How’s that midterm coming along?
Oh yes, midterms. Midterms are always a stressful time in the school curriculum, outweighed only by final exams. Even when they aren’t weighted enough to make or break your class grade, the word “midterm” has an ominous overtone which can induce fear and a feeling of impending doom. Go on. Say it out loud! See what I mean? However, that deer-in-the-headlights sensation you are now feeling can be diminished, if not completely eliminated, by taking a few simple steps.
The first and best thing to do is to be prepared. I’m sure you’ve heard the urban legends of students who have procrastinated until the day before, crammed through the night and aced their tests. Although rumors of this particular breed of student have existed at least as long as higher education, I have yet to meet anyone (and their grade) who would not have benefitted from a little more foresight. In the end, there is simply no substitution for keeping up with class readings and lessons.
So, now that you’ve been a diligent student and are still facing midterms, there are a few things you should think about. The first question I ask myself is: What type of midterm is this class giving? If the midterm is turning in a long paper, what type of paper is the instructor looking for (argument, informative paper, response paper, etc)? Make sure that the direction of your paper is addressing the needs of the prompt.
If the midterm is a test or quiz, is it verbal or written? Has your instructor given you any indication of the form of questions being asked (true/false, multiple choice, short answer, etc.)? Knowing the types of questions being asked can help you to study more effectively. If you know you have to write essay responses, it makes more sense to study the larger ideas and have an understanding of how the concepts work together. In my experience, multiple choice tests have always required a more thorough understanding of vocabulary. Also, if you’ve been keeping up with the class, you probably know which areas you have a better grasp of than others. It is the weaker chapters that I pay special attention to, making sure I understand how it fits into the larger objectives.
Knowing that I am an auditory and visual learner (try this website or this one to figure out what type of learner you are), I structure my study style to make sure I am getting as much as I can from my time. I read aloud and write things down, creating lists and time lines in various colors using crayons. I know from experience that this helps me to remember more during the actual test.
I have one final piece of advice as you prepare for your midterms: DON’T PANIC. Although they can be stressful, midterm exams are not the end of the world; they are simply one step in your educational journey. I take breaks often, whenever I notice that my concentration is slipping. Just like your body gets tired after running for hours, your mind gets tired from absorbing information. Some people find that taking a walk can help them to refocus. I prefer stretching or doing a little yoga to help me relax and refocus.
These are things that I’ve noticed help me during midterms and final exams. Do you have other tricks to help you retain information or prepare you for midterms? We’d love to hear from you!