How to Study for Midterms Like a Boss

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Feeling those midterm jitters running in your bloodstream? Stress levels usually soar high during midterm season. But, don’t stress—unless you’ve procrastinated to the last second and you’re reading this minute before your test. Using these 10 easy tips, you can avoid procrastination and stress. Just like Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide, you can learn the ins and outs of succeeding in school, and most importantly, kick butt on that maniacal midterm.

Keep reading for 10 tips on how to study for those midterms without breaking down into an ugly cry.

1. Organize your materials at least one week before the exam.

Cramming the night before a midterm may land you in a hot spot. To alleviate your anxiety, begin organizing all your course material at least one week before the exam. “I know my weakness lies in cramming the night before a midterm and pulling an all-nighter. Whenever I organize all my notes, at least a week or more before my exam, I feel relaxed and honestly remember all of the information much better,” said Hofstra University senior Marisa Dapolito. Leaving time ahead for yourself to process half a semester’s material will definitely help you land an A on that impossible microeconomics test you’ve been avoiding.

2. Create a study guide—yourself.

Study guides are a student’s best friend. If you organized all your materials properly, it will be super easy to write out or type a study guide yourself rather than buying one online. Study guides aid in exam preparation. “Note all important lesson ideas, organize them using graphic organizers like matrices and illustrations and associate ideas to one another and to previous knowledge,” said Professor of Educational Pyschology at University of Nebraska Kenneth A. Kiewra, Ph.D. Studying will never be boring again once you illustrate all your ideas on paper.

3. Show your professor your completed study guide.

Once you compiled all your material together into a study guide, check in with your professor to see if your notes look midterm ready. Office hours may be your best bet to confirm any stuff you doubt. “A few days before my midterms I always check in with my professors and show them my study guide. Usually, they let me know if I should add important ideas which really helps me on exam day,” said University of Michigan junior Claire Denson. Midterm jitters can easily dissolve if you meet with your professor. March on over to their office with that amazing study guide and show them just how ready you are.

4. Turn off your cellphone.

The tempting social media outlets of Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook could be the only thing standing between a B and an A on your midterm. “I know when I study at the library, I leave my phone at home or else I will be distracted for hours every time I see a light on my phone,” said Florida State University freshman Sydney Glazer. Cell phones remain staples in life, but leaving it home when you study could be your best bet.

5. Get into a study group.

Studying in a group with your peers always calls for a productive time. Whether your subject lies in Calculus II or British Literature, getting together in study groups before your midterm helps you gain new perspective on your topic, learn new study techniques and boost your motivation. Trivia games and flash cards also aid in learning those impossible ideas such as formulas and vocabulary that you need to memorize. What better way to utilize them than quizzing one another in the library?

6. Maintain a normal sleep schedule.

Remember in Freaky Friday how Jamie Lee Curtis pulled Lindsay Lohan by her feet to get her out of bed for school? Having a similar sleep schedule every night will avoid that kind of circumstance. Sleeping at least seven hours a night and setting an alarm at the same time every morning will definitely help you memorize the entire Battle of Saratoga or the Prisoner’s Dilemma formula. “I make sure I go to bed every night by 11:30 p.m. and wake up by 8 a.m. When I start my day early with ample hours of sleep, I feel energized, process material easily and remember lectures effortlessly which means I don’t have to study as much,” said St. John’s University senior Stephanie Alfano.

7. Don’t Panic.

Add relaxation to your equation when studying for midterms. Although jitters could overtake your thoughts entirely, remember to take deep breaths when studying. “Midterms always give me insane amounts of stress. But, I always set time aside to meditate because it ultimately brings me down to reality and helps me remember my material,” said University of Miami junior Nicole Mahin. Think of Julia Roberts meditating in Eat, Pray, Love and let your mind wander a bit while studying.

8. Make sure to eat.

Studying for midterms can distract you from life—even eating. Hours and hours at the library of memorizing key formulas or definitions can ultimately land your mind in a soft spot. If you want to ace your midterm studying, having a snack on hand will keep your mind energized and ready to absorb more information. Whether it’s nuts or bananas, keeping your mind stimulated with some food will help your studying immensely.

9. Find a good study spot.

Your preference of studying may lie in Starbucks or at the comfort of your own home in your comfiest PJs. “I have to study in silence or else I can’t concentrate. Usually, I’ll reserve a room at the library for myself so I won’t be distracted by any noise at all,” said Farmingdale State senior Erik Ryan. Picking a spot you are comfortable with when studying serves as an imperative rule for midterm success, so plan accordingly.

10. Morning of your midterm: Eat a full meal and review.

Midterm day usually calls for nervousness and panic, kind of like Reese Witherspoon’s uneasiness in Legally Blonde about her acceptance to Harvard Law School. Make sure to eat a complete breakfast the morning of your midterm and give yourself ample time to read over your notes. “For each midterm, I wake up at least three hours before, cook a full meal and use the rest of my time to review, so when I walk in the exam, I feel refreshed and ready,” said New York University senior Michael Tardino. Frying up some French toast slices before your midterm and reading over all your outlines sounds like a pretty good plan if you ask me.

