Even as senior post-secondary student, I haven’t truly mastered the art of organizing my time. I fail to maintain an organized planner, I typically forget to write things down on my calendar, and my sleep schedule can get out of whack pretty easily after one weekend. And if I let myself do it, I can put off things until the very last minute.
But during midterm month, you have to pull your head up from your desk.
For many post-secondary schools in Canada, midterms are approaching in February. Some students can have midterms as early as January, while other students finish their last midterms a few weeks before finals. Due dates for assignments, labs, and papers may also fall into midterm month.
As the hellish month is approaching, consider the following a list of tips that can help you pull yourself together during the busy school term. Keep in mind that these tips may or may not help you; what works for some, may not work well for others!
WRITE DOWN TEST DAYS.
Whether it’s etched into your brain or unto your day planner, remember your test days, considering that some tests can fall on the same day or week as each other. Physically writing down your test days on your calendar will allow you to visualize how many days you have left to study.
Set your standard.
What grade would you like to achieve on your midterm? My general rule of thumb includes:
- A-range (80-100%) = studying 1-2 weeks before the test
- B-range (70-79%) = studying 4-6 days before the test
- C-range (60-69%) = studying 2-3 days before the test
- A passing mark (50%) = studying 1 day or a few hours before the test
Keep in mind that this rule of thumb can widely vary, depending on what you are studying for, the style of the midterm, and the degree of familiarity with the material.
Review & organize.
Review your lecture notes and take note of classes that you’ve
skipped missed, and ask a fellow colleague to provide you with them. Ensure that your notes are organized, so you don’t have to suffer finding your loose papers later on.
If you’re certain that there will be questions on the midterm pertaining to your textbook readings, look over the chapters. Unless your instructor has assigned you short (and few) chapters to read, then you don’t have time to finish reading each chapter.
Instead, compare your lecture notes to your readings. Which content in your lectures coincides with your readings? Focus on content that is featured in both your lecture notes and textbook. Refer to content in your textbook that has been referenced in your lecture notes.
You should also take note if your instructor tells you that there will be test questions that were not discussed in lecture, but are in the textbook. In that case, skim through the chapter, and take note of each section.
How does it relate to the content that was taught in lecture, and which concepts/terms were not defined in class?
To memorize or not to memorize?
Another general rule of thumb that others may find useful:
- Math/physics/chemistry/related subjects require practice-based studying; they require you to familiarize yourself with a certain mathematical concept via calculations.
- Biology-related subjects require application-based. To properly prepare for these midterms, you need to have an understanding of a biological pathway, associated terms, and its relation to a broader system.
- Subjects relating to social science (i.e. sociology, geography) require memorization-based studying, which involves remembering certain dates and concepts.
- Midterms for introductory courses may include a lot of knowledge-based questions.
- Midterms for intermediate courses may include a lot of application-based questions.
Keep in mind that a single course can involve both application and/or practice-based studying. Use your own discretion to determine which style of studying is most suitable.
A map towards a great grade.
While you’re studying, construct a concept map, a spider web diagram that connects ideas, terms, and concepts. A simple Internet search can yield examples of awesome concept maps that you can try out.
If concept maps don’t float your boat, you can always write up a review sheet, consisting of point-form notes, which outline the material to be featured on the midterm. Include terms, brief descriptions of concepts, and reference your textbook/lectures for any relevant figures or tables.
Take breaks (not all-nighters).
Take some good, needed study breaks, and avoid pulling all-nighters or studying without any stop. Your brain needs to be as optimal as possible, so doing the latter may not help you get a great midterm grade.
Use your discretion to determine how long you can study for without any distractions. If you can only study for one hour at a time, perhaps you can take a 10-minute break every hour.
Make your breaks meaningful. Chug a gallon of water, grab a quick bite to eat, or take a small walk to get your blood flowing. Even a quick power nap can help your tired, old brain.
Avoid logging unto your social media sites or surfing the Internet. You may be tempted to ditch your studying session to hang out with your friends online. Unless you really need it, avoid your electronic gadgets!
Organize your time.
You’re a busy student laden with other responsibilities while still trying to fit in some time for loved ones and hobbies. Plan your midterm studying early so you’re not struggling to fit all the needed information into every nook and cranny of your brain.
Don’t let your midterms and assignments consume you!
Renee C. has received her B.Sc. in Honours Life Sciences at McMaster University. She loves educating others about different topics in science, and has developed a passion for scientific outreach. When she’s not writing articles for Hemtecks, she’s either volunteering or checking her social media accounts every 20 minutes. Along with Tiffany (Tianhemtecks), she also facilitates the blog’s Facebook page.