Last time, we talked about the importance of midterms, and why they can be more stressful than finals, especially given their ability to impact the rest of your semester. If you read that post and agreed that midterm season is a significant time of year, you may have been thinking something along the lines of “Well, now I know how important midterms are, but it would be great if I can get some tips for midterm season!”. Have no fear, in this post, we will go over some tips to help you conquer the midterm mountains.
Devise a plan
If you’ve been reading some my blog posts, you may notice the recurrent theme of planning. One of the most important applications of planning is in the making of your study schedule. Unlike finals, midterm dates and times are usually available on the first day of classes, in the course syllabus. What I suggest, is putting up a 4-month semester calendar on your wall (campus bookstores usually have them), and filling in all your midterm dates as soon as possible. This may seem excessive to some, especially those who relish in the struggle of studying for a test the day before, but believe me, this will help you tremendously. Seeing how your midterm schedule looks “zoomed out” is very helpful because it allows you to tailor your study plan with specificity. You can see where you will be a little more crammed for time, so then you can compensate for that early on by staying on top of those subjects specifically. Furthermore, this technique helps in preventing time from launching a sneak attack. You know what I’m talking about; the jump from “I have loads of time left” to “I have no time left” often happens all too rapidly.
Pay attention to detail
I can’t speak much for other subjects, but when it comes to the life sciences, doing well on midterms often entails focusing on the details. Ideally you have been keeping up throughout the term, as it is unrealistic to expect to procrastinate and still be able to understand all the details. Focusing on the details can mean spending quite a bit of time memorizing, but it will be worth it because the final will most likely test in less detail, so “overshooting” here will benefit you in the long run.
Do lots of practice
Since midterms are relatively early in the semester, there may not be too many problem types covered, so if you cover all topics/problem types in your practice, you maximize your chances of performing well. Focusing on the most important topics/problem types of course makes sense, but don’t be afraid to add in variety into your practice, because you never know what can show up on the test. This can include using different resources (i.e., slides, textbook, videos, etc.) in your studies.
I often think of midterm season metaphorically as a juggling game. You are juggling tests, labs, reports, assignments, and class attendance all at once. Compare this to finals where classes and assignments are done, and you only focus on the exam. Therefore, it’s important to think a few steps ahead, so that you can juggle effectively. This can often mean making some strategic sacrifices, for example, handing in a lab report one or two days late will often result in a 5 or 10% penalty for that report, but if you have a difficult midterm on the day that the report is due that weighs more than the report, you might decide that it’s better to take the hit. So, to juggle effectively, think a few steps ahead, and make strategic decisions.
Hopefully, these tips help you succeed this midterm season. Good luck studying!