It took me far too long to figure out how to study for midterms effectively. I’m embarrassed to say that I would spend hours upon hours reading every line in the textbook leading up to the midterm, without having a clue on how applying that information would be tested. But even as I balanced a marriage, newborn, and external responsibilities, I scored nothing but A’s once I started practicing these techniques! I’m thrilled to share with you how I balanced my course content with ‘life’ to get top scores on midterms.
1. Review Daily
This is probably the most effective habit I can recommend implementing right from the start of each semester. The goal is to review all of your content consistently enough that even the older material will come naturally to you. Start by focusing on broader concepts covered in the course and narrow down to the specifics as needed. Not only will this help keep course content fresh in your mind, but it will also make it very clear what topics you need to be spending more time on.
Focus on learning and applying the content instead of memorizing specifics the night before
Consistently reviewing course material will eliminate the need to cram the night before in order to re-learn old content. By focussing on learning the content instead of memorizing specifics the night before, your brain will be able to apply the information to the diverse questions that may come up on the test.
2. Approach Course Content from a Professor’s Perspective
This little hack has come in handy time and time again! When you’re going over the content, ask yourself “how would I create a midterm from this material?” For example, let’s say that you know that the midterm will be in multiple-choice format. When you’re reviewing the material, keep your eyes open for bits that stand out as good potential multiple-choice questions. But if you know that the midterm will be in essay format, question how each major topic discussed in the course may relate to each other. Why are you studying these specific topics, in this order, and how do they each contribute to the course as a whole?
Having a good idea on how the test will be formatted (multiple choice, short answer, essay, etc) will help you better prepare for how questions will be framed, and the appropriate response to those questions. It will also give you insight as to the level of understanding that you’ll be tested on, such as straight memorization vs overall comprehension.
3. Stick with the study methods that work for you
Are you a laptop note-taker, or a pen-and-paper type of gal? Flash cards? Study app? What about how many different coloured pens you use? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re using methods that work well for you when it comes to retaining information. Don’t waste your time copying the professors slides onto flash cards because that’s what your peers are doing if you’re never going to look at the cards again. Try out a method for a while, test your retention, and course correct based on the results. How you study should come naturally to you once you’ve found the right method that works for you.
- Review constantly, don’t cram
- Focus your efforts based on your ability to apply the information
- Adjust how you study based on the format of the exam
- When reviewing, as yourself “how would I test someone else on this?”
- Only use study and note-taking techniques that enhance your retention, don’t just use the methods of your peers