How To Prepare For Midterms (Advice From an Upperclassman)

We are now a month into the school year here at UCI, which could mean only one thing: it’s  midterm season! Looking back at my first week of exams as a freshman, I was scared, nervous and definitely second-guessing myself and my abilities. Now as an upperclassman with some experience under my belt, midterms and exams are no longer the looming, ominous challenge I once saw them as, but more of a way to see what’s working (and what’s not working) in terms of my study habits and strategies. I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error over the years, and hopefully the advice I’m about to share with you will not only help you prepare for your first (or second or third) round of midterms, but also help you feel a little more at ease and confident in yourself! 

1. Find out what type of learner you are 

According to Inspire Education, there are seven different learning styles, with the main ones being visual, auditory and kinesthetic. Visual learners find that they understand concepts easier if they are drawn out in diagrams or concept maps. They also utilize visual symbols to express knowledge and ideas. Some strategies that may work for you if you’re a visual learner is color  coding certain aspects of your readings, focusing on tables/diagrams/charts or re-writing your handwritten notes to retain more information. Auditory learners tend to dislike reading and depend more on hearing the information to fully understand it. If you’re an auditory learner, you might enjoy listening to lectures or having group discussions where you can actually talk and discuss the material. Lastly, kinesthetic learners are physical learners, who prefer more hands-on types of activities, as opposed to just watching a lecture or reading text. If you want to find out what type of learner you are, take this quiz at Chegg.com! 

2. Different classes require different methods of studying 

This might sound obvious, but every class is different! This means that the way you are studying for your sociology class might not be the way you want to study for your introductory chemistry class. Personally, I’ve found that the most effective way to study for my STEM courses was to do practice problems. Repeating the math over and over helped instill the information in my head and point out which parts I understood and which parts I needed to practice more. On the other hand, since I am a visual learner, I’d use concept maps and diagrams to organize information in my other classes that were more reading/writing based. It helped emphasize the relationships between different parts of the material and to compare the “big picture” versus the smaller details. 

student studying for school Photo by Green Chameleon from Unsplash

3. Study groups will save your life 

I could honestly do a whole PowerPoint presentation on why study groups are important, especially for college students. They allow you to communicate with individuals of different backgrounds and insights, which can help foster creativity, thought-provoking discussions and allow you to learn from each other. If you are all in the same class, it gives you a chance to compare notes and ask questions that you might have been reluctant to ask during a lecture. Study groups are also a great way to keep yourself and your peers accountable. If you agree to meet up with your group at a certain time to study, you’re less likely to push it back, whereas it might be easier to procrastinate if you’re studying by yourself. Lastly, study groups also serve as a great support system! Studying seems a lot less intimidating when you’re doing it with your friends who are also in the same boat as you. 

4. Failure is the best teacher 

During your time in college, you’re probably going to fail an exam or two. You might even end up failing a class. A lot of emotions are associated with failure, like shame, regret or even self-loathing. It’s okay to feel down about it after it happens, as long as you find a way to bounce back. If you learn one thing from receiving a failing grade, it should be that there is room for improvement. Go back and look at the exam to see what questions you missed. Is there a certain concept you couldn’t quite grasp or maybe a formula you got wrong? Reviewing your mistakes on past exams can help you understand the material moving forward and be more prepared for future exams (like the final). In addition, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Your professors and TAs hold office hours for a reason—they’re there to help you! 

5. You are more than just a grade 

I now leave you with my last piece of advice (more like an affirmation), which is that you are more than just a grade! It’s so easy to get caught up in the “hustle culture” that is present in many colleges and universities around the world, but you have to remember that you are just human. Don’t forget to get the appropriate amount of sleep, stay hydrated, eat regular meals and take a study break to do something that makes you happy every once in a while. 

I hope you found this advice helpful! Even as an upperclassman I have to remind myself of these from time to time. I wish you all good luck on your upcoming midterms and future exams!