The first lesson: not every midterm is equal. I was lucky to only have two exams to focus on, and while one was worth almost 20% of my grade, the other was open-note and only worth 10%. By recognizing these differences, I was able to invest most of my time in the exam that I was worried about. It was also important to take into account other factors, like how difficult the class had been so far, and how much material I thought I’d have to review.
That being said, I definitely realized that there’s only so much you can study. Even if there are regular quizzes, college assessments are a new experience in general, and the exam could take on a different format. It won’t help to try to memorize every concept in perfect detail—trust when you feel that you have a good grasp on the material, then take the exam! There’s a lot that just depends on how the exam is set up, whether the professor tests more on concepts or calculations, and if it’s more difficult than other course material or similar to past quizzes and problem sets.
Going along with that, a huge component of how well you do isn’t just how much you studied—it’s how prepared you are in other ways. Just getting enough sleep and being alert can make all the difference. I found it difficult to take one of my midterms that took place at 6:30 pm, since that’s usually when I hit a slump and will take a break from schoolwork. Leading up to my next midterm, I’ll definitely prioritize a schedule that helps me be alert during the time that I have to take the exam.
I also found that it’s easy to lose motivation after finishing a midterm, especially if you don’t think you did well. I found myself in this situation, thinking, what’s the point? I thought I understood everything, but once I got to the exam, I had no clue what to do. After a midterm you think didn’t go well, it’s important to take care of yourself. Do other work if you need to (it can help you get your mind off of that subject), but you also deserve some time to rest. Talking through the exam with others (when you’re allowed to!) can also help you realize that it was difficult for everyone.
In the end, only time will tell. And if you don’t get the score you wanted, the important thing is that you understand the material. You can always master test-taking with more experience. I’ve had to remind myself that the first semester of college is a transitional experience, and I can’t expect to do everything without running into struggles—if I didn’t struggle, I wouldn’t be growing. And that’s the point of college, anyway—to learn the material and to evolve as a person. Just be kind to yourself and try to stay motivated! We’ve made it halfway now, and the only way to go is forward.