Midterms Survival Guide

With only a week and a half until Spring Break, many students have begun discussing what fun plans they have for their time off from classes. While dreaming of sunnier days is something everyone has been doing during these cold months, it’s important for students to stay focused and motivated during this time in the semester, because midterms are quickly approaching!

As a senior, I personally have very few midterms. I have found that most upper-level classes in the psychology department tend to favor tests every few weeks and term papers over cumulative midterm and final exams. Therefore, the busiest time of year for me is prior to finals, when I often have several 10, 12, or even 25-page papers due for my classes. However, as a freshman and sophomore, I had many midterm exams, because I was taking more 100- and 200-level courses in a variety of subject areas (such as math, government, and sociology). Having my fair share of midterms, I have figured out a few ways to make the week a bit easier and more successful:

1. Study as early as possible. Procrastination is something many college students struggle with, and learning how to discipline yourself to get things done will be extremely helpful throughout your college career- and your life! With tests that cover a large amount of material, studying a bit every day will be much more helpful and manageable than trying to pull an all-nighter and cram the evening before the test. Try to dedicate 30 minutes every day to studying for a tricky subject, so that by the time the test rolls around, you’ve already logged tons of time reviewing the material. Plus, if you find yourself with questions, you’ll have plenty of opportunities before the test to stop by your professor’s office hours!

2. Study different ways. It’s great to know which way helps you retain material the best, but sometimes it works even better to study in a variety of ways, so that you can pick up little pieces of information from each technique. Some of my favorite ways to study are:

-taking notes on the textbook readings

-making flash cards

-relating concepts to my own life

-reviewing my lecture notes

-reviewing my textbook notes

-creating my own study guide with charts, vocab words, etc

-“teaching” the material to a friend

-answering review questions in the book or online

-asking questions in class or in a professor’s office hours

3. Read your book and pay attention in class! The number one suggestion I could give to any student is to stay on top of the material from Day One. Skimming a textbook and doodling in class may seem appealing, but if you’re not learning the material then, when do you plan on learning it? Approach the textbook as a way to be introduced to the material and class as an opportunity to grasp the material fully. I always read ahead of time, write down questions I may have, and take notes in class to supplement the readings. Then, if any of my questions from the textbook are still unanswered, I ask the professor to clear up any confusion. The textbook is your answer key for the course, and the professor is your guide to mastering the material. Utilize them, and by the time midterms roll around, you will be way ahead of the game.

I wish that there was a secret trick to automatically acing your midterms, like wearing your pajamas inside out or drinking chocolate milk before the test. However, I have found that the only way to ensure a high grade on an exam is to put in the prep work ahead of time, to study a variety of ways, and to pay attention in class and keep up on the readings. It’s no secret that hard work pays off, so focus on your course work now and before you know it, Spring Break will be here!

By the way, if you have any secret tips, feel free to share them with me in the comment section!


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