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Your Declassified Midterm Survival Guide: Six Tips for Midterms

Finally, the month of October, one month since the start of classes, has finally fallen upon us. This month of the year brings us many things to look forward to, such as the start of Fall, spooky season and homecoming events. However, there is one occasion that October brings into our midst. A beloved week dedicated to reviewing the content learned up to this point in the semester – midterm week. Imagine the overwhelming feeling that comes over you when taking one test during a school week or having to complete various readings and class assignments. Can you feel the pressure? I certainly can. Now, multiply that pressure by the number of midterms that you have to take this week. It’s not a good feeling, and it needs to be handled.

We are on campus and in person after a long, long period of virtual learning, and many other things are going on around us that could easily distract us. We will be brought to the crossroads of balancing our schedules to encompass hanging out with friends, attending different events, maintaining our mental health, and doing well on midterm exams. However, don’t stress. I am here to guide you in having a productive and successful midterm week, in all but only six tips. These tips assist you in preparing for midterms from the moment you step foot into your classes that week to when it’s time to sit down and review all of the information. This is the Declassified Midterm Survival Guide.

1. Attend & Engage in class

Now, I know pulling yourself out the bed in the morning or in the afternoon to go to class can be difficult; while some days, class may simply not be “the move”. Although, this next statement may be the last thing you would want to hear Now, I know pulling yourself out the bed in the morning or in the afternoon to go to class can be difficult, while some days, class may not be “the move.” Although this next statement may be the last thing you would want to hear from a fellow student, I will say it anyway because I am here to help you and be honest with you. Going to class is essential, especially during midterm week, and depending on the class, your attendance can help or harm your midterm grade. From my experience, being physically in class, hearing the information taught, and conversations that occur within the class broadens your general understanding of the topic. As a result, you are less likely to be confused by the information. Aside from understanding the areas that the midterm will cover, you will be aware of the exam formatting, when and how the exam will take place (Blackboard, Lockdown Browser, in class, etc.), and other exam guidelines. If you are lucky, you may not even have an exam in a class, but if you don’t attend class, you will not know that *smiles wittily.* So, to avoid being confused, missing important information, and even missing your midterm, please get up and go to class.

2. Read, read, read the chapters

The first step to preparing for midterms is reading or reviewing the chapters from where the midterm exam content will be pulled. It ultimately determines how well you can understand the information your professor is teaching more concretely and less superficially. Hopefully, you have already read the chapters prior to midterm week, when first introduced to the chapter. This way, you don’t have to cram and find time to read 20-40 exhausting pages of content. Now, I know you may be saying, “Elizabeth, what is the sense of reading fifty pages worth of detailed information when I can review twenty-one brief PowerPoint slides that my professor provides?”. Sure, that is all fine and dandy, but I have found that reading the chapter can help you to understand the information for yourself. It is also helpful to read the chapter if your professor is the kind to throw in things from the course’s textbook that the PowerPoints do not mention. Of course, if your professor does not use the textbook in the course at all, that is an exception. Finally, to ensure you are mindfully reading, highlight important information that will help you take notes. Also, reread words or sentences you don’t understand during the first reading, so a lack of clarity will not hinder you from doing well on midterms.

3. Take notes After reading

Of course, after reading, you may need some way to make sure that the information sticks to your brain so that you don’t find yourself forgetting what you have read thirty minutes after reading. Reading helps you to become comfortable and less of a stranger to the information of the midterm, and when paired with taking notes, you’ll be a familiar acquaintance. Taking, reviewing, or rewriting your notes before or during your midterm exam helps you decipher which information is the most important, what you should add, and, perhaps, things that aren’t too important.

Taking notes and reviewing them is a valuable step in my preparation for midterms. It is easier for me to retain information, especially when I handwrite my notes based on highlighted sentences or phrases in the chapter. In particular, taking your own notes is good for you if you are a detailed-oriented studier or if your professor values detail when making exams. Moreover, taking notes allows you to have the information handy at almost any time so that you can study for your midterm exam at any time of the day or place. Studying for midterms is all about retaining information in a way you can understand it, and writing your own notes in your own words makes your comprehension of the topic more manageable. Also, taking notes during your professor’s lectures can be beneficial because they may introduce points or course material that aren’t in the slides or textbook that could be included on the midterm.

