For most high schoolers, as soon as winter break ends, midterm season begins.
Midterms are often very stressful because, unlike finals, there is less time to review, and lots of material to study. Most students have to study for at least four tests, on top of doing hours of regular school work each night.
Despite this, midterms present students with a valuable opportunity. They can help students raise their grades and provide a chance to relearn material they may not have understood earlier in the year. This can help when students have to take final exams, too.
True, studying can be a grind. Sometimes there is so much material, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed. But studying in a productive way will help you perform well on tests.
Hannah Rola and Mary Catherine Cook, sophomores at the Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart, have both taken a class on study tips. They believe the tips they learned have helped them do well on their exams.
“It helps me manage my time, stay focused, and not get too stressed,” says Cook, reflecting on how study tips have helped her become a better student.
Rola says, “If I didn’t use them (study tips), I would be totally lost, I wouldn’t know what to do or how to manage my time. They are important life skills, not only study skills.”
With these simple tips, studying can be easier and can help you ace your midterms.
1. Turn off your phone
Yes, turn off your phone. Even though this seems like an outrageous idea, hitting the power button will help you stay focused when you study.
Reviewing for midterms can be very difficult, and it is much easier to sit on your phone and mindlessly scroll through Instagram and watch YouTube video after YouTube video. But instead of relaxing you, sitting on your phone absorbs time, giving you less time to study. This can lead to cramming, which can do a lot of harm when you’re trying to study for a big exam.
To prevent this, you can turn your phone off, or temporarily uninstall all your social media apps so that you aren’t tempted to spend all night online. Another strategy is to have someone in your family change the passcode.
2. Study in advance
When you wait to study until the night before a test, there usually isn’t enough time to review all the material. This can leave you feeling unprepared for your exam the next day, and can cause lots of stress.
It’s best to start preparing for a midterm five to 10 days in advance. This allows you enough time to review everything you’ve learned, to go into the topics you struggle with, and it will help you feel more competent when you walk into an exam.
3. Choose where you study carefully
Many universities have studied the effect that studying in an area where you are too comfortable has on productivity. It has been found that studying in an area that is too comfortable can lead to inefficient studying. So your bed is probably not a good place to review for your midterms, because instead of studying, you might take nap instead.
Also watch the noise in the background while you study. If it is too loud it can be distracting, but sometimes absolute silence is distracting, too. Likewise, listening to music can break your concentration.
4. Outline your time
With your busy life, you probably have a limited amount of time to study for midterms. The best way to make sure you study all of your material is by planning your time.
Look at the amount of material you need to cover and estimate how much time that should take. Block out time to study for each of your tests, and each of the different ideas within that subject area. Make an outline of your time and write it in your study schedule. This will help you to remember everything you need to study, and will help you feel more organized and prepared.
5. Take breaks
When outlining your time, make sure to include breaks. Breaks are an important part of studying because they allow your brain to rest and absorb the material. Your brain is just like any other muscle. If you exercise without taking breaks in between, you do yourself more harm than good and then have a hard time performing well when you exercise again. If you don’t allow your brain to relax, you could underperform on your exams.
While breaks are important, they shouldn’t last forever. A 10- to 20-minute break is the perfect amount of time to let your mind rest while doing something else. Going for a run, grabbing a snack, or reading a book can be relaxing ways to rest your mind.
6. Review 15 minutes after a lesson
One of the best ways to retain information is by reviewing material right after you’ve learned it, when the information is still fresh. By reviewing soon after a lesson, you reinforce what you’ve already learned and this can help improve your memory.
For high schoolers, it can be hard to review lesson materials right after class, but glancing over notes in between periods is easy to do, and can help make studying easier.
7. Study from different mediums
Many people study by looking over their class notes dozens of times. While this does help you review the material, studying in different ways and with different materials can help you learn the material more comprehensively.
Some different ways to study include: asking teachers questions, as they have all the answers for what you are studying; going to review sessions; studying with your friends can also be helpful because everyone has different strengths; teaching someone else the material, say someone in your family, helps reinforce everything you’ve learned; and reviewing tests and worksheets in addition to your notes.
8. Organize your information
Along with outlining your time, it’s important to outline everything you’ve learned so far, so that you can make sure you don’t forget to study a topic. Organizing information makes studying easier because when you are organized you know exactly what you need to study, what you’ve already reviewed, what you struggle with and what topics are important.
One way to organize your information is to break down each unit in each subject, then list the main ideas and important facts and go into details. By outlining, you also make yourself a study guide.
9. Organize your notes
You’ve learned a lot this year, and you’ve probably completed hundreds of homework assignments, dozens of note packets and tests, and have hand-outs everywhere. Organizing these notes can help you more productively study.
If you have half of your chemistry notes in your history notebook, you won’t be able to fully study that material. Before you start studying it is important to get all your materials together. Look through your folders and binders to make sure you have all your packets, hand-outs, quizzes, and tests, and organize them. If you are missing notes, make sure you get them from someone else, as they could contain vital information.
Getting enough sleep may be the most important piece of advice here. It’s instinctual to try and jam everything you’ve already studied the night before a midterm. But cramming can lead to high stress levels and staying up super late. Studies have shown that teenagers need at least eight to 10 hours of sleep a night to function well the next day. Studying at 11:45 p.m. does more harm than good. You’re already tired, and you will have a hard time retaining anything because you can’t concentrate.
By the night before a test, the hay is in the barn. You’ve already studied all you can and sleep is the most important thing you can give yourself. Sleep will help your cognitive functions because it allows your brain to relax and reboot. Your brain does the best work while asleep. It processes information so everything you’ve studied will have time to sink in. By being well rested, you’ll be ready to ace your exams because you aren’t half asleep.
Fiona Schaeffer is a sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy.