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It’s that dreaded time of year again: midterms.

While the easy (although admittedly predictable) thing to do is curl up into a ball of stress and moan about all the work you have to do as you watch the newest season of Stranger Things, there are better ways to prepare for the unavoidable. The truth is, whether you’re in your first year of university or your last, room for self-improvement is always there.

Ergo, I present to you a comprehensive study guide comprising of several useful tips and tricks that I’ve personally acquired throughout the years. Hopefully you find at least one thing in here that puts this dreaded midterm season into a fresh perspective.

1) Preparation

One of the most common pieces of advice everyone hears is: do not procrastinate. This, really, is a very broad generalization, because studying is made up of multiple steps and before you can worry about getting to actually learning the content material, you have to prepare for it. What I mean is, make sure that you set yourself up for success by mapping out all your big tests early on in the semester (tracking the dates, rooms, times) so that they never get a chance to creep up on you. School can get crazy hectic so fast, and knowing in advance when you will have to put aside time to study for an upcoming midterm is the simplest way to ensure that you stay on track.

2) Seek help and you will find it

This is something I only realized the true beauty of in my third year. Your professors, T.A.’s, and upper years are all some of the most valuable resources you could possibly tap into during your time at Queen’s. Though it may not seem that way, and occasionally may not be that way, the majority of the people who run your courses or have already taken your courses actually want you to succeed. With all the classes, club meetings, and catch-ups with friends you have to schedule into your life, it can be pretty tough to also make space for office hours, but if you go in with the right questions, the help you’ll receive might just be so clarifying that you’ll want to make it a regular occurrence. Even if it’s just asking someone older than you for their advice on how to excel in a particular subject, don’t sleep on this tip.

3) Pace the productivity

Doing most of your studying three weeks before your midterm or the night before can be detrimental in both cases. Feeding the brain large chunks of information in a very narrow span of time is a surefire way to guarantee overloading your mind’s short-term capacity. If you want all your midterm efforts to settle into the long-term memory component of your brain in order to make your life a whole lot easier when finals come around, pace your studying. Think of midterm prep as a kind of daily homework, and incorporate it into a routine. Of course, when life gets busy, there may be times when you lose grip on the reigns – but the important thing is that you don’t let a temporary setback become a habit.

4) Be kind (to yourself)

I would argue that this last one requires far more attention than it’s bound to get. At the end of the day, no matter how hard you work or how much of your sweat and tears you pour into studying, people. make. mistakes. Even the smartest person you know has gotten a discouraging mark at least a few times in their undergraduate career and has probably beat themselves up over it.

Don’t.

Even if you mess up once, or twice, or thrice, it is so incredibly important to keep in mind that nothing is ever big enough to ruin all your hard efforts or crush your dreams. Your life is a marathon, not a sprint; everything you’re doing right now is part of a very long endurance event that is inevitably going to have ups and downs, and being knocked down after every bump in the road is only conducive to your own heartache. So, give it your all, but if your all doesn’t always produce the results you set your eyes on, be kind to yourself and try again.

Happy studying everyone!

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