Preparing for Midterms

Midterms Science Cat Meme
Midterms are a final’s sidekick; often overlooked but equally as important. If you don’t do well on the midterm, your chances of doing well on the final and passing the class are substantially lowered. Sure, it’s still possible to pass a class without a stellar midterm grade. However, there’s no point in stressing out at the end of the semester when you can choose to prepare for the midterm.

Occasionally you’ll take a class with a professor who “doesn’t believe in midterms or finals,” but they are an otherwise inevitable part of the classroom experience. School can be stressful enough. These midterm tips can calm your nerves, and leave you with fewer gray hairs.

  1. Review your previous assignments.
  2. This includes any readings and essays, as well as tests and quizzes. If you were quizzed on it once before, it is likely that topic will resurface on the midterm. I’ve had professors admit they don’t enjoy the act of actually creating the test, and they will frequently reuse or re-purpose their questions. If you are unsure that this will be the case, ask your professor what types of questions will be on the midterm and if they will be similar to the ones they asked earlier in the semester.

  3. Find a study buddy.
  4. At least have the phone number and/or email of another student in your class. If your schedules don’t mesh for an actual study session, you can text each other quick questions or email your class notes to each other.

  5. Ask your professor for study resources.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for a study guide. The professor is there to help you succeed, and the rest of the class will be grateful too. Having a study guide will let you know exactly which topics will be on the test. You can also ask your professor if you are allowed to use notes during the test. Granted this doesn’t happen often, but if it does, embrace the phrase, “Give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile.” As the student, you should take that mile.

    I’ve had professors let me use anywhere from entire standard-sized (8 X 11) paper to a 3 X 5 notecard, and in every case I took full advantage. Unless your professor gives specific guidelines for your midterm-notes page, type out your notes instead of handwriting them. Not only will it look neater (making it easier for you to read), but you can usually fit more on the page. The act of writing out these notes to use during the test is part of studying for the midterm as well.

  7. NOTES!!
  8. I realize I sound like a broken record, but my notes have genuinely helped me prepare for my midterms. A professor I once had gave the class this piece of advice, “Take notes on the readings, take notes in class, then take notes on your notes.” Admittedly this may be a bit of overkill, but it drives home the importance of note taking. If nothing else, the repetitive writing can help you remember essential information for your midterm.

  9. Give yourself time to study.
  10. Students have busy lives, believe me I get that. You will feel far more prepared and much less anxious on midterm day if you have been studying for a couple of weeks versus a couple of hours. Briefly reviewing just before the test may be helpful (providing you’ve been studying long before the test), but cramming in an intense study session the night before is never as effective as we would like.

  11. Do what works for you.
  12. You had to study for tests in high school, so by now you have an idea of what helps you remember information. As you may have already guessed, I’m a big note-taker. If I’m just trying to memorize facts, like dates and names, I will try to create a song that gets stuck in my head. There are a myriad of mnemonic devices to use, or you could study using the ever-popular flash card method. I’ve also found that chewing gum while I study and during the midterm has been helpful. Psychologist World discusses recent findings that explain why chewing gum enhances studying.

  13. Take time to relax.
  14. It’s time to stop when you’ve reached the point where all of the information is blurring together. Give your brain a break, and of course, get plenty of sleep the night before the exam.

Midterms can be stressful, but with the right preparation they don’t have to be.

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Nikki Martens

Nikki will be graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communications, Media, & Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in August of 2016. As a transfer student, she has first-hand knowledge of what it is like to navigate the systems of community colleges, private, and public four-year institutions. Nikki aims to use this academic experience in her writing to help others excel in their collegiate careers. She is powered by coffee and when she isn’t writing, she enjoys spending time with animals by dog sitting and volunteering at a local cat shelter.