Midterm Study Tips

Midterm Study Tips

by justinel

Is the spectre of midterms looming large?

Midterms can feel stressful at Princeton because in most cases, you're still going to class, still handing in assignments, still engaging in co-curricular activities.  It's a lot to juggle.

That said, it will feel a lot less like an avalanche if you come up with a plan of attack, and tackle small chunks at a time.  You can absolutely do this.  And here's how:

Plan ahead.  Use an organizer or calendar to map out all your major assignments and exams in one place.  Plan study time for each course every day, giving priority to the areas where you know you need some extra support.  Think in terms of a five-day plan for each course.  What will you study at each time on each day?  What will that studying entail?  Get specific (e.g. “Write Outline of Chapter 3”), rather than just saying “study Economics.”  This is the first step in helping you to feel in control—don’t let your schedule control you!

Think like a professor.  What is the underlying logic of the course?  The main themes or concepts?  Your problem sets, assignments, lecture notes, and quizzes may give you some hints; from there, begin to predict exam questions that:

Link the units of course material together.  How can you synthesize the pieces?

Require you to identify and classify information.  How do you associate the details or evidence with larger concepts?

Apply your knowledge.  Looking at a problem and being able to solve it is the first step in “knowing” the material, not the last.  Can you extrapolate how you’d apply a technique or skill or concept set to a more complicated problem?

Create study tools: summaries of your readings or lecture notes/units, charts of major concepts in your own words, a course overview with large themes in big bubbles and smaller concepts/evidence as offshoots of those larger ones, a list of problems that you get stuck on.  The process of study tool creation counts as studying!

Work through previous assignments and/or test questions, and look for connections between them.  Write sample short answers and essays.  Make outlines in response to possible questions.

Attend course-sponsored review sessions or check with your instructor to see if there are practice tests available for you to take; if not form a study group and create your own practice test!  After you’ve reviewed your notes and discussed what you think are the most important issues for the exam with a classmate, take a practice exam as if it were the real thing (no notes, no answer key, timed testing).  This will give you a better sense of what areas you need to focus on to go into the real exam better prepared.

Study with others.  Divide up the class and present major concepts/themes to each other, so that everyone is responsible for being an “expert,” and then test each other on the material.    If you don’t have a study group, teach one of your friends about a particularly challenging aspect of your class material.  Teaching others can be a great way to learn, because you’ll be forced to explain concepts in ways that you understand.  (Side effect: you may inadvertently convince your friend to change majors.)

Are you comfortable with the material being covered in class? If not, ask for help:  Go to your professor’s office hours, preceptor’s office hours.  Have you tried the course specific McGraw Study Halls at Frist? Attended review sessions?  Seen a Learning Consultant at McGraw?  Made an appointment at the Writing Center, for help at any stage of the writing process? Formed or joined a study group? If you’re using all of your resources, and you’re still feeling like you could use some more help, please come talk with me.

Take care of yourself.  Exercise, get a good night’s sleep (really … studies show that you’ll do worse on less sleep, not better). Don’t go to exams on an empty stomach (eating breakfast is a great way to wake up!) and don’t overdo caffeine.

Get to the exam room a little bit early so you can get settled and collect your thoughts before the exam begins; read the exam directions (twice if necessary); answer the easiest questions first, mark any questions you skip so you remember to go back to complete them later.  Focus on what you know, don’t doubt yourself, and answer every question.

Begin early, and leave yourself enough time to proofread your assignments before handing them in. Make sure you carefully follow instructions concerning proper citation and academic integrity.  If you have questions about what your instructor expects on an assignment or how you should cite a source always ask before you submit the assignment for a grade. If you are in trouble, better to ask for an extension and get a lower grade than to risk the penalty for academic integrity violations.

Remember that midterms are not final grades.  They comprise a portion of your final grade.  While you should take them very seriously, you should also see them as an opportunity to check in: celebrate your strengths, identify your weaknesses, and make any necessary adjustments to your study strategies for the rest of the term.

If you have any questions or concerns, or would like to discuss your academic plans, or you're just feeling overwhelmed, please stop by the Rocky College Office or call Crystal at 609-258-3728 to schedule an appointment.  We’d be happy to talk with you.

You got this.