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Midterm Prep Tips to Achieve Grades You Will be Proud Of

I am an absolute school fanatic. I love love love school, tests, papers, homework, the whole thing. I feel like this is the education I am paying for, so I might as well enjoy it and get the most out of it. I know, most people hate me when I open my mouth in any type of classroom setting. 

However, I don’t think you need to like school in order to reap the benefits. We are all here to improve our futures and be better prepared for the “real world,” that’s a given, but you don’t have to enjoy the climb to get to the top of the mountain just because I do. 

Because I happen to enjoy the hike, I have tips and tricks that I use to make it more fun and enjoyable, most of which will at least make it bearable and less overwhelming, so that you can get to the top of that mountain as fast as you can in the best way possible. Midterms are a big hurdle somewhere in the middle of the journey: it’s a lot of material, possibly memorization and papers, all at the same time, and it is all worth a lot of your grade. That’s enough to make even me give up.

But here are some tricks to help us all stand back up again, no matter how slowly, and ace our midterms with as little tears as possible, because the view is always worth it in the end. 

For tests:

1. Know what is on the test

If the teacher does not provide you with what content will be covered, then ask. You don’t want to spend time studying things that won’t even be on the test, your time is better served reviewing what you need to know. 

 2.  Know the format of the test

Some tests are short answer, some are multiple choice, many are a mixture of both with an essay question. The format affects how you study for it and how surprised you are when it is put in front of you.

3. Start studying early.

I cannot stress this enough: start early, preferably a few weeks before. Organize your notes and make study guides, and then study a little each night. The task only seems impossible when you are staring at it in full the night before.

4. Don’t skip class to study or study in class

I don’t know why I have to say this, but I have seen it with my own eyes. Skipping the material the teacher is talking about to study other material the teacher talked about in the past makes no sense. And skipping classes to study makes even less sense.

5. Don’t spend too much time on just one subject

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket unless you can afford to drop all the other baskets. 

6. Use aids like flashcards 

Studying aids can help provide a fresh look at the material, so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra time making flashcards or have a friend quiz you, since it is switching up your routine that will also help.

7. Ask questions

Is this test open notes? How much time will you have to complete it? What happens if you are not there the day of the test? These all have answers that you may need to know in order to do well in your current situation, but you may not know them unless you take the initiative and ask. If you are self conscious about asking questions in front of the class, then ask the teacher privately after class, but do not be so afraid to ask a question that it negatively affects your grade. An answer you are not hoping for is still a useful one.

8. Get adequate sleep the night before and in the weeks prior

Coffee is not an alternative to sleep. 

9. Check over your test. Take as much time as you need

It can be so tempting to think: “What am I doing wrong?” when everyone starts handing in their test and you are still barely halfway through. Try to ignore it, just focus on what you are doing, and keep trekking on. You have been given the amount of time you have been given and you are allowed to use all of that time, no matter what anyone else does. 

10. Remember this one test will not make or break the rest of your life

At the end of the day, this is just a midterm. I know that the phrase “just a midterm” is an oxymoron, but it is one test out of many tests, papers, quizzes, readings and homework. It will not make you flunk out of college or life in general. 

For papers:

1. Start early

It is best to get working on a paper as early as you can, preferably at least a week before it is due. This will allow you to not cram the night before and ask questions if you get confused. This will also reduce your stress and allow your ideas to fully form and gel together. Another thing to note is the due date. Know the due date and write yourself a note about it.

2. Plan your paper out before writing

Before you write the paper, plan out what you want to say, perhaps by paragraph or at least jot down your main points. Sometimes the rambling paper can work, but sometimes it is just not doable.

3. Ensure you are following directions and answering all parts of any questions

This is a common sense one, but I have slipped up on this so many times and ended up writing an irrelevant paper. Take care to read and reread the prompt and directions before you start and once again after you plan, so that you ensure you are going to be hitting all the points before you sit in front of a laptop for six hours. 

4. Pace yourself

If you get started early, you can work on the paper a little bit each day. Writing it all the night before may work for you, but if something happens that night, then you’re screwed. Writing the paper over a course of a few days allows you to also focus on your other work and not get too overwhelmed. 

5. Try to think outside the box

Teachers love when someone writes a paper about something they haven’t read a million times. Yes, a certain path may be easy, or it may have been literally taught to you in class, but it may not produce the most compelling and interesting paper, which will in turn produce a better grade. 

6. Make sure your citations are correct and make sense

I generally use MLA citations and when a teacher asks for APA or Chicago (even worse), I inwardly groan, because I am less familiar with it and then it takes more time. I use Citation Machine to do my citations and it has very rarely let me down. Ensure you are following directions relating to citations, in text as well, and that you are checking these over before you hand in your paper. When in doubt, always cite something, including photos.

7. Perhaps the teacher will look over your paper before it’s due

I have had teachers offer this in my classes before and their help is a resource, take advantage of it if you are struggling.

8. Ask questions

If you don’t know something or aren’t sure, just ask the teacher. Don’t think about it for days and ask all your peers and then just guess or hope you’re doing it right. Once again, the teacher is a resource available to you, they can usually help or at least point you in the right direction.

9. Double check it over before handing it in 

Once your paper is done, don’t just hand it in and move on with your life, read it over and check for grammatical mistakes. Grammatical mistakes are seen to professors as “lazy” and “preventable,” and that is not something you want your paper to be labeled as. You also do not want your paper to be mislabeled as “sloppy” because it will distract from your content. 

10. Plan ahead for printing troubles

I have had an ongoing hate-hate relationship with the school printers since freshman year. Sometimes, my ID won’t be read, sometimes the monitor says there is nothing to print and sometimes it says it’s printing but it never does. Other times, I have forgotten my phone in my room and DUO Mobile needs to text me and chat and possibly make a house call. I know these things will probably happen, so I plan to print the day before. If something really bad happens, I have more time to figure it out and go to a different computer or go to IT. Don’t let printing troubles spoil your paper so close to the finish line, it is not worth it. 

I hope at least some of these tips work and I wish everyone the best of luck this Midterm Season! We can do it! 


Olivia is a senior Creative Writing Major from New Hampshire. She loves to ice skate, write novels, and bake, as well as spend time with her elderly rabbit, who is the true star of the show.
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