Tips & Tricks: Navigating the midterm exam season

Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

With midterms, unfortunately fast approaching, it may be difficult to know where to begin preparing — especially if this is your first college exam cycle. 

Whether it be the expansive amount of information covered in your courses or the sheer number of exams you have in the span of a week, midterm cycles remain one of the most difficult parts of college — emotionally, academically and physically. 

So, how do you even begin to approach midterm season?

Break it Down

Before you even begin studying for your exams, make a comprehensive list of everything you have to study for each of your classes. 

It may seem like a waste of precious study time, but taking just fifteen minutes to break down each exam into a list of topics will make everything feel more manageable. 

Instead of thinking that you have to get through two whole units in a day, think about it as a set of smaller topics — easier goals to check off throughout the day. Moreover, once you’ve broken your work into smaller, more achievable subsections, it will be easier to schedule when to do what. 

Instead of having to just block off a whole day to get through a unit, you can block your day off hour by hour to ensure that you are not over or under-planning the time you would need. 

This will be especially helpful if you need to study for multiple exams in one week — since you’ll be able to figure out how much you need to study each day for each class.

Take Breaks

With the high-pressure environment of Tech, it’s easy to lose yourself to the stress of exam season. 

Remember to take breaks, eat full meals, drink water and catch up with your friends. 

It may seem like holing up in one of the library cubicles for hours on end is the best way to study, but your brain, just like any other body part, needs rest.

Taking even a five-minute break to go for a walk outside and visit a friend studying somewhere else is such a great way to let your brain relax for a bit before needing it to process more information. 

If you are someone who avoids breaks because they always go longer than you wanted them to, a good way to avoid this is by using the Pomodoro method. The Pomodoro method is a study method that encourages you to work in 25-minute sections, taking five-minute breaks in between and a 15-minute break after three 25-minute-five-minute cycles. If this doesn’t work, there are countless other variations of these timed study blocks you can try such as a 52-minute study block with a 17-minute break period if you prefer longer periods of concentrated work.

It’s Not Make it or Break it

Even though it may feel like so much more, a midterm is just a midterm. 

It is not worth stressing yourself out for days on end or ruining your health over it. 

If this is your first college midterm cycle, this will more likely than not be a learning experience for you. 

Find out what worked for you, what did not and what you can do better next time. Your professors and TAs will also be more than willing to work with you to see what went wrong with the exam if you’re not happy with your grade, or help you identify what worked well for you. 

Remember that a grade is just a grade. If you did not meet your standards on your first set of midterms, it is not the end of the world. It may sound cliché, but you are not defined by your grades or your GPA. All you can do is your best, so do that and you will do great!