Still not sure how to study for midterms? Keep reading for 10 more quick tips to help you ace that exam.

Written by Amanda DeLuise and Mackenzie Carmen.

11. Don’t wait until the last minute to study.

Procrastination plagues us all. Heck, some of you are probably reading this procrastinating on that 10-page paper you’ve put off since your professor assigned it a month ago. There’s no simple way around it or nice way to put it. Stop wasting time. Getting the weight off your chest by completing a project proves much less stressful than continuing to put work off until it’s too late.

12. Make a study calendar.

Organization is the key to success. Sometimes all it takes to declutter your life is to write out tasks that you need to complete. This helpful tool can actually make studying and midterms less stressful. If you plan far enough ahead, most of your tasks can be completed before midterms even start. So, go invest in a calendar and fill it to the brim with everything you’ve been putting off or forgot about. Bonus points if you use every color in the new colorful pen box sold next to all the calendars.

13. Find a good study spot.

There’s nothing like feeling a cool breeze while sitting at your favorite bench under a beautiful, springtime green tree. Why not take your studying out there with you? Make sure to find a quiet spot that you can stay focused. “Going to a place where I can clear my mind from any distractions truly enhances my ability to focus on what I need to do. If I don’t find a good study spot, a project that would take me half an hour to finish could take me as long as three hours when I am distracted,” said University of Redlands sophomore Carson Brett.

14. Buy packs of post-it notes.

Those pesky little yellow notes can actually be a lifesaver for midterms. Jot down whatever you need to remember. Whether you keep track of due dates, write down important information or doodle to keep your attention span going, post-its might be the right choice for you. Use different colors to keep your attention while keeping track of everything you need for midterms.

Post-its: $7.98

15. Draw pictures to help you remember important concepts.

Sometimes reading and rereading class notes becomes so boring that you lose total focus of what you’re reading. Don’t let your mind wander anymore. Instead break out your markers and pen and let your creative juices out. Draw pictures of whatever your professor mentioned in class, doodles to help you remember or anything at all, really. You’re more likely to remember an image you drew than the notes you unconsciously gaze over while studying, AKA daydreaming. 

16. Make flash cards.

Remember when you used flash cards to learn your multiplication tables? Well, who said you had to stop using them? Flashcards quiz your brain and prepare you for those testing moments where you have to be quick on your feet in order to finish on time. “First of all, physically making the flashcards is studying in itself. You have to be able to determine what the most important material is to know about each term when making them. Then, I love [that] I can memorize and go through my flashcards anywhere so even if I’m busy, I can always pull them out and get some studying done,” said University of California, Los Angeles sophomore Avery Schroeder. Too lazy to write out physical cards? Check out resources like StudyBlue or Quizlet.

17. Form a study group.

Study groups are not only a great option for getting that last minute cram sesh in, but also a great way to make friends… as long as you remember to get work done, too. Make a schedule before everyone gets together or meet in the library so there’s less chance for distraction. “I like going to group [studies] because it helps me to get other people’s perspective on the subject and I feel like I learn better when working with others,” said College of the Sequoias sophomore Dali Bigham.

18. Get plenty of sleep.

Hit those zzzs. As tempting as it may seem to stay up all night to study, you’re actually do better on a test if you’re well rested. Pulling an all nighter to study won’t matter if you can’t even find the energy to hold your pencil in the morning. So, hit the hay, wake up refreshed and be ready to tackle that dreaded midterm.

19. Wake up early.

Being waken up by sun rays through your window may make you want to put the pillow back over your face and hide from the harsh reality of studying. Sure, sleeping has its importance, but so does waking up in the morning. Sleeping in too late can actually set you back during your midterm exam. If you over sleep, grogginess fills your mind and you’ll find yourself unable to focus when it comes to answering an essay question on your exam. “I like to wake up early to study because my brain is fresh and it gives me more time to study well,” said UC Santa Cruz sophomore Claire Miculian.

20. Update your iPod with some classical music.

“Studying with friends is a good way to verbalize my thoughts but when it comes down to it, I need to play classical music,” said UCLA sophomore Victor Rocha. We’ve all heard that classical music can improve your studying and test taking. So, skip over that new pop album for a couple of hours and instead break out the Beethoven or Mozart. You’ll find your mind filling with beautiful music. More importantly, you’ll fill your mind with the information you need to ace your midterms.

*Updated on March 21, 2017 by Alexandra Gimpel to include 10 surprising expert tips to help you ace your midterm exams plus new media.

*Updated on July 27, 2017 by Mackenzie Carmen to include paragraphs for tips 11-20. 

Alex is a senior at Florida State University studying History and International Affairs. When she isn’t attending music festivals, she is busy watching Saturday Night Live and keeping up with contemporary trends. Born and raised in New York, Alex has adopted writing as a way to convey her fast paced and dynamic life.

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