marissa Greene

Seven tips from an Academic Coach to get you through this semester

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, grocery shop, learn, and overall living. In a time of social distancing, students need to work on their education behind a screen rather than a classroom setting. For some, this may be a piece of cake, but for many others, this could feel frustrating, stressful, and even discouraging at times. ACCENT sat down with Austin Community College Academic Coach, Thomas Blain, to get some insight on how students can successfully adjust during this Pandemic. 

Set Up a Consistent Location.
Look around your place and try to find the best work from home space. Whether that is working at a desk, a space in your room, or a counter in your home, this should be the place you can feel most productive in. If you live with family or roommates try to find a place that is the least distracting from others. If you have children at home, depending on their age, this may be something to coordinate with them or others in the home. Children could be working at the dining table while you are in the living room or vice versa.

Sitting While Working.
Who knew something as small as your position could play such a big role in your school performance? Although it may be tempting to lay on the couch or in your bed while doing school work, it may not be the most productive. ACC academic coach, Thomas Blain, recommends sitting upright while doing classwork.

“If I was to lie down while I was I work, I think I’d fall asleep,” Blain said

Sitting upright can help concentration while keeping you in the balance between feeling too cozy and too uncomfortable.

Confining Your Space.
Look at your workspace and what do you see? Are there papers filled with notes all over the place? Do you have pens, pencils, and your calculator scattered around you? If so, this tip is for you. Take a step back from where you are working and look at it. Is there a way you can confine or organize this space? The answer is yes! By keeping your place tidy you will be able to find your school work/supplies much easier and save you the time you would be looking for that one notes page you need and more time on using it. If you ever have seen the movie “Ratatouille” think of what Colette said to Remy in the kitchen “Keep your station clear!” 

Visual Reminders.
As we get closer and closer to semester final exams, you may be feeling overwhelmed and/or unprepared. A helpful way to keep yourself ahead of the game is to create visual reminders of important dates or when specific classwork is due such as quizzes, tests, and exams. These visual reminders could be physical, digital, or a mixture of both.

“When I am at my desk I have a semester calendar in the back which just has some important dates,” Blain said.

By being prepared for summer registration, FAFSA applications, and final exams, you start to feel more in control of your academics. Reminders such as sticky notes, Google Calendar notifications, or even looking at your ACC Planner every day can help better plan for what’s to come and more importantly be prepared.

Blocking the Noise.
Whether your distractions are the noises from your family members, your roommates who are also working from home, or the elephants that just moved in the apartment above you, find a way to minimize distracting noise. One way Blain recommends is by listening to music or something that can cancel out whatever noise is distracting you.

“I like listening to KUT sometimes because that is not as distracting for me,” Blain said.

However, if you find yourself spending more time belting your heart out to “Material Girl” by Madonna or “The Anthem” by Good Charlotte rather than memorizing all the organelles in a cell earplugs may be better for you. Blain recommends purchasing some earplugs at your local grocery store if possible to help those who work better in a space free from all noises. 

Removing the Distractions You Can Control.
It’s okay to admit that scrolling through your Instagram feed is more interesting than the 20 pages of book reading you have to do, but which one is more important? Removing distractions such as your phone from your workspace can help improve your productivity. This could be physically placing your phone across the room, turning it off, or even just flipping it face down. If the distractions are on your computer, Blain recommends removing tabs or browsers from your computer while working. This could look like opening two different windows on your device and dedicating one to work and the other to your personal interests. 

Sticking to a Routine.
Whether it was the routine you had at the beginning of the semester or one that better fits your lifestyle now, finding a routine and sticking to it is a major factor in your academics.

“Once you get a routine it kind of helps you with the procrastination piece,” Blain said.

Routines can help create order and discipline in your learning environment. Your daily routine can look very different compared to your classmate but it is so important to find something that works for you. A method that Blain discusses is the 45/15 minute studying rule. With this method, you would ideally study for 45 minutes and give yourself a 15-minute break in-between.

“If you do hour upon hour of work you are going to get burnt out,” Blain said.

Taking breaks can be equally important as the time you are dedicating to work. This allows you to feel refreshed and recharge. During your breaks find ways to disconnect from your studies. This could be scrolling through TikTok, going for a walk, or even taking a moment to make something to eat.

“Be realistic about what your habits are and give yourself that time to relax,” Blain said. 

Don’t feel that you have a working space?

It is important to understand that this can be a stressful time for a multitude of reasons. If you are feeling discouraged about creating an effective workspace form home Blain suggests the idea of having a conversation with whoever you are living with about the importance of your studies. 

“Have a diplomatic conversation with whoever you are living with,” Blain said. 

Although it may not look like you are still taking classes to whomever you are living with, a conversation may help address any distractions you face while trying to study and work towards a solution.

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