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The Collegiette’s Ultimate Midterm Survival Guide

Last spring we showed you the best way to rock your finals. Now that you’ve aced those and taken the summer to recover, collegiettes, it’s time to strut your (academic) stuff all over again — with midterms! Here are Her Campus’s tips on how to conquer your first exams of the semester and score straight A’s — all while getting enough sleep and keeping your sanity intact!

1. Make a game plan…
“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by,” quipped the clever Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a quote you might laugh at, but not one you want to relate to: plan ahead to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines. This is especially important during midterms, since they aren’t all crammed into one or two weeks the way finals are. Schedule any important dates and times of your exams or papers and write up a list of all the tasks you need to accomplish in order to prepare for each. We’ll start you off: “Scour Her Campus’s Midterm Survival Guide for sweet tips… check!”
Then play smart.
Format your studying to its target subject, and be efficient in the way you study. Note cards are an effective study tool for Art History, but for Calculus you’re probably better off doing practice problems instead. And if you’re not sure about how to approach a subject, do not hesitate to ask your professor or TA! “As a TA, I’ve noticed that students lose a lot of easy points,” says Lori Hage, a junior and Teacher’s Assistant for Chemistry Lab at Ohio State University. “Make sure you take care to ask questions, get those points and boost your grade!”

2.     Social studying helps…

While friends can be a distraction, they can also be a big help. If you think it will help you, try studying with a partner or in a group. “Other people can help motivate you, can come up with new ways for understanding or studying a complex topic, and can make an arduous task more fun,” says Dr. Irene Levine, Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. But choose wisely — it is possible for group studying to go awry: “Other people can be distracting, they may be competitive, they may over-rely on you for helping them,” adds Dr. Levine. “Try to choose people you can rely upon.” Basically, make sure you’re studying with Rory Gilmore and not Paris Hilton.
But social media doesn’t!
Put yourself in the appropriate mindset for studying by eliminating distractions — silence your phone, turn off the television and stick your iPod in the drawer for the time being. As for your worst enemies, Facebook, Twitter and e-mail, do whatever you can to limit the amount of time you spend on them! Some Internet browsers include extensions that block websites for allotted periods of time, like StayFocusd on Google Chrome. If you’re not willing to go that far, set a time limit and stick to it. Your notifications aren’t going anywhere, we promise.
3. Hit the ground running…
Concentrating on exams often means setting everything else aside for a moment — except your health. The rules still apply during exam week, which means taking care of your body is essential. Eat mindfully and exercise regularly; workouts can help clear your mind and re-energize you between study sessions. With regards to energy boosters, everything is better in moderation. “Overdo it on caffeine,” warns WebMD, “and it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.” So while Buddy the Elf can survive on “candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup,” you can’t. As for study drugs like Adderall, it’s best to avoid them altogether if you don’t have a legitimate medical need for them.

Then hit the hay.
Like, OMG, remember that time we didn’t leave the library until 7 a.m.? Yeah, and itwasn’t fun. All-nighters may have become a staple of college life, but you should never attempt them unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Make an effort to get at least seven hours of sleep — not just the night before your exam, but a few nights before, too. As for you coupled-up collegiettes™, remember that the quality of your sleep matters just as much as the quantity. If you know you sleep better when you’re not sharing your tiny dorm bed with a cuddle-buddy, sleep solo for now. That’s one more reason to look forward to being done with your midterm!
4. Set the scene…
We’ve all taken power naps in the library and written late-night papers in bed before, but choosing an appropriate location to study is crucial! Find somewhere quiet where you know you’ll get work done, and don’t be afraid to get creative. While libraries and dorm lounges are often quiet and spacious, they’re also popular spots where your friends may filter through and distract you. Check out local coffee shops and unlocked academic buildings, and avoid studying in bed — we know your sheets are cozy, but that’s why you’re about to *yawn* fall asleep!
And dress the part.
Studying isn’t meant to be a fashion show, but it shouldn’t be Slouch City, either. You’re more likely to feel awake and be productive if you get out of pajamas, and this doesn’t have to mean sacrificing comfort! As for test day itself, have an idea of what you’re going to wear ahead of time so you won’t waste time in the morning — or worse, end up shivering throughout the test. “[While studying] I most often wear rolled-up jeans, a tank top or a t-shirt, a sweater or a jacket, a scarf, and closed toed shoes (like Converse!),” says Amelia Wise, a sophomore at Duke University.Balancing North Carolinian warmth and Duke’s A/C-blasted classrooms and libraries “always requires the proper amount of layers. This means I can be comfortable…and always stay fashionable.” Cool tip, Amelia.
One last thing,collegiettes™ — believe in yourselves! You’ve studied hard, prepared well and done it all in style, which means all there is between you and a perfect “A” is the test itself. And once you’ve finished, leave it behind you; do not fret about question 21, that part with the weird graph or which essay prompt was the best to answer. You can honestly say you’ve done your best, so walk in with confidence and leave ready to celebrate!
WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/slideshow-brain-foods-that-help-you-concentrate
Lori Hage, student and TA at The Ohio State University
Dr. Irene Levine, Professor of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine
Amelia Wise, student at Duke University
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Sarah Kismet is a member of the class of 2014 at Kenyon College, a surreal little place that compensates for its geographical solitude with magic, smiles, and bands you’ve never heard of. There, she edits the Kenyon Observer and tutors Economics. Sarah hails from New Albany, Ohio but is of Syrian origin. When she’s not obsessively writing to-do lists or hustling to complete them, she can be found running at the athletic center, reducing the worldwide candy population, asserting her opinions, or giggling uncontrollably.