Flashcards. Study groups. Late nights at the lib. Buying Redbull in bulk. Adding an additional shot of espresso to your ‘usual’. Having a mental breakdown on almost a daily basis. Gophers, what does all of this mean?! ‘Tis the week of midterm exams, that’s what it means. But have no fear, CEHD Undergrad is here! We’re about to give you a boatload of useful tips that will help you to A) ace your midterms and B) ease your nerves.
Tips on how to study-
1. Study when you’re sleepy. Spend about 15-25 minutes studying right before you hit the hay. During sleep, the brain strengthens new memories, so there’s a good chance you’ll remember what you reviewed right before dozing off. (Just try not to study in bed because this may make it harder for you to fall asleep!)
2. Space it out. A relatively new learning technique called “spaced education” involves breaking up information into small chunks. You are then supposed to review these little chunks consistently over time. Let’s pretend that you’re enrolled in a chem class and you know that you’re going to be tested on the Periodic Table in just a few weeks. Don’t try to memorize the entire table in one sitting. Instead, learn a few rows each day and review each old chunk before starting to learn new ones.
3. Tell a tall tale. Turning the details you need to remember into a short story helps make the information more meaningful to you. For example, remember the order of mathematic operations, PEMDAS, this way- (P) Phillip (E) Ejected (M) Mary’s (D) Disk (AS) ASAP.
4. Change up your scenery. Research suggests that studying the same material in different places makes us more likely to remember the information at hand. This is because every time we move around (from the library to the coffee shop, or from the coffee shop to Coffman), we force the brain to form new associations with the same content. Thus, this material becomes a stronger memory.
5. Add some variety. If you’re studying for a math midterm, remember to study different types of problems in the same sitting. In fact, studies show that students who study “mixed sets” do twice as well as those who don’t. For example, if you just focused on a set of division problems, you would simply solve them by using division. You wouldn’t think about what strategy needs to be implemented in order to come up with the correct answer. But doing a series of problems that require different operations (such as multiplication, subtraction, or addition) means that you would have to stop and think about which strategy is best to use. With mixed practice, each problem differs from the last. Thus, teaching you how to choose the appropriate procedure (something you will have to do on your midterms). This technique helps prepare you to use the right strategy for finding the solution to a problem.
6. Try testing yourself. Quizzing yourself may be one of the best ways to prepare for the real deal.
7. Write it out. It’s time to put your third-grade penmanship lessons to good use! Students store information more securely when they write it out by hand versus when they type it (click here to read more about how this works!). Work on recopying the most important notes from the semester onto a new sheet of paper.
8. Take a break. Taking regular breaks can boost productivity and improve your ability to focus on a single task. Also, for a real productivity boost, step away from the screen and break a sweat by having a midday workout sesh. Research has found that just by engaging in a half hour of aerobic activity, one can improve their brain’s processing speed and other important cognitive abilities.
9. Play some tunes. Classical music has been known to reduce both anxiety and tension. Though listening to it won’t make you any smarter (people often believe that it will, but this is a myth), it can still serve to improve your memory. If you want to get super specific, listen to music that’s 60 BPM. Research suggests that’s when the benefits will be highest. So smartypants, give those biology notes a soundtrack and start to stress less.
10. Whip up some coffee or tea. A little bit of caffeine won’t hurt. Staying energized is a big part of absorbing information/ course material. But remember, don’t go off the deep end! We don’t want you crashing in a matter of hours.
11. Read out loud. Reading information out loud means mentally storing it in two ways: by both seeing it and hearing it. But Gophers, we can’t guarantee that this won’t get you kicked out of Wilson. (You might want to try this one at home!)
Tips to help reduce test anxiety-
1. Own the Omegas. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, nuts, and olive oil are known for their brain-boosting potential. Moreover, studies have found that eating a combination of Omega-3-and Omega-6 fatty acids before an exam actually reduced test anxiety.
2. Take a pre-test. This will be helpful for two reasons: A) you’ll be less nervous when the actual test rolls around and B) it’ll help you to perform better on it. Try writing up a pre-test and have your friend do the same! Then, you can grade these for each other and reap the benefits.
3. Review the morning of your midterms. This is a good strategy for the same two reasons that are stated in the previous step. While taking your midterms, you want to be calm and relaxed (as calm & relaxed as you possibly can be). Typically speaking, reviewing material the morning of helps one to “cool their jets”. Additionally, this will help you retain the information (brains are very alert and focused upon waking up).
4. Study the simple things. On that note, only review the simple stuff if you choose to break out your flashcards while walking to campus. Trying to wrap your brain around difficult concepts at this point in time won’t do you any favors. Instead, you’ll end up psyching yourself out and nobody wants that to happen! (Not even your “frenemies”). During this short amount of time, just prime your brain with basic class content.
5. Get in the zone. Before heading to class, try meditating or get your “downward dog” on and do a little yoga. Maybe even try listening to more classical jazz? Anything that relaxes your breathing and gets you to clear your mind will be beneficial to you.
6. Get your beauty sleep the night before. When you have a textbook full of equations to memorize, it can be tempting to stay up all night committing them to memory, or at least trying to. But remember, all-nighters rarely lead to acing an exam. In fact, studies have linked them to impaired cognitive performance and greater sensitivity to stress. Don’t let sleep deprivation undo all the hard work you’ve been putting in!
Tips for test day-
1. Be mindful of what you eat and drink. Don’t you dare go into a midterm on an empty stomach! Hunger can interfere with your concentration, and the noise of a rumbling tummy can often be distracting.
2. Don’t forget to wear a watch. You’ll want to keep track of the time when you’re testing.
3. Arrive early to the classroom. It’s important to give yourself time to both relax and reflect before the test begins. Shoot to arrive about 10 minutes before class starts. Ladies, when it comes to taking midterms, there’s no need to be fashionably late!
4. Look over the entire test as soon as you receive it. Take time to evaluate the test. This will help you to determine how much time you should spend on each section. For example, you may find a multiple choice section followed by two large essay questions. In this case, be sure to give yourself enough time for the essays. Assign a time limit to each section. And remember, you can always go back if you finish early.
5. Pay close attention to directions. Actually read the directions (GASP!). Maybe even re-read them. Don’t make assumptions.
6. For the multiple choice section, try to answer the questions before looking at the options provided below. If you’re right, one of the choices will match your answer.
7. Tackle the easy questions first. Skip over any questions you’re not sure about. Sometimes answers will come to you later on, or after you take a second look at the question. If it’s your lucky day, answers just might appear in the essay questions or elsewhere on your midterm assessments.
8. Every time you skip a question, be sure to mark it. How many times have you left an answer blank by accident? We’ve all done it, but that’s such a silly mistake to make. You’re smarter than that. Be sure to make a star beside questions if you skip them.
9. When defining terms, concentrate on themes and chapter titles. If you’re facing a list of terms to define and you’re unsure about a few, think back to major themes and chapter titles. Ask yourself: self, where might that term have appeared?! Take a guess even if you’re not quite sure. And if you have absolutely no idea, still take a guess. Getting partial credit for an answer is better than receiving no credit at all… duh.
10. If you finish early, go back and check your answers. This one is pretty self explanatory.
11. Stay positive! If you start to doubt yourself, you may go blank. Instead, keep concentrating on your strengths and remember that confidence is key.
Take these tips to heart and show your professors that you’re smart! Happy studying!
PS: You got this.