Studying Under a Time Crunch

Francis Piche Student Software Engineer, McGill

03 December 2017

It’s life.

There’s just never enough time to do what we’re supposed to.

You’d like to have time to go through all the lecture material, do all the practice problems, and maybe do it again, but the fact of the matter is…there’s almost never time.

Try as we might, we can never quite give ourselves enough time to study.

While this is a guide to studying under a time crunch, it also applies to time-limits of any kind. Assignments, projects, exams… anything with a deadline comes with a built-in crunch time.

In the spirit of time limits, I’m writing this as a break from studying. And as any break, there’s time limit. So let’s see how well I can do under a time crunch of my own.

Naturally, this ones gonna be short-n-sweet this week, since we’re all busy with finals. 

There’s a lot more that could be said, but to avoid repeating my previous posts about studying, namely:

4 Tips For Crushing Your Finals, and

5 Tips For Staying Afloat in a Busy Semester

I’ll just talk about the ones that aren’t already in those.

So check them out for more tips!

Without further ado, here’s a few pointers on how to study under a time-crunch.


Know Thy Prof.

All our professors are different. They’ve all got different examination and teaching styles, so it’s worth taking some time to familiarize yourself.

For example, for my Probability course, while it’s supposed to be an “applications” course,, and the TA can both attest to the fact that he likes to give proof questions on the exam. So of course I’m not going to spend all my precious time doing applied problems.

Similarly, my Systems Programming course is almost entirely applied, and judging by the midterms, it’s going to be some simple short answer and some hard on-paper programming puzzles. So, I’m going to need to have functional knowledge of how to apply the concepts learned in class.

To study for that, it makes more sense to practice systems programming than it does to understand all the theory behind it.

Taking time to ask yourself “what are some possible exam questions?” will ALWAYS be worth the time.

Doing some obscure practice example from the book that the prof didn’t talk about in class might be useful, but it’s much lower in priority than something like an assignment problem.


Here’s a nice happy doggo to help you relax in these stressful times.

Recognize the Urgency

It might just be me, but I have a real problem with this.

I mentioned in my 4 Tips post how I like to stress myself out by constantly reminding myself of how soon my exams are.

This is because I sometimes forget the urgency of the situation.

As someone who puts more emphasis on personal projects, understanding and general output, rather than test scores, I tend to forget the importance of studying for finals.

Recognizing the fact that “it’s the final countdown”, and switching gears into a full sprint-mode, could be all you need to work faster, longer, and harder than if you’d just sluggishly muddled your way through finals.

Attack. Attack. Attack.

Take a minute to give yourself a pep-talk every once in a while.

Get amped up. Watch a Rocky Training montage, listen to some heavy-metal. Whatever you gotta do.

Mindset is a powerful thing, but it can fade quickly. Set yourself reminders every few hours to give yourself a “motivational refresh”.

Don’t Let Your Life Turn to Shambles

There’s a tendency to throw all maintenance, hygiene and routine out the window when finals come around.

Yes, you’re busy.

Are you too busy to shower?


Seriously, take a shower.

I’ve always found that when things get chaotic (when finals come a knockin’), reducing chaos everywhere we can, by cleaning, showering, eating well, regular sleep schedule, etc, goes a long way.

Your brain doesn’t know the difference between your physical state of disorder from your mental. Don’t add to the chaos.

Obviously, don’t procrastinate from studying to do a full spring-cleaning of your whole apartment, I’m just saying don’t forget to do the basics.

Keep your desk clean, make your bed, shower.



Well, time’s up!  Much more could be said, but in the spirit of time-constraints, I’ve boiled it down to what I think the three most important things are. Excluding what I mentioned in my other posts, of course!

Keep chugging along 🙂

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