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Made it Through Midterms

March 1, 2019

When the end of midterms week finally rolls around, the sense of relief is almost tangible on campus. For most, it is a week filled with late nights, review sessions and study groups and by Friday students are definitely ready for a break. The spring semester doesn’t offer much in the way of immediate relief, since spring break is still a few weeks away, so our students have to find some way to unwind before hitting the books again for the remainder of the semester.

Personally, I have found the best way to handle midterms week is to be prepared, and to have something to look forward to once you have finished all your exams. In order to get prepared, I start by making flashcards. I have found this to be the most productive way for me to study, so I have been using this method ever since my freshman year. I try to keep up on my readings and my goal is to make flashcards after every class lecture, so that I have less work to do the week before the exam. Of course, I don’t always stick to this schedule, so the week before my exams is when I buckle down and make the rest of my flashcards. The website Quizlet has become my best friend in the past few years, however, sometimes I enjoy making flashcards by hand, as well. There are some arguments that writing them by hand will help you to remember the material better, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day! When that is the case, I make them digitally on Quizlet, and you can make as many as you feel like you need. The website then offers different games to help learn the material and I usually run through these a few times before I start drilling flashcards.

When it comes to the night before the exam, I might run through the cards once, but ultimately I try to relax and take a break from studying and only worry about getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re like me, and you don’t function well from lack of sleep, my best suggestion to you is to not worry about cramming the night before! If you have been studying for small amounts every day leading up to the exam, there is no need to stay up all night trying to remember every bit of information because at this point, you know it better than you think you do.

At the beginning of midterms week, I pick a reward for myself when all the exams are over. Whether this is splurging on Cold Stone ice cream, going out to dinner with my roommates, or just giving myself one night of movies without thinking about school, this is what helps me get through the week!

In order to get some more perspective and new ideas, I asked around and found a few students to tell me how they prepare for midterms week. Saira Terriquez-Carillo, a junior studying philosophy and political science, said she writes down all her exam dates in her planner in bright colors at the beginning of the semester. She says the bright colors are important because every time she sees them, she knows she has an important exam coming up. Terriquez-Carillo also said she makes sure to note what other projects and assignments she has due the week of midterms, so she can get them done in advance and focus solely on her studies. Her secret? Color coding. Assignments, projects and exams are done in different colors that have earned different meanings in her mind. “Color coding is what helps me remember what important tasks I need to get done before midterms,” she explains. Terriquez-Carillo and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to rewarding ourselves after a long week of tests, too. When all her exams are done, Terriquez-Carillo says, “I reward myself by doing something relaxing like watching a movie or hanging out with friends. Essentially, I like to do something that lets me forget about school for a day.” Double-majoring in philosophy and political science while preparing to go to law school is no easy feat, but she manages to stay on top of her studies by getting prepared as soon as syllabus week begins.

Another student, Emily Morley, is in her last semester of undergrad before graduating with a degree in chemistry and a minor in history. As a senior, she has seen many midterms weeks come and go, and she shared some of her wisdom with me about the topic. “My biggest piece of advice is to be patient with yourself. Nine times out of ten life gets in the the way and you never get to study as much as you’d like to. Be kind to yourself and buy a coffee. Most of the time it works out and you get a decent grade and if you don’t you have a chance to redeem yourself on the final!” shared Morley.

Gaining yet another perspective, I spoke with Sam Baker, a freshman preparing for the nursing program. When I asked her to reflect on her first midterms week, she told me she originally didn’t think midterms were a big deal. However, these tests can be a large chunk of our grade, which Baker, like many other students, realized after the fact. “I felt disappointed, mostly because I didn't even realize that I was wasting my time by not choosing to study, but I knew that it wasn't the end of the world,” admitted Baker. I think this is a realization that comes to every student at some point in their collegiate career, and it is an important thing to note when you have a bunch of exams coming up. When I asked Baker what she thought she would do differently next time she said, “From now on, I will choose to spend my time by sitting down and studying for my tests, even if they aren’t midterms! I’ve also learned the best thing you can do after failure is to not be too hard on yourself.”

Whether it’s your first midterms week, or your eighth, there are always ways to help relieve some of the stress. It’s important to prepare yourself for the exams, in the best way you know how. Exam preparation is very individual, and each student has a method that works best for them. If you don’t have a study method to call your own, feel free to try mine and use Quizlet to make flashcards! If that doesn’t work, tackle a new method the next time around. The most important thing to remember, is to have confidence in yourself, and have a reward ready when your exams are finally done!