by Danielle Downe, Team Leader, Peer Learning Assistants
In the next week, I have 4 midterm exams in 3 days, a major essay due for one of my French courses and about 4 hours of volunteer work I’ve signed up for. Not to mention, 3 hours of squash club and a 2-hour ice hockey game. This, on top of my regular courses, is insane.
Welcome to midterm time folks!
It’s that dreaded 2-week period in mid-October and again in mid-February – you have a ton of exams scheduled, but classes are still running AND you are required to not only attend those classes, but also remember the content for the final exam. Plus, study for the midterm at the same time.
How, you ask, is it possible to stay sane? I’ve developed a couple of strategies over the last four years that have helped me to get through, and I’m more than happy to share them with you all today!
Number 1: Don’t skip class to study. Sure, you have an exam that needs preparation for, but the material you will be missing in class is also testable on the final exam. Additionally, by missing class you are essentially creating a never-ending midterm period since you will ultimately have to catch up on those missed classes when the exams are done with. This will take time away from more current lectures, putting you more behind….you catch my drift. Instead, what I do is attend all my lectures, and rather than doing the normal after-class ritual (like reviewing the notes, rewriting them or reading the textbook) I use some of that time to study. This way, I’m at least seeing the material in class and I can rewrite my notes after things get a little less hectic.
Number 2: Prioritize. Make sure things like sleep, eating and exercise are at the top of your list. You can’t study 8 hours a day and stay sane – you need outlets like dinner times, trips to the gym and relaxing walks by the lake. What I do is make an ABC list – A is things that need to be done today (study for the physics exam tomorrow), B is for things that need to be done by the end of the week (laundry – I’m out of socks!) and C is for the less pressing issues (plan the volunteer social). Remember, prioritize based on what needs to get accomplished, NOT what you have the most fun doing. Otherwise lets face it, my A-list would be facebook creeping and eating ice cream while watching Glee episodes….
Number 3: Weekly review. Okay, this may not help right now for the test tomorrow, but at least you can get into a habit before final exams. I try to do weekly review of all my lecture slides covered that week every Sunday afternoon. This way, I can flag concepts I don’t understand as well as review all the material to keep it fresh in my mind. I find that come exam time (both midterms and finals) I have less “re-learning” to do and more “review.” In terms of studying for the midterms now, go through your slides a little at a time – set aside an hour or so a night and review what you can. I like to make a list of concepts I fully understand, those I am a little shaky on and those I need help with. Slowly but surely, the “I understand list” becomes longer and longer with a little help from friends, the professor, the TA and the textbook.
Number 4: Don’t fret too much. Midterms are a diagnostic tool to help you realize what is working and what you need to change before it’s too late. Sure, they count towards your final grade, but chances are your final exam is worth more. So, if you get an exam back and the mark is less than stellar, treat is at as learning experience. Maybe you need to start review more often? Maybe you thought you understood certain concepts but in fact, you need to schedule an appointment with the professor to get clarification? At any rate, the midterm is a method of finding out how the professor is going to ask a question, what is expected of you and how you can accomplish that well before the final exam rolls around.
Number 5: Lastly, don’t dwell on past midterms. Sure, you barely finished your biology exam yesterday, but you can’t let your attitude affect your chemistry exam tomorrow. As each exam is finished, let it pass by. Focus on doing the best you can for the next one. When you do get the marks back, refer to tip number 4, as well as know that there are so many resources to help get you back on track – Consultations, Workshops or Study Skills Drop-Ins offered through Learning Strategies Development at Stauffer are just a few. On that note, YOU have to seek help…it won’t come find you!
So, relax. Breathe. Study. Sleep. Breathe some more. Repeat. Remember that you are a capable individual and at the end of the day, it’s only an exam, not the end of your life. Best of luck!