The Best Study Habits for Your Midterms

Daily inspiration and advice for the ambitious savvy young professional
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The Best Study Habits for Your Midterms

I can’t believe it’s already March! We are officially three months into 2015 and it’s already midterms time. We noticed that there was an increase in demand for content related to positive study habits so I wanted to make sure I shared my tips with all of you in time for midterms! Here are some of my best study habits for midterm time!

1. Don’t Want to Stress? Start Studying 1-2 Weeks In Advance. The number one way I stay on top of my studying and don’t let myself get stressed is by putting it a little bit of work each evening and starting the studying process 1-2 weeks before my midterm.

2. Create a Study Plan for Each Class. Each class is going to require a different amount of time for studying. For example, five hours of pure reading might cut it for one class but won’t necessarily for another. Take out a notepad and write down the different things you need to do to prepare for each class’s midterm. For example, in one class, I need to read chapter 5, scan a worksheet, review my first two quizzes, and read the first part of chapter 6. That’s my to-do list for that specific class. It’s my job to make the to-do list for each class and then determine how long I’m going to need to accomplish each task on the to-do list. Once I have that number, I need to schedule that into my schedule. It’s great that you know what you need to do to prep for your midterm but have you actually scheduled time to do it?

3. Prioritize Your Study Time. If you follow my tips, you’ll have all of your different study/prep times in your schedule for each one of your classes. Sounds easy, right? The hardest part is actually sticking to what you schedule. Make sure that you take that study time seriously. Just try to remember that the more you stick with your schedule, the less stressed you’ll be when midterms roll around, and the more prepared and confident you’ll be walking into them.

4. Don’t Over Schedule or Go Too Intense. If you plan all of your study time during time when you are usually watching TV, spending time with friends, or going to club meetings – you are just going to exhaust yourself. You are going to spend so much time upset that you are studying and not doing what you normally do that you won’t be able to properly focus anyways. Try to schedule study time when it’s not competing with other things (difficult, I know). Get up early in the morning to have some quiet study time, go to the library right after class, study all afternoon Sunday before you go meet up with friends. Try to schedule time that’s typically “in between” time for you and doesn’t replace the activities you love doing and will stress in missing.

5. Don’t Overcomplicate the Situation – Control the Partying. If you plan to wake up early on a Sunday morning and get a solid four hours of studying in for the day, don’t stay out until the wee hours the night before. I’m not saying that you can’t go out and have a few drinks (if you are of age) but don’t make things more difficult than they need to be. Do you really want to be complaining the next morning that you can’t focus because you don’t feel well from partying the night before? You’re a grown-up, take responsibility.

6. Have a Study Spot and Study Routine. Whenever I go into book writing mode, I need a few things: laptop (Dell XPS 13), laptop charger, phone, phone charger, notepad, pen, highlighter, coffee. Make a list of everything you need to be comfortable and ready to get into the zone and study. Have a certain place in your dorm or apartment where you always go to get into your study zone (desk, kitchen table, living room). Literally think to yourself, “I’m going into my study zone” and try to fall into it as much as possible.

7. Change Environments If You’re Getting Sleepy. Whenever I’m writing or studying, I always need to change environments every 3-4 hours to stay fresh, alert, and focused. I usually go from my home (where I sit at my desk) to a local Starbucks or Coffee Bean. Some people don’t like to change environments or work/study where other people might be talking. I’m one of those strange people who can focus in that type of environment. But whatever suits you – go with it. I don’t get frustrated with myself when I get sleepy, I know this is all part of my process. Embrace it!

8. Invent Your Study System. Typically studying for midterms includes, creating flashcards, reading, reviewing quizzes, and attending a professor review. Determine what your system will be for each class (it doesn’t need to be the same for each class) and stick with it. Staying organized while studying will help your brain follow all of the moving pieces.

9. Make Yourself Spit Back the Info. When I’m done studying and I can’t look at another flashcard, I try to spit back the info. I either sit in my room and record a memo to myself on my phone where I literally just spit back all of the info that I’ve been studying – it’s a huge “talking to myself” party to basically see what I can remember and articulate out loud. If I don’t feel like talking out loud about what I’ve studied or read, I’ll write it out. I’ll open a blank word doc and just go to town writing down (in abbreviations and chicken scratch) everything I can remember. Usually, I do this at the very end to see which information I’m still not grasping. Once I do this, it helps me understand what areas I still need to focus on.

10. Review My Notes Pre-Test. Right before my mid-term, I like to get to class about 90 minutes early, put my phone on silent and just review my notes. If I come 30 minutes before class, I get distracted by other people or friends trying to do the same thing. I like to find a quiet corner and just flip through the notes and make sure my memory is fully functioning.

11. Avoid Calls/Texts Pre-Test. I’ve found that having conversations as I’m walking into midterms and getting distracted with friend’s drama, stories, and texts before a test is distracting and pulls my brain in the wrong direction. Before a test, I grab a giant Starbucks and small snack, arrive to class 90 minutes early, and just sit quietly and review my notes. I save the phone calls and updates for after testing time.

Good luck on your mid-terms everyone! I know you’ll do great! For more career and workplace tips, read my first book on internships, All Work, No Pay.