Just in time, a link to a short piece that I wrote last fall, with five tips (or five tips and three sub-tips) for finals-takers:
When I submitted my dissertation in August 1985 ("Heavy in July, light in August"), I remember that it occurred to me that I'd never have to take another final exam. As a student, I dreaded finals, never having any idea what they'd look like. Why, they'd be comprehensive. What more would one need to know? As a prof, I take pains to make the structure and focus of a final exam clear to students in advance.
A reader of this post who disagreed with the suggestion to overprepare suggested that "studying a lot leads to poorer grades." Yes, it's futile to try to memorize massive amounts of information at the last minute, but with this general claim about studying and grades, I can't agree. It's based in part on psychologist George A. Miller's rule of seven, which has been decontextualized into a general claim that most people can't take in more than seven bits of information at one time. If you're curious about the rule of seven, the link below is to an extended discussion from "Ask E.T." at Edward Tufte's website. The discussion includes Miller's comment on the uses and misuses of his rule and a link to the text of his original essay.
» The magical number seven, from edwardtufte.com