Midterms are fast approaching and as many of us are gearing up for exams, it’s important to remember that there are ways to study better and smarter so that you are fully prepared and don’t crash from working harder and longer hours. Try using these study tips to boost your memory and concentration while being kind to yourself during this time.

Understand Your Learning Style

It is important to know your preferred learning style because it influences the way you process information and approach problems. When you understand your learning style, you will then know which study methods work best for you — and which ways of studying are not as effective.

There are three different types of learning styles:

  • Visual learning—for this learning style, visual concepts like pictures, graphs, and mind maps are used to process information.
  • Auditory learning—this learning style uses sound and music to study. Auditory learners can read their lecture notes out loud, listen to recorded class sessions, or participate in discussions.
  • Kinesthetic learning—these learners prefer hands-on learning techniques, such as conducting experiments and working on projects.

Depending on the course subject or type of midterm exam, you may prefer to study with one style of learning or even a combination of styles. Research shows that identifying your learning style helps you study more productively in less time.

Take breaks:

You should take five minute breaks every half hour of studying to increase productivity. These breaks can also be extended for ten minutes every hour as well, and these quick times off will increase your ability to get work done at your best. Check in with friends, make some tea or coffee, meditate, and give yourself a well-deserved rest. I recommend setting alarms for every thirty minutes on and five minutes off so that you know when it’s time to go back to work.

Highlight important information & physically take notes:

By writing things down and highlighting, studies have shown that you gain a better understanding and comprehension of the material. Furthermore, explaining a topic to someone (a friend, family member, dog, plant…) helps you better understand it and reinforces the information so you remember it.

Chew gum:

If you chew gum while studying, it’s proven to help with memory and focus to keep your attention on the tasks at hand. Peppermint gum appears to be the most effective.

 Study Smart:

You have your study plan set, time blocked off, and even a snack or two. Now, it is time to sit down and actually study. Here are some effective techniques to organize your studying to make sure you are making the most of out your time.

  • Make a study guide: In your guide, list and outline the concepts, facts, and equations that could be covered on the test.
  • Use flash cards: Flash cards can be especially helpful in memorizing facts or concepts. If you prefer apps, Chegg Prep, Cram, and Quizlet can help you study for your midterms, or you could use 3×5 index cards.
  • Do practice problems: These are often found in your textbooks, course materials, and online. Practice problems can help you become more familiar with the types of problems included on your midterms.

Form A study group:

Make flashcards and quiz each other, share notes, have discussions, create review sessions- even if it’s over Zoom. Working with a friend will help hold you accountable for studying and is a fun way to prepare.

Snack on foods that increase productivity and brain function:

Foods like dark chocolate, blueberries, and nuts will improve your focus and keep your energy levels up. Swap out coffee and caffeinated beverages for options such as matcha green tea, yerba mate and kombucha (if you need an extra boost of energy, as they still contain some caffeine), or juice and water.

Have a set space that you can work in:

For some, that may be the desk in your room or your local coffee shop. Wherever you prefer to work, keep a clean space that you can designate as your workspace and focus in, free from distractions. Listen to music or keep your phone on silent/do not disturb or out of reach if you can.

Study any old material you have from the class:

Old class notes, homework assignments, quizzes, and projects can help you review and understand the material.

Take Care of Yourself the Night Before the Exam

Some students attempt to cram information at the last minute, but this does more harm than good. According to the American Psychological Association, when pulling an all-nighter to study, memories are harder to retrieve — which means it may be difficult to remember the material when you actually take the test. Instead, remember that you have been keeping up with your classwork and your study plan throughout the semester — this slow and steady long-term approach will serve you well during your midterm exams.

Two important things you can do the night before the exam is to eat well and get plenty of rest. For your dinner, plan to have a healthy meal with a protein, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also try to avoid caffeinated drinks, like coffee or energy drinks, and aim to drink plenty of water. Then, set up a calm and relaxing environment so you can get a full night’s sleep. When you are well rested, your brain retains information better and is prepared to perform at its best.

If you are still feeling anxious about the exams, talk with your friends or family. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, especially if you are taking your midterms for the first time. Be proud of how far you have come.

Do Midterms Affect Your Final Grade?

Yes, they do. However, the impact of the midterm exams on your final grade can vary depending on the subject and the professor. (Again, this information can be found on your course syllabus for each of your college classes.)

For example, sometimes midterm exams may count for only 5% of your grade in History — but in English, the midterm could count for 20%. If you are still unsure about how midterms affect your final grade, you can always reach out to Finishline Tutoring.