How to Study for a Midterm

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Midterms can be intimidating, whether you're a first-semester college student or getting ready to graduate. Because your grade might be heavily dependent on how you do on your midterm exams, being as prepared as possible is important for your success. But just what are the best ways to prepare? In essence: how do you study for a midterm in the best way possible?

1. Go to Class Regularly and Pay Attention

If your midterm is over a month away, your class attendance might seem pretty disconnected from your study plan. But going to class every time, and paying attention while you're there, is one of the most effective steps you can take when preparing for a midterm or other important exam. After all, the time you spend in class involves you learning and interacting with the material. And it's much better to do so in shorter snippets over the course of a semester than to try to learn, in just one night, all of the things that have been covered over the last month in class.

2. Stay Caught Up with Your Homework

Staying on top of your reading is a simple but highly important step to take when preparing for midterms. Additionally, if you really focus on your reading the first time you complete it, you can do things -- like highlighting, taking notes, and making flashcards -- that can later be transformed into study aids.

3. Talk to Your Professor About the Exam

It may seem obvious or even a little intimidating, but talking to your professor in advance of the exam can be a great way to prepare. He or she can help you understand concepts you're not totally clear on and can tell you where to best focus your efforts. After all, if your professor is both the writer of the exam and someone who can help you be efficient in your preparations, why wouldn't you use him or her as a resource?

4. Begin Studying at Least One Week in Advance

If your exam is tomorrow and you're just starting to study, then you're not really studying -- you're cramming. Studying should take place over a period of time and should allow you to really understand the material, not just memorize it the night before an exam. Beginning to study at least one week in advance is a smart way to reduce your stress, prepare your mind, give yourself time to absorb and remember the material you're learning, and overall do well when exam day finally arrives.

5. Come Up With a Study Plan

Planning to study and planning how to study are two very different things. Instead of staring blankly at your textbook or course reader during the time you're supposed to be preparing, come up with a plan. For example, on certain days, plan to review your notes from class and highlight key elements you need to remember. On another day, plan to review a particular chapter or lesson that you think is especially important. In essence, make a to-do list of what kind of studying you'll do and when so that, when you do sit down for some quality study time, you can make the most of your efforts.

6. Prepare Any Materials You'll Need in Advance

If, for example, your professor says it's okay to bring a page of notes to the test, make that page well in advance. That way, you'll be able to refer to what you need quickly. The last thing you want to be doing during a timed exam is learning how to use the materials you brought with you. Additionally, as you make any materials you'll need for the exam, you can use them as study aids as well.

7. Be Physically Prepared Before the Exam

This may not seem like a traditional way of "studying," but being on top of your physical game is important. Eat a good breakfast, ​get some sleep, have the materials you'll need already in your backpack, and check your stress at the door. Studying involves preparing your brain for the exam, and your brain has physical needs, too. Treat it kindly the day before and the day of your midterm so that all of your other studying can be put to good use.

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "How to Study for a Midterm." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2023, April 5). How to Study for a Midterm. Retrieved from Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "How to Study for a Midterm." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).