By Merry Guo, Team Leader, Peer Learning Assistant
For many of us, the wave of midterms is beginning to pass. After days of grueling studying, sleep deprivation, and information overload, do you ever feel like all your motivation and strength have been washed away too? The crazy thing is, it is completely possible to have a low-stress midterm experience. Here are 3 ways we can hold onto sanity and normal life in the face of midterm exams:
1) Be pro-active. The best way to reduce stress you have for a particular exam is to feel well-prepared. The best way to feel well-prepared is to start reviewing well in advance! I like to count backwards 7 days before an exam, and for each of those 7 days, I list things I will do for that course. For instance, the first 4 days would be used for filling in all missing notes, making sure I clarify concepts I didn’t understand, and doing a comprehensive review of concepts that will be tested on. The last 3 days would be spent memorizing things (if required) and doing practice problems. By the end of those 7 days, I would have done all the things I needed to do to feel “well-prepared” for that exam. They key is to figure out what YOU need to do to feel well-prepared, and then split those tasks across the 7 days. It’s a good idea to make your own weekly calendar, and fill it in with these goals!
2) Don’t “let go” of your normal standards. Before a midterm, you might start staying up extra late, skipping classes to study, and eating junky foods. Maybe you’ve had toast for every meal today, are still in sweat pants with unwashed hair, and are feeling guilty about skipping your weekly club meetings too. Not only does this kind of living lead to sleep deprivation, decreased brain function, and often getting sick, “letting go” of regular standards can lead to an unhealthy mindset – that you are unable to cope with your midterm situation, or that it is a huge challenge. The feeling of having control in this time of chaos is powerful, because it can completely change your perspective about your own abilities. Keeping control throughout midterm season could simply mean commiting to still go to the gym twice a week, commiting to still putting effort into your appearance, or committing to still have wholesome dinner at the same time every day. If you don’t “let go”, you’ll find it easier to view midterms as something challenging but manageable, rather than a huge task that you must give up your normal life for.
3) Be in the know. Take the time to send an email to your profs or TAs, or simply ask them after class, details about the exam. Some questions to ask are how many questions there will be on it, what type of questions, how it will be graded, what content will be emphasized, if textbook readings not mentioned in class will be tested, etc. It is incredibly useful to know this kind of information so that 1) you don’t waste time studying for things that won’t be tested on, and so that 2) you are mentally prepared for what is about to be put in front of you. Knowing what to expect can give you a little burst of confidence. You will have less fear of the unknown. Other ways to become familiar with the exam is to do past exams – this is a FANTASTIC way to review! Also, doing a past exam is like simulating the actual exam, which will make you less nervous for when you are writing the actual exam, since you’ve done a “real” exam already, and know that you can do it. Check out exambank for past exams that may be available for your courses.
Last but not least, have confidence in yourself. Best of luck in December!