Ah, midterm season. The wonderful time of staying up way past my bedtime and spending all of my money on Yerba Mate. Midterm season is definitely a stressful time of the year, but it was especially overwhelming for me as a freshman. I was still getting used to college life while trying to figure out what study techniques worked for me, which was very difficult, especially with UCLA’s fast-paced quarter system. Now that I am a sophomore, I have been through the struggle of multiple midterm seasons, so I have learned a thing or two about what study habits work for me and what do not. Here are three common mistakes I have made and how I fixed them:
What an obvious one, right? But it is a mistake I have made over and over. The most common form of procrastination that I indulged in was neglecting to do my readings before lectures. Although some people can get away with not doing the readings, it definitely did not work for me. I am the type of person who needs to take time to fully understand concepts before class, and the only way to do this was to read.
I would constantly tell myself that I would eventually complete the readings, only to leave them to the last minute right before midterms. And at this point, I was already exhausted and was being bombarded by other classes.
My biggest piece of advice is to study or do your assignments during the times you actually feel energized and awake. There have been way too many times where I have been bored and felt completely awake but just did not want to start studying. And then when it came to crunch time, I was tired and ended up hating myself for not using the time I had earlier. As a result, I was not able to do my best work or retain as much information as possible. So, long story short: just do it.
- Not going to office hours.
Thanks to my procrastination, I often found myself missing office hours because I did not know what kinds of questions to ask. When I was not caught up on material, I was scared of sounding dumb in front of my professors, TAs or other students.
But this constant worrying was just a waste of time for me. Professors and TAs were all providing me with their time and knowledge by holding office hours, so why not just use these resources? As soon as I was caught up, I wrote down specific questions that I could bring to office hours, and it became easier and easier to follow along. If I felt like I was still asking pointless questions, I had to remind myself to stop worrying. Who cares if you are asking questions that others already know the answers to? You are getting what you need, and I am sure you are not the only one with these types of questions. As long as you are using your resources efficiently, you are doing just fine.
Another word of advice: attend office hours at least a week before midterms or finals because people will flood in days or even hours before. Trust me, I used to be one of those people.
- Focusing on unimportant material.
We all want to study every possible topic that we could be tested on, but the truth is that we probably do nott need to. Freshman year, I wasted so much time trying to study every little thing, creating random Quizlets and hoping I would not miss a single topic. And even though most topics I studied were on my midterms, not everything was. Sometimes I even realized that I did not fully understand the concepts that were on the test because I spent so much time rummaging through all the little unimportant ones. This is where the phrase “study smarter, not harder” comes into play.
Allocate your time and energy into topics that you will actually need to know and understand. While it can be hard to figure out exactly what professors will test on, it is definitely possible. Use test banks and try to focus on resources specifically made by your professor, whether they are worksheets, study guides or course readers. Ask around from friends or learning assistants that have already taken the class. Whatever approach you take, stick with the important concepts and do not sweat the small stuff.
As much as I hate to admit it, midterm season will always be a tough time of the year. But it definitely started going much smoother once I started implementing study techniques that work for me. We all have different study methods, and that is totally okay. As long as you learn from your mistakes and adjust your habits as needed, you will absolutely kill it this midterm season.