Tuesday, October 18, 2016

How to Ace Your Midterms

If you're in college, you're probably in the midst of midterm season. For me, they come in waves every couple of weeks, but I know friends that have tests weekly up until the end of the semester. Midterms are so stressful, but I have some test taking tips and study tips that will help you do well. I am a biochemistry major so the classes I'm taking tend to be math/science based, but the tips should work even if you're studying something different. 


1) Caffeinate Wisely
It can be so tempting to drink coffee, redbull, or 5 hour energy to get through a study session, but it ends up being really detrimental in the long run. It is important that you treat your brain well and sleep plays a huge role in memory and retention. Drink a coffee, but don't use it to pull an all nighter or as "sleep replacement" because it really doesn't help that much. 

2) 30/10, 45/15, 60/20
These are just three on/off times that I use, but feel free to come up with your own. With this, you are hardcore, no distractions, completely focused on school for a set amount of time, then you have a break. Use the break to get food, use the bathroom, watch youtube, and then repeat. This only works if you do it right, so make sure your phone is off or better yet, somewhere you can't see it. I have found 45/15 to be my favorite ratio, but experiment with it for yourself!

3) Location
Where you study is just as important. This is another subjective topic because everyone's different. I have one friend that cannot study in her apartment and has to go to campus to be productive, but I'm the most productive at my desk with music going on in the background. Experiment with different places, noise levels, and with having people around, and hopefully you'll find where your optimal place is. 

4) Get Help
At my school there is a lot of help available either through office hours, tutoring center, or supplemental instruction. Use whatever resources are available to you to make sure that you understand and are prepared for your tests. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting help, especially if it will help you do well in the class. Alternatively, you could also make friends with people in your class and you could study together in a group. 


1) Do a "Once Over" when you get the exam
After you fill out your name and all the general info stuff at the beginning of the test, flip through the test and scan the pages. Do this first, before you start working on problems! It is so helpful because you can start to gauge how to manage your time (nothing worse than spending forever on multiple choice and having to rush through the short answer problems) and you can also see what types of problems there are. After I do this, I generally just go back to the front of the test and work through it from front to back, but if you're in a writing heavy class and have a long essay to do, it might be worthwhile to start with that. 

2) Manage Anxiety
If you suffer from testing anxiety, or if you are just nervous, make sure that you keep those feelings in check. Focus on your breathing, think positive thoughts, and take it problem by problem. It's also extremely dorky, but ever since high school I've written myself positive affirmations on my tests or cheat sheets. For example, on my physics midterm I wrote "you got this!" super big on the bottom of my cheat sheet. It may sound stupid, but sometimes you just need to see something like that. 

3) Skip Questions
If you don't know how to answer a question within the first 30 seconds of reading it, skip it and come back to it later. The 30 seconds is arbitrary, but if you know how to do it, you should know instantly, and staring at it won't make you remember how to do it. It is so much better to answer the questions you know how to do correctly than it is to spend so much time on a question you don't know how to do and have to rush through everything else. 

4) Checking Answers
I am a huge believer in taking time to check answers when you finish a test. A lot of time the first answer you put down is the correct one, so unless you know for sure that you made a mistake and that another answer is the correct one, don't change your answer. What you're checking for here are computation errors (either you do the math wrong or write the wrong sig figs...), reading errors (didn't answer the question), or you're going back to answer a question you skipped the first time around. 

These are the tips that I use when studying. I am one of those people that actually *gasp* tries in school and I do spend a lot of time prepping for midterms, but that's because doing well is important for my future goals. Definitely feel free to alter these tips to better suit your needs, and let me know your studying/test taking tips in the comments!

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