4. Use Flascards or Make a Quizlet

I am aware that some of us can absorb the information like a sponge after taking notes or even reading. I mean, they can reiterate word for word the main ideas and facts in full philosophical, Wikipedia style. God bless the heart of those that can, but personally, I need reinforcement after taking notes. A little spice – a cherry on top to get the necessary content in my head. Study tools such as making flashcards or using a digital tool such as Quizlet allow you to use the methods of repetition to prepare for your midterm exam. Flashcards and Quizlet is the third opportunity to review the midterm content after reading and taking notes. By the time you have made them, you might already know seventy-five percent or more of the chapter. Using a study tool for midterms enables you to break down the overwhelming size of the chapter into a few dozen questions. Also, using a variety of formats when making the questions for your study tools such as true or false, multiple-choice, explanation questions, or fill in the blanks help with your abilities to recognize more complex subjects and retain and remember the more straightforward questions.

5. Plan out your study times

Having to balance homework and extracurriculars during any other week is already hard enough, and adding midterm exams, papers, or projects into this equation can be a true task. Therefore, I would say that planning out when you will study for your midterms helps ease the stress of finding time to fit all of your midterms in. Moreover, dedicating specific periods of your day to midterm studying fosters much more efficiency and productivity instead of studying based on random whims, which may not give you the necessary and equal amount of time to study for or complete all of your midterm exams. This way, you will have an equal amount of time to complete homework assignments and attend athletic practices, club meetings, or other priorities.

Furthermore, it is vital to base when you study for your midterms on specific factors. For example, firstly, I study for the midterms of the classes whose material is the lightest and most straightforward. Then, I dedicate most of my time to studying for the midterms of classes with more detailed and abstract concepts. Therefore, you should structure your midterm study schedule around your understanding of each class, which midterms occur the earliest and the latest, or any other factor best suited to your studying style.

6. don’t forgeT that you come first

Yes, earning an A, B, or C (because C’s get degrees) on your midterm exams is crucial and beneficial to the overall goal of a good-standing average in the class. Still, the state of your mental health and overall well-being is crucial and valuable to the overall goal of living. When studying for midterms and going through the motions of midterm week, if feelings of stress and anxiety surface, it is important to take a step back and gather your thoughts. Take a few minutes or a couple of hours out of the day, if necessary, to listen to music, pray, read, talk to a loved one or counselor, take a stroll or do whatever helps you get into a good headspace. You never want to push yourself to your limits, especially during midterm week, because once you reach that stage of burnout, it will be hard to come out of it and handle the things you need to do.

I was, and sometimes still can be, the person who will drown myself in work and set forth a list of tasks to complete without giving myself room to eat, socialize, or even breathe. Each day, I am learning that a grade isn’t going to make or break who I am as an individual and that I do not have to neglect myself to pass an exam. Midterms are essential and should be taken seriously, but they do not define who you are or are capable of doing. They simply represent a specific moment or version of you at that time. Do your best, and the higher power will handle the rest.

All that’s left to say…

All that’s left to say is as you prepare for midterm week, stay focused, organized, and healthy. Remain optimistic for whatever the outcome may be, but remember that the effort and attitude you start with can significantly affect your outcome. Therefore, speak positive affirmations that foster faith in yourself and your abilities. Remember that you are in charge of your grade; your grade is not in charge of you. Set out an effort and put your success on midterms into action by reviewing the chapters and taking notes. Engage in class discussions, and don’t be afraid to ask your professor questions about midterm material. To wrap up all of your efforts, use effective study tools and regulate your study time. Oh, and lastly… don’t forget to breathe, sis. You got this!

Elizabeth Veal

Hampton U '24

Elizabeth Veal is a sophomore, Sociology major and Criminal Justice minor at Hampton University. She is from Baltimore, Maryland (shout out to the 410) , and recently joined HerCampus in September 2021. She is excited to make new memories with her fellow members, improve her writing skills, and become involved in all that HerCampus and Hampton University has to offer. In her spare time, she enjoys watching classic Black films, listening to R&B and old school rap. Her favorite artists are Jhene Aiko, Giveon, J Cole, and Tupac.
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