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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mass Amherst chapter.

Midterms are in full swing at UMass this week, which is an incredibly stressful time of year for college students. Returning from spring break and being greeted with practice exams and formula sheets is not the warmest welcome, but a necessary one. As an engineering major, I am no stranger to having midterms in most, if not all, of my classes. Some semesters are more compact than others of course, so I have had my share of late-night study sessions to cram in weeks worth of material in one night — which I have to admit is not the most efficient preparation strategy. Over the last three years, I have improved my studying habits, and I listed my advice to others who are looking to improve theirs as well below.

Plan Ahead

Believe it or not, planning begins with syllabus week. I like to go through all of my syllabi when I receive them and mark important dates in the calendar, such as exam dates, review sessions, homework due dates, etc. It makes it much easier to see if you have certain weeks that are packed with exams or if they are spread out, which allows you to distribute your studying. When I know that I have a busy exam week approaching, I make sure to finish all of the upcoming week’s homework over the weekend, so that I can spend the majority of my time during the week following a study plan and not having to worry about balancing assignments at the same time.

Do NOT Start Studying the Night Before

I have been in this situation many times before. I’ve told myself I understand the material pretty well so I just need to relook over the slides, which should only take a few hours, which has resulted in a lot of stress on my end. Everybody procrastinates, but I have found that if I start reviewing smaller chunks of material a few days before the exam as opposed to reviewing an entire semester’s worth of material in one night, I retain the information better and I feel more confident (shocker). Working on the material a few days prior allows you to identify areas you are not comfortable with so you know where to focus on studying, as well as leaves time the day before to holistically review the material instead of worrying about how much sleep you’re going to get or if you have enough dining dollars for a coffee. 

Make a Formula Sheet

Even if the professor doesn’t allow formula sheets during the exam, I always recommend making one during studying. You can include concepts and definitions in addition to the formulas and synthesize all of the information into one big sheet. This allows you to organize all of the information from the textbook/PowerPoints and creates a concise sheet to study from. I like to highlight and color code my sheet so that I know which topics are related and it helps me to remember the information better. 

Attend Review Sessions/Office Hours

As someone who was afraid to attend office hours during my freshman year, I would like to state that it is not as nerve-wracking as it seems. I frequent office hours for most of my classes. As mentioned previously, studying ahead of time allows me to figure out what concepts I don’t understand and I can bring that knowledge with me to office hours where I can develop a better understanding of the material. Additionally, most STEM classes offer Supplemental Instructor (SI) sessions, where students who have previously taken the class hold exam reviews and go over practice worksheets. I highly recommend attending these sessions because the students offer a different perspective than professors most times since they have already taken the class and have insight into how they understood the material. 

Take Time for Yourself

It is still okay to hang out with friends and take time to practice self-care during midterm week. Studying ahead of time allows you to make pockets during the day where you can do things that you enjoy, giving your mind a break. In turn, this will make you feel happier and will give your mind time to relax and catch up to study again later. 

Midterm season definitely isn’t my favorite time of year, but creating healthy study habits that work for you makes the season more manageable. Everybody has different study habits that work best for them and it’s important to figure these out ahead of time so that studying becomes more bearable.

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Serena Chiasson

U Mass Amherst '24

Serena is a sophomore at UMass Amherst studying biomedical engineering.