Midterm Madness

Kit Wiley, Writer

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Handling the onslaught of tests.

Ask a college student what their favorite thing is and they will probably mention food, sleep, or friends, for example. There is one thing, though, that no college student will claim to enjoy: midterm exams.
Now, we’ve all heard about the importance of assessments and how we should do our best to pass, but not many people offer useful tips on how to do so. Well, that changes today, as I run you through some basic tips to get you through the midterm season.

Plan and strategize

I’ll start with the obvious focus: studying.
There are lots of different ways to study for an exam, but some things are universal. To start, minimize distractions. Put your phone on airplane mode and put it out of reach, or just turn it off. If you have roommates, ask them not to bother you for a couple hours (or however long you plan to study.) Have something to drink nearby, so you won’t have to get up when you get thirsty.
If you can’t focus, try putting on some music. Music without lyrics works best, and I would recommend looking up “video game field music” on YouTube. Video game music is meant to keep you engaged, and it will help you focus on what you’re studying. If you’re someone that needs lyrics in their music, listen to music in a language that you don’t speak. This will cut down on the lyrics’ distraction factor and allow you to devote more attention to the material you’re trying to memorize.
Let’s look at some study techniques. Generally speaking, spaced studying in advance produces better results. This occurs for many reasons, such as the opportunity to revisit anything confusing or the extra time available for the information to imprint on your brain.
In reviewing material, the SQ3R method has been shown to increase retention drastically. The name of this method is an acronym for survey, question, read, recite and review.
The first step, survey, involves glancing over the material, taking note of headings, and other outstanding features, such diagrams or summary paragraphs. Once you’ve surveyed the material, move on to questioning. Turn headings into questions, or just ask what the chapter is trying to teach.
Then, read the material again, thoroughly this time. Use the questions to keep yourself attentive to the material. When you’re done reading, move on to reciting. This step can be easier with a study partner, but you can do it by yourself too. Repeat the information you just read, putting the concepts into your own words as though you were trying to teach someone else the material.
Finally, there’s review. Probably the simplest step, I recommend doing this right before the exam. Take one last look at the material and the notes and repeat the information to yourself, again in your own words. From there, you can go ace the test!
Now, as useful as SQ3R is, I do realize that some of us are procrastinators. We don’t always leave ourselves enough time to both study and sleep. This is where the dreaded all-nighter comes from. Luckily, there are ways to make staying up all night less stressful. It will still take a toll, but you can at least lessen the negative effects.
Start with a short nap in the early evening. This gives your body a reserve of energy that you can draw on to stay awake longer. Caffeine will help in the early stages, but it will get less effective as the night progresses. Try a light snack if you start feeling the urge to chug a pot of coffee.
Study your hardest material first when your mind is still fresh and it’s easier to understand what you’re looking at. If you really start to lag, get up and do some easy exercises, such as jumping jacks or a couple push-ups. Getting your heart rate up will help you feel more awake, and you can get back to studying. When you finally get through the material, if you have a couple hours to spare, take another nap. Make sure to set an alarm, though, or you might sleep right through test time!
Whatever study method you use, make sure to take breaks. Studying for 30 to 50 minutes, followed by a 10 minute break, gives you a chance to relax a little so that you don’t get overly stressed and freak out over an inability to focus. If you can’t manage 30 minutes, then go for 20 minutes and take a five minute break. Get up, walk around the room and grab a snack if you’re hungry. Refill your drink. Then sit back down and keep studying!

Socialize with a purpose

During midterm season, it can be tempting to just say “forget this” and run off with your friends, but don’t forget that they probably have tests, too. If you want to spend time together, consider doing so as a study group. This is particularly effective if any of you have classes together.
If you’re all prepared for your exams, or you just can’t take it anymore and need a break, that’s okay, too. Meet up at a coffee shop or other venue and de-stress for a bit! Social interaction is important for a person’s mental health, and sometimes we just need to hang out with our friends.
Outside your friend group, something to do during midterms. A good habit to form thorough the rest of the year is to talk to your professors. Whether it’s asking for clarification on classwork, or just seeing how their weekend was, don’t be afraid to approach your professors for a chat. (Unless, of course, they tell you to leave them alone. Then do not approach.)

Energize with healthy food

Alright, don’t put my head on a spike just yet. Your food choices can actually have a big effect on how you feel during midterms.
I already mentioned study snacks, but I’ll go into more detail now. When you’re in the middle of a study binge, keeping snacks light and healthy can help you feel more energized and ready to learn. Heavier foods like pizza, potato chips and most highly processed foods can drag your energy levels down, leaving you lethargic and unmotivated.Try reaching for a piece of fruit or some peanut butter on celery.
Save the pizza for the celebration when midterms are over.

Hopefully these tips will help. If nothing else, just remember to breathe. I know it might not feel like it right now, but you can do this. Midterms are not the end of the world. Just breathe, focus and know that you will survive! Good luck!