A Crash Course in Midterm Studying: It’s All About the Planner

By Kat Kaderabek 

Midterms, and subsequent finals, are the cause of high-stress levels and increased anxiety during their scheduled times. There are several ways to reduce stress, with the majority of them revolving around planning ahead. The bulk of midterm and finals stress can be reduced by simply planning ahead. Here are several tips and tricks for planning for midterms/finals, and studying for these exams: 

1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is vital in reducing stress and effectively studying for midterms. Invest in a planner. Planners will help reel in procrastination if a regimented schedule is stuck to. Schedule in the dates of midterms and finals along with other projects and tests, then take a larger look at the entire month. Looking at the whole of what needs to be accomplished is intimidating and often overwhelming. This is why planning ahead, especially early in the semester, is important. Schedule study sessions a week or two out from a midterm or big test. Allotting time to create a study guide or reviewing materials is a productive method in preparing for midterms and finals. 

2. Schedule Study Sessions 

In keeping with the idea of planning ahead, schedule study sessions with classmates a week or so before the exam. Depending on the difficulty of the class, schedule several sessions with different classmates. Every person takes notes differently, so studying with multiple people will give a greater overview of the material than relying on one’s own notes. 

3. Study Buddies

Quiz yourself, then have someone else quiz you. Self-discipline can be difficult to implement, especially while studying alone. Having another person involved will test one’s knowledge of the material better. There is no cheating when studying with a partner. This can help determine what needs to be studied more and what one truly knows or does not know. It is still important to study alone, as it allows time for reflection on the class and its material, but studying with a partner will truly test the application of the material. 

4. Prioritize Sleep

Schedule at least seven hours of sleep and stick to it. Take planning ahead to a greater level by scheduling time to sleep. Sleep is more important and will result in a healthy brain going into a midterm or final exam. According to Catherine Darley, ND, of the Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine in Seattle, lack of REM sleep “can impair a whole gamut of brain function from simple memory to more complex problem solving.” Sleep does not need to be regimented, but planning for seven to eight hours of sleep at least two days before an exam will be beneficial. Agree to stop studying at 11 p.m., and then set an absolute bedtime for midnight. This will allow for a good seven to eight hours of sleep before class the next morning. 

5. Keep Your Eye on the Horizon 

Find something to look forward to on the other side of midterms and finals. For finals especially Christmas break is a time to relax and enjoy the holiday season. Around midterms, find a concert, event, or newly-released movie to attend once all the hassle and stress is over. Having something to look forward to can propel anyone through a stressful situation. 

6. Study Tunes

Find a studying jam and place. Many people find studying to classical music can help them retain more information. A study at Florida National University concluded studying with music can help ease student stress, reduce test anxiety, and even improve performance. Whether it is heavy metal or complete silence, find the right atmosphere that is a productive environment for studying. Switch up studying locations, music, and studying-partners to find what works best for retaining and understanding the most information. 

7. Breathe

Consciously and continually take deep breaths. When the stress and anxiety build up, simply taking a deep breath will release some of the built of tension. Consciously take deep breaths when walking to and from places. Focus your mind by focusing your body on a goal. Taking deep breaths will help you relax, lower your blood pressure, and can help cope with stress according to Healthline.com

8. Call Home 

Remember this is a short time in your life and while midterms and subsequent finals are important, they won’t define the person you are in ten, five, even two years from now. Put things into context. Vent to family or friends about stress and move on from it. This is a short period of life, and while it is important to study properly and do well on exams, they are not the most important things in the world. Go into exams with the intention of doing well, but do not overstress for something that would be considered trivial in the context of an entire life lived.

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