Well students, its that time again – midterm season! This time of year can seem hectic and stressful as you are trying to fit in study sessions while still maintaining all of your other responsibilities. Whether you are a first-year student writing midterms for the very first time, or you are an upper-year student who is trying to maintain their GPA for graduate school, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone and there are lots of resources and tips available to help you ace your midterms!
While I know that each student has their own study habits that typically work best for them, I have compiled some tips and suggestions on ways to get the most out of your studying and help reduce stress throughout the examination period.
1. Plan Ahead
Something that I have personally learned over my undergraduate years is how beneficial it is to plan ahead when it comes to studying for exams. What is the best way to plan ahead, you ask? Create a study guide! You can develop your own study guide in many different ways, whether that be making a visual calendar or putting reminders in your phone.
The main point of creating a study guide is to plan out how much and which content from a course you are going to study on designated days. One way that I have found to work extremely well for myself, is creating (or printing off) a blank month calendar and simply writing down the specific content I plan to study on that day and how long I plan to study the content.
Visualizing the amount of content that is needed to study and the number of days I have to study it in, really helps me figure out what I need to focus most on and what I may be able to spend less time on.
Another important benefit of planning out your study sessions is that it reduces a significant amount of stress. I always find that the hardest part of studying is actually starting. Having a lot of content to study and being unsure of where to start can be stress-provoking and somewhat demotivating, so taking the time to sit down and plan it out eliminates those feelings.
2. Pick your own space
This second point may seem simple and not as relevant as the other points, but I find this to be one of the most important ones! The space you study in can affect how well you retain the information as well as your stress levels while studying.
I highly suggest that you first tidy up the space you choose to study in, as this helps your concentration and attention. Also, if you can, choose a study space that isn’t in your room (or at the least, not your bed!). Your room is meant to be a place where you sleep, watch Netflix and spend time to relax, so it’s best not to associate it with studying or school-related work.
Pick a spot where you plan to strictly only study in, and this will help to train your brain to know that when you are in this spot, you are there to study and focus. I have found that picking a specific, clean and organized spot to study helps me to remain focused and I get a lot more done than when I have studied in my room.
3. Study in a group
Form study groups! Getting together with some friends or peers in your class will help to test your knowledge and fill in the gaps for anything you may be missing. It is great to study with others in the same class as you, as some may have taken different notes than you that you will end up finding very useful and informative. This also gives you the chance to share what you know and help others!
One thing that I love about group studying is being able to test my knowledge through explaining the concept I’m studying to someone. Sure you can study alone, by reading or writing your lecture and textbook notes, but nothing tests your knowledge about a topic better than your ability to explain it to someone else. It’s essentially like you are the teacher for a brief time period and it allows you to get a better understanding of what you know well and what you need to spend some more time studying.
4. Take small breaks
This fourth point seems a bit silly to mention but many people will get so into what they are studying and completely forget to give their brain a break. While it’s important to keep your stamina, it’s also just as crucial to give your brain a rest as it isn’t able to function optimally when it becomes overwhelmed or overcrowded.
One thing that other upper-year students have passed down to me, and that I have found very beneficial when I study, is the 'one hour on and ten minutes off' rule. I will study for about an hour, and then no matter where I am in the content, at the hour mark I will get up and take a short ten-minute break.
These ten-minute breaks usually consist of getting a healthy snack, walking around the block, using the washroom or even calling my mom to say a quick hello. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do for those ten minutes, what’s important is that you step away from the material and allow your brain to focus on something else for a little while.
5. Practice self-care
Last, but not least (actually the most important point), is practice self-care! I can’t stress the importance of this point enough without going on a rant about how poor mental health and well-being can be detrimental to your academic achievements and so forth.
I know that midterm seasons gets extremely busy, you forgot to eat your veggies, you forget to drink water, heck sometimes you even forget to shower. Please, in the midst of it all, remind yourself to take a step back and take time for yourself.
Personally, I like to go on runs or get my nails done. I wasn’t much of an exerciser before I started university, but I became a daily runner when I noticed the uplifting effect it had on my emotions and feelings during exam periods! A little bit of exercise can go a long way, improving both your memory and physical well-being.
Another thing, please make sure to get enough sleep. The night before a midterm there is always the temptation of ‘well, if I stay up and study all night I might get a better mark’ and I’ll tell you now, chances are you won’t. It is much more beneficial for you to get at least six hours of sleep before writing any exam as it enhances your memory and your brain's ability to retrieve information from your memory storage the next day.
Finally, take time to do fun things. You may feel guilty at first to take a break from studying and watch that episode on Netflix or play that video game for some time, but don’t!
While studying is a big part and requirement of being a student, it's not the only part! Studying is not meant to be all consuming, it is just meant to be a habit that is maintained throughout your time here. So, with all that being said, take time for yourself, and never feel guilty for doing so!
Do you have any other tips or tricks that help you prepare for midterms? Leave them in the comments below!
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