10 Tips To Survive Midterms

Here's Your Midterm Survival Guide
 Here's Your Midterm Survival Guide

This one’s for the procrastinator’s out there. If you thought midterms were just another test you could study for via an all-nighter the night prior, well. You’re sort of right. They’re not that much worse.

But, you are looking at anywhere from 20-40% more questions, the majority of which require critical thinking and analysis. That said, they’re not to be taken lightly. (By the way, we made that number up, but 20-40% sounds about right, doesn’t it?)

Here’s the thing. You definitely don’t want to wing it. You’re still looking at a quarter of a semester of material. You need a plan. Here’s your midterm survival guide, so you can actually enjoy yourself over fall break.

  1. Understand how you learn best. By now, you should know how you’re able to memorize by rote, apply practically, or simply able to recall information you’ve learned. One popular theory, the VARK model, says there are four primary ways of learning: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Other models say there are seven. Figure out which works best for you, and do some research on how to adapt your learning style to the material you’ll be tested on.

  2. Make a plan. Figure out exactly what you need to (re)learn, how much time you have before exams, and how you can divide up the material between the amount of hours you are realistically able to dedicate to studying each night. Outline what material you need to cover by when, and create milestones that you can actually stick to. Build in pre-test time to quiz yourself.

  3. Start compiling notes. Whether you spent the majority of class time listening intently, not listening at all, or taking feverish notes, you need to start collecting the important bits and bobs your professor spoke to in class. If you didn’t take very good notes yourself, start asking around. See if a classmate -- or several -- are willing to share their notes to fill gaps. If you’re not having luck compiling from classmates, try going to the professor directly. There’s a good chance they’ve either posted them online, or created them but haven’t published them -- don’t be afraid to ask. The gesture to be “fully prepared” might pay off.

  4. Build out accountability dates. If you’re the type that has a tendency to fall off the wagon, being accountable to someone else can help. Find an accountability partner to plan study dates with so that you can at least get in three hours every Thursday night if you end up ditching studying the rest of the week.

  5. Don’t forget to exercise. It’s almost tiring to hear -- the importance of exercise. It sounds great in theory, but when you’re looking at your schedule for the day and everything you need to get done, squeezing in 30 minutes of cardio seems daunting. What about time to get to the gym, shower, change in and out of gear, etc.? Working out has sucked out two hours of your day already, you rationalize. But it doesn’t need to. Consider all the ways you can get in 30 minutes of exercise without the padding of time on the front and backend, like a power walk through campus, or taking the stairs instead of elevators.

  6. Disconnect. You’ll be surprised to find out how much time you’re wasting in front of screens when you actually start paying attention. Turn off your phone and social media notifications, keep your browser tabs to only those needed for studying, and put yourself in an environment conducive to focus.

  7. Go to sleep. Like exercising, this one is easy to romanticize about but difficult when it comes to execution. Studying, along with late night munchies, socializing, and last-minute can’t-miss parties, things come up, and sleep is usually the first thing to go when they do. Start prioritizing sleep like you prioritize studying or going to class. Why? Read the habits of the most successful -- they most often did not cheat themselves of sleep in order to “get ahead.”

  8. See what resources are available on campus. Oberlin College in Ohio offers an art therapy program to help students de-stress. The University of Toronto offers workshops, study sessions and advising appointments that help students prepare for midterms. Nearly all universities offer counseling sessions to allow students a place to vent without judgment. Check with your career center to see where help is available.

  9. Go to office hours. Not only will it make you look good, but your professor will be able to offer insight on what will be on the exam, what you should and shouldn’t be studying for, and other test tips. You’ll score brownie points for just taking the time to pop in. 

    Find a mock test or associated study material. This one’s a bit sneaky, but worth the effort. Check out other similar classes in the school and see if any material is available on those class websites. In big 101 classes, there are usually multiple professors teaching the class, and the topics they cover are generally very similar. Scout the web to see what’s been made available via professors teaching the same or similar class.



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