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Finals at UMass

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A group of students studying with the text, Finals at UMass.

Final exam season is likely one of the most dreaded periods on any college campus. From late nights at the library, way too much coffee, and really regretting that you spent all of your dining dollars earlier in the semester, final exam season can be a little stressful. Thankfully, finals week is also marked by de-stress events with puppies, lots of free food and gear, and other free events to make finals season a lot more bearable.

Being a junior here at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, I have experienced quite a few final seasons, ranging from a pretty stress-free week with few exams to nonstop studying. So, what are finals like here at UMass Amherst? Let’s take a look.

What do you do on reading days? Are there traditions at UMass for these days?

Reading days are grace periods before final exams, meaning that students may have days off between their exams during finals week. For example, this semester, fall 2019, our official reading day is December 12, the day after classes and the day before the start of finals.

This day gives students at UMass a quick moment to catch their breath before embarking headfirst into final season. For those like myself who are a little unlucky, I will be spending my reading day studying for my Anthropology 150 (ancient civilizations) and Communication 231(film & production concepts) exams, which both take place on the first day of finals.

While every student here at UMass has different traditions on their reading days, it is all up to the student’s final exam schedule to dictate how they will spend their reading days between exams. I normally use the reading days to de-stress and enjoy time with friends before the conclusion of the semester. I also typically like to head to Blue Wall and treat myself to some great food to give myself a pick-me-up before exams.

This is my first time having all my exams on the first day of finals. So while I will likely still be heading to Blue Wall for a treat, I will probably have to be studying this time around. 

What places on campus are best for studying?

While I am a little biased, I believe that the communication hub located in the third floor of the Integrated Learning Center is the best place on campus to study. Not only do you get a really great view of the center of campus, there are plenty of tables and chairs, couches, peace and quiet, a printer, and often times free snacks for students to enjoy while they do work.

Even outside of finals week I find myself working in the hub almost every day. Other than the communication hub, I enjoy doing work in South College, the lower level of the Integrated Learning Center by Pete’s coffee, Argo Tea in Southwest, and Roots Café in the Honors College. No matter what you consider to be your ideal study space, there are plenty of great options here at UMass to be productive throughout the semester and finals week. 

Do you have a lot of projects to finish for classes? What is that process like?

This semester, I either have a final exam, paper or project in all my classes, which should keep me pretty busy during finals week. I have a video project in addition to a final exam in my Communication 231(Film & Production Concepts) class, a final paper in Communication 397SC (Sidewalks and Screens), and a final project in Communication 297FA (Spirit & Stories: Folklore of Alcohol). 

For projects or papers, these will either be due by the last day of class, like my video project, or during finals week like my other two assignments. Depending on the class, these projects will either be submitted in person, through email, or by Moodle.

While It is important to use your reading days during finals week to study for your exams, it is also extremely important that you keep track of your due dates for projects. I know for myself I decided to work on all of my projects over Thanksgiving break so that during the start of finals I can prioritize studying for my exams. 

Do you have many final exams? What is it like taking finals in college compared to high school?

This year I actually only have two final exams which is really nice. Throughout my time here at UMass I have had a pretty good mixture of exams during finals week. Some semesters I only had one or two, and others I had to juggle around four at a time. What is nice is that at the start of the semester you will know the time and dates of your exams during finals week, located on Spire, so you have the whole semester to mentally prepare for this week of exams.

Compared to high school, taking finals in college is pretty different. For example, in college, you might not have finals in every class. I know personally I have yet to have finals during finals week in every single class in a given semester. I remember in high school, I had finals in pretty much all of my classes besides my Advance Placement classes. 

Additionally in college, it is likely that you will have a mixture of actual exams, final projects, and papers. I know for myself this semester on top of my two exams I have about three additional final projects and papers due before the end of the semester, which some high school students may have never experienced before.

Lastly, the concept of having your finals in one week may be a little foreign for some high school students. Most colleges, including UMass, have a week or so just dedicated to exams and projects. At this point in the semester classes are already concluded so you have this week or so to simply focus on your examinations and projects to wrap up the semester, which may be pretty different from your high school finals experience.  

Final Tips for Finals Week:

  • Start your Studying Early: The sooner you start studying the more well-prepared you will be. Do not put off studying until the night before your exams! 
  • Attend Review Sessions: Review sessions offer vital information on exam format — what will be on the exam and key concepts you should be focusing your studies on. Make sure you attend them if offered! 
  • Organize a Group Study Session: Studying with your peers can really help clear up any confusion you have on the course material and make retaining the information a lot easier. 
  • Stay Well Rested: Staying well rested is equally as important as studying. Being well rested can ensure that you are in top shape and well focused come your exam. 


Life at UMass
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