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A College Survival Guide for Acing Your Midterms
| by Pauline Flores

For college freshman, midterms can be daunting. Who decided that the word “test” should be given a scary name like “midterm”? On top of that, you may have multiple midterms from different classes scheduled in the same week! If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed just thinking about midterms, the first thing you should do is breathe. Nothing is ever as bad as you think it will be. Following these nine helpful tips will help you power through your midterms.

1.    Take Note of the Date Ahead of Time

If you ask professors a question about homework, required textbooks, test dates, or their favorite ice cream flavor, they’ll more often than not tell you to look at the syllabus. Syllabuses (syllabi?) are your go-to resource. They help you know when important class dates are, including midterms.

Grab the syllabus for each of your classes right now and fill out your planner or calendar with all the test dates, homework due dates, and other important dates you see. Be sure to check your calendar often too. Doing this will give you peace of mind because you’ll have a sense of how far away your midterms are.

2.    Practice Good Note-Taking

Note taking is not a skill, it’s an art in college. There’s always those professors that have way too many words on their slides, but they speed through without giving anyone a chance to write everything down. Come up with a note-taking “language” that makes sense to you (i.e. abbreviations, underlines, highlights, and symbols). Don’t write what’s on the slides verbatim. You will absorb the information better if you summarize the lecture in your own words via your notes.

There are many different styles of note-taking; choose the one you are most comfortable with. Make sure your notes are neat and legible too. The last thing you want is a set of sloppy notes and a looming midterm.

3.    Take Advantage of Class Resources

Don't miss out on all the resources the university offers! Think of practice questions, study guides, extra office hours, and review sessions as the tools in your toolbox. Now, equate the possible grades you can get (A, B, C, D, F and everything in between) to the quality of house you can build with your tools. To build an A+ house, you need to use all the tools given to you!

Answer the practice questions as if you were taking a real exam to gauge your understanding of the class material. That means no peeking at the answer key! Study guides are essential to knowing what to study for. Sometimes topics covered in class won’t always be on the test. Attending extra office hours and review sessions is a great way to clear up any confusion you have about the lecture material. Plus, your classmates might ask questions that you never knew you had, which is always helpful. 

4.    Look Over Lecture Slides

Professors often share their lecture slides to the whole class for future studying. These lecture slides are the main reason you shouldn’t write down word-for-word notes. Why do that when you have the slides at your disposal? When you know that a midterm is coming soon, take the time to look over your class’s slides to refresh your knowledge of the material. Do this more than once to ensure that you have a good grasp on what you need to know.

5.    Find Your Perfect Study Spot

The perfect study spot can be a café, your campus library, or a secret spot that few students know about. Your study spot should inspire you to get serious work done. This is your space to focus and get down to business! Try out different study spots to see which place suits you the most. This is also a great opportunity to explore your college campus!

6.    Schedule Time to Study

Here’s the unfortunate truth: you’ll probably have multiple midterms for multiple classes in a two-week span. Finding the time to study for these close midterms can be challenging, but it’s not impossible! Make it a point to allocate your time for each class. Maybe one class is significantly harder than the others. You’ll definitely want to spend more time studying for that midterm.

As the semester rolls along, frequently ask yourself this question: Which class have I not spent time on in a while? To get good grades across the board, make sure that you don’t neglect some classes for others. It’s very easy to forget about lecture materials in a class if you haven’t studied it in weeks, no matter how easy you think it may be.

7.    Form Study Groups

Forming study groups is a highly recommended by college professors. Some people like this method, others don’t. It doesn’t hurt to try it out! In your study group, use the study guide as a resource to quiz each other about the lecture materials. If you’re confused about a topic ask your study group and see if they can help you understand it.

8.    Avoid Burnout

Your determination to get straight A’s and make your parents proud is commendable, but it’s not worth neglecting your mental health. During long study sessions, take breaks – you deserve it! Watch your favorite TV show, listen to music, go on a walk, or hang out with a friend. Practicing self-care is the key to success in college. When you feel good, you do good (pardon the bad grammar)!

Midterm season does not just test what you learned in class; it tests your time-management skills as well. Before a big midterm, make sure to get plenty of rest and eat a good breakfast so that you’re ready to focus and ace that test!


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