It’s that time of year again — midterm season. Trying to force four months worth of information from seven classes into your head, all for one hour-and-a-half exam which will make up ten percent of your final grade: it’s characterized by cramming, and high stress levels.
That’s a lot for anybody to deal with.
Luckily, however, there are ways for students to streamline the study process, simplify their lives and relieve some of the immense pressure placed on them.
Midterms are the ironman of time management and self discipline. It’s best to approach them with the right mindset. Remind yourself that you have control over how well you do. Organize your thoughts, and you’re guaranteed to have an easier time focusing. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed, but you’re going to have to do the work no matter what. It takes practice; you have to build self-discipline like a muscle.
Start by talking to each one of your teachers. Ask them what types of questions will be on the test (multiple choice, open response, etc.) and ask how much each section is worth. Don’t be afraid to ask content questions, e.i. “Will the test be mostly on chapter 5 or 6?” The worst thing that could happen is a “no”, and many will disclose the information.
Once you have an idea of what you’re up against, decide what subjects will require more of your time, and when you will study for them. Be honest with yourself. If you think you’ll need 2 hours of time for bio, be sure you have a time slot set aside. If you know you won’t be able to study for 2 hours straight, take that into account.
The most crucial factor in your midterm success is the way you study. Strategy is everything. You can work for 3 hours, and retain minimal information if you don’t do it right.
To study effectively, you have to understand the brain.
The brain stores information with synaptic chains; neural pathways. The more often you use these pathways, the easier they are to access. That’s why you can easily remember 2 + 2, but 46 + 398 takes a little more time.
Your long term memory is not a list or archive, but an extensive web of connections in which one synaptic link triggers another, and another, etc.
You have to keep all this in mind when studying. Instead of forcing yourself to absorb masses of information, try creating chains and associating related knowledge.
You want to maximize the number of “synaptic triggers”, or associations between facts. That way, you can recall all aspects of a concept, although only a “keyword” is in the question.
How can you do this? Always read actively so you can be alert for relevant information. Create literal concept maps. Arrange notes in the order that processes occur, rather than the order the textbook explains them in. Think about it from the teacher’s perspective; what details would you include if you were trying to access a student’s knowledge?
In addition, it helps to reinforce information by writing it down, or saying it aloud. But no matter how you choose to study remember; the process is supposed to be difficult. These tips shouldn’t make it fast or easy, only more effective.
And after all that, remember, in the long run, midterms aren’t a huge deal.
Throughout the whole ordeal, you have to keep things in perspective. It’s important, and it’s worth the effort, but it’s not the end of the world even if you don’t perform well. A student who fails both their midterm and final with a 60, but passes each term with a 90, will finish with an 84 GPA. Do your best, and in the end, it will all average out.