Exams are starting to roll around, but this year, you can use midterm hacks to optimize your performance. During midterm season, it’s important to adopt good study habits and maintain your physical and mental health. This list provides several study ideas as well as a few tips for your well-being.
1. Make your own study guides.
Sometimes, exam study guides are already provided. It’s always a good idea to take a look at the study guide so you have a general idea of what will be on the exam. However, one of the best midterm hacks is to make your own study guides.
When crafting your own study materials, it’s important to personalize your notes. If you’re already solid on one topic, don’t bother adding it to your guide. Instead, focus on the major topics that you need to brush up on. Try separating your study guide into clear sections so it’s easier to understand. An organized and meaningful study guide is far more helpful than a jumbled list of bullet points.
It’s also worthwhile to write your notes in your own words. It’s tempting to copy definitions straight from the textbook, but when you find creative and personally relevant ways to write out your notes, you’ll have a better grasp on the concept.
2. Organize a detailed study schedule.
Studying for midterms can be hectic, and it’s easy to lose track of time when you’re spending hours at the library. If you feel overwhelmed by all the work you have to do, try making a detailed study schedule. You can go about this in a number of ways, but the easiest way to stay organized is to make a daily checklist of your study goals. For example, if you’re using the weekend to study, you could designate certain tasks for certain days. This way, you’re staying organized and cognizant of what needs to be done.
Make sure to keep your expectations realistic. Nobody wants to pull an all-nighter the night before an exam, so planing ahead will allow you to pace yourself. If you have a clear idea of what to do for each day, you’re less likely to overload yourself on a single day. It’s always good to have a balanced schedule!
3. Go to office hours.
For some reason, there’s a bit of a stigma around going to your professor’s office hours, but this is completely irrelevant. Professors have office hours for a reason, and that reason is to help students like you. If you’re shaky on a certain topic and need help, or if you’d like to talk about how to prepare for a specific exam, it’s worthwhile to designate some time to meet with your professors. If you’re worried about dropping by unannounced, you can also email your professor and ask if there’s a specific time that would work best.
Getting to know your professors is beneficial for a number of reasons. At the end of the day, going to office hours will let your professors know that you really are putting in effort.
4. Stay off social media.
It’s easy to waste time on social media. You pick up your phone with the intention of checking for updates, or replying to a message, and before you know it, you’ve spent half an hour scrolling through memes. I get it, okay? Studying can be boring, and social media is the perfect distraction. Think of all the time that could be used for productive purposes, though!
I know it’s hard, but if you want to make the most of your study time, you have to try your best to stay away from social media. You could turn off your phone, put it somewhere out of sight, or if you’re really struggling, you can temporarily delete certain apps off your phone. It’s easier to avoid something if it’s not there at all. Your memes will still be waiting for you when you’re finished with midterms. I promise.
5. Find study partners.
More often than not, we study alone. This is fine, and it may be what works best for some people, but if you find yourself growing bored with the monotonous routine of holing yourself up in the stacks and shoving your face in a book, try finding study partners. It’s a lot easier than you might think!
Study partners are great because they make learning seem a lot more fun. Talking about the material you’re studying can be helpful, especially when your study partners might have a different perspective than you. Together, you can come up with new, creative, and applicable ways to conceptualize the material you’re studying.
6. Go at your own pace.
One strange thing about college students is that they often brag about unhealthy study habits. Have you ever mentioned that you only got five hours of sleep, only for someone else to say they only got two? Sometimes, people can be competitive about their bad habits, which is totally unhealthy. If you’ve been led to believe that real studying involves several all-nighters, little food, and gallons of coffee, please know that this is not healthy, and it isn’t improving your study sessions.
Instead, go at your own pace. Study efficiently, but don’t fall into the belief that your study session is only productive if you’ve spent an uninterrupted twenty-four hours at the library. It’s important to know your own limits and learn to be comfortable with your own pace. Quality over quantity!
7. Take meaningful breaks.
Believe it or not, breaks are a necessary part of studying. No matter what sort of material you’re studying, your brain and your body need to take breaks. It can be beneficial to decide when your breaks will be before you start studying, or else you might forget to take one altogether. It’s also important to decide how long your breaks will be, and what you’ll be doing during them. That way, you won’t spend too much time away from your studying, and you won’t resort to scrolling through your phone when you could be doing something more personally beneficial.
8. Don’t study in your bed.
During midterms, it’s highly important to get a good night’s sleep. To maximize your sleep quality, avoid studying in your bed. Several studies have shown the importance of using your bed only for sleep and for sex. If you do schoolwork in your bed, your brain starts to associate your bed with work, which can make it more difficult to fall asleep at night. In addition to this, studying in your bed isn’t that productive, anyway. It’s midterms season, so you’re probably very tired, and studying in bed is an obvious gateway to an unnecessary nap time. Try studying in the library, at your desk, or in a coffee shop!
9. Get a full night’s sleep.
As mentioned prior, it’s important to sleep well during your exams. Lots of students have unhealthy habits when it comes to sleep, but there are so many benefits to getting a full night’s sleep — especially during midterms. When you have an exam, you don’t want to be feeling groggy and lethargic. Pulling an all-nighter before the exam is never a good idea, and anything you do learn will be difficult to apply to your exam if you’re barely able to stay awake. Additionally, sleep has very positive effects on learning. When we get a full night of rest, our brains are able to consolidate the information we’ve learned throughout the day, improving memory by finding creative and meaningful ways to store information.
10. Think positive and reduce stress.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many students struggle with negative thinking and high stress when it comes to exams. It’s important to strive for mental well-being, especially during such a hectic time of year. It’s easy to engage in negative, self-deprecating, and catastrophic thinking, but these thought patterns can be incredibly detrimental to your mental health. Students put a lot of pressure on themselves, but this pressure can quickly turn negative. It’s important to realize that you’re doing your best, and you deserve to be kind to yourself. Your exam results, whether positive or negative, don’t define you.