Midterm Survival Guide

It’s that time already-- midterm week is here(cue horror movie scream). For freshman, these may be your first major college exams, but now isn't the time to get hysterical. If you have already taken a smaller test or quiz in the class, you know the type of answers your professor looks for and how he or she grades, which can be really helpful. But even if you haven’t had any other tests since you’ve been in college, you have taken tests before. Look back on your study habits, and note what has and has not worked for you. Everyone studies differently--what may work for your roomie, may not work for you. So we’ve got you covered, here are some helpful tips for studying and preparing for midterms.

• Flash cards are useful when studying for multiple choice items, which are usually vocabulary words, formulas/equations, and important people, places, etc. To make flash cards, simply use small index cards (or cut notebook paper) and put the term on one side and its definition on the other. Quiz yourself, or have a friend quiz you by showing you one side of the card so that you have to reply with what’s on the opposite side.

• For short answer questions, prepare mock answers. First, review your notes and anything from lecture that your prof provided, such as PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and study guides. While reviewing those notes, pick out the key concepts (people, places, theories, themes, events, etc) and list what makes each important. Draw from those lists to think of possible questions the prof may ask and write mock answers to them. It is also helpful to find connections between the key concepts. For instance, a key person is probably important because he/she sparked or participated in one of the key events in your notes.

• Essay questions are probably the most dreaded, but there are ways to prepare yourself for them as well. Preparing for essay questions are pretty much the same as preparing for short answer questions. Many professors give students the subject of the essay questions ahead of time, which is really helpful because you can write a mock essay to study. Your mock essay does not have to be perfect; it mainly serves to get your ideas flowing so that on exam day you’re not scrambling to get it together while time is running out. It also helps to make sure your ideas are clear and concise so that you’re not just rambling on paper. Additionally, if there are multiple essay questions or you’re short on study time, you can make outlines for the essay questions instead of writing full mock essays. Your outline should consistent of a thesis, and the main points you want to discuss in your essay (which can be done in bullet points).

• Lastly, there may be true/false questions, which may be kind of tricky depending on your professor. However, if you have studied the material, especially vocabulary and the major concepts, you will be fine.

Now that you have some pointers on how to study for your midterm, here are some other important tips to prepare for exams.

• Do NOT wait until the last minute to start studying - I know we all like to procrastinate but it’s really best not to, especially when you have a lot of material to study. Start studying a few days before the exam, instead of the night before, so that you can spend more time on individual chapters, themes or concepts. I know it seems easier to cram at the last minute but you really can retain a lot more material if you study over larger periods of time.

• Take study breaks – Some of us overachievers are so pressed about understanding the material, we skip naps and meals, which is a big no no. We need food and rest for energy and the more energy you have the better you can focus on the material. It is also good to have a healthy breakfast the morning of exam days, and to be well rested the night before (no all-nighters!).

• Group study – Many people find studying in groups helpful but it does not work for everyone. If you’re one of those people who cannot study well in groups, ask classmates to compare notes before you study to ensure that you have not missed any important material.

• Stay off social networks – I admit that I am a Twitter junkie, so I am aware of how hard it can be to simply log off, but it is best if you do while studying. Social networks can distract while studying. You think you’re only online for five minutes and next thing you know it’s almost midnight and you’ve barely done any studying. To keep from doing this, deactivate your account while studying or during exam week; many have found it extremely helpful.

Now that you have some helpful tips, go get em! Study hard, but study smart. Be confident. You’ve got this.