October 13th, 2011

7 Reasons Not to Panic over Midterms

It’s midterm season!  (It’s always midterm season, actually, because professors tend to give these suckers throughout the term.) Ready to panic at the thought?  Don’t.  Here are seven ways to keep the panic at bay.

# 1 – Study regularly

Yadda-yadda-yadda.  Everyone says this.  No one listens.  But if you really care about the subject, this is the number one option to keep panic at bay. If you study regularly, midterms won’t be a reason to panic.

#2 – At least do the homework assignments

Here’s what I’ve discovered:  If you go to at least most of the classes, do the reading, and do the assignments—guess what?  You’ll probably do pretty well on the exams, even if all  you do is scan your notes the night before  the exam.  I know—no one listens to this little gem either.

#3 – Take notes in class—by handwriting them

What? You think I’m some kind of techno-Neanderthal?  Well…maybe. But there really is scientific evidence that the simple act of handwriting your notes literally embeds them into your mind.  That does not happen if you type them into a computer.  If you’re a slow writer, type your notes as before, then make part of your study process handwriting them onto paper.  Try this—it really works!

#4 – Make a study plan

Yadda-yadda-yadda.  I know. You’ve heard this before.  But your course syllabus tells you exactly when that midterm is going to strike—and you know that date weeks before it happens.  So figure out how much time you’re going to need to prepare for that exam and schedule it in.  No one listens to this gem either…

#5 – Get a study partner

Don’t have the discipline to study by yourself?  You’re not alone.  Find someone else in the class who is

  • cute,
  • tolerable personality-wise, and
  • smarter than you.

Convince them to be your study partner.

(Note: You can probably find any two of those three criteria in one person. You decide which one you’re willing to drop…)

#6 – Don’t pull an all-nighter unless there’s no other choice

Staying up all night is not your best option because walking into an exam exhausted from lack of sleep isn’t the smartest strategy.  Still, there are times when there aren’t too many other options. Make a conscious decision the night before whether you’re better off going into the exam having under-studied, or over-exhausted.  But if you do decide to pull an all-nighter:

  • make sure you study smart by having a plan over what specific points you’re going to study and
  • how long you’ll study each,
  • you may be better off reviewing the material multiple times rather than focusing on reviewing one or two points in depth all night long.

#7 – Study more often… Seriously

If this is a class where you really need to know the material for your future career, scientific research on learning and memory shows the single best way to ensure that you do well on the test is to study more often. If you spend, say, six total hours studying for the exam, doing an hour a day for six days is actually more effective than one six-hour session the night before the test.  But the best study technique scientifically is to go over the material multiple times. So find some time to review the information on the test several times—and then go in and ace it!

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