Studying for Midterms and Finals: Tips and Tricks

While many people have already finished midterms (myself included), I know there are still a lot of students struggling through the endless amounts of studying, and others who are beginning the long haul of prepping for finals. So I thought I’d share some of my new methods for reviewing after having five midterms.

Tip 1: Review the lecture material at least twice a week.

Depending on how many times a week you have a class, the number of review sessions can vary, but reviewing the notes you took in lecture a few days later definitely helps you retain the information. I also recommend going through and highlighting the important terms, ideas, and concepts. It will make studying a lot easier, when that time comes. I also recommend handwriting notes (I always do). It helps prevent distractions, like checking Facebook or online shopping or paying your phone bill – believe me, I’ve seen it. Handwriting notes also helps you pick out the crucial information that your prof is teaching, as it takes a lot longer to handwrite notes than it does to type them, so you have to be picky. And the sound of hundreds of fingers pounding across keyboards is annoying. Become a hand-written-notes person and you’ll understand.

Tip 2: Make Cue Cards

Cue cards are a blessing. I never really used them in high school, but I wish I did. I have a friend who’s used them for years and she’s in engineering, so she must be doing something right. Cue cards are really useful for testing your knowledge, and learning the content quickly. They also allow you to only write the most important information for terms, themes, concepts, etc. as they have a limited amount of space. I find when using cue cards, if you’re studying for more than one unit or chapter, break them up into sections and go through each one by one, until you can answer them all with ease. It will happen faster than you think.

Tip 3: Study Groups

Honestly, study groups are really helpful. Whether you make one with friends or classmates you don’t really know, having multiple brains when studying is beneficial. They can help answer questions on whatever your learning, as well as bring their own study methods to the table! You can test each other on the content, as well as have in-depth discussions on what you’re learning. And you can share cue cards! What a bonus.

Tip 4: Start Early

I made the mistake of starting my review late, and I regretted it. Yes, I passed my midterms, but I felt so unprepared and flustered when I didn’t give myself enough time to go over everything I had learned. I felt panicked and intimidated, worried that the exam would kick my ass. I know so many people have said it before, but I still make the mistake of barely studying, or starting too late. So begin studying early. You’ll thank yourself for it later. It also just makes life easier, as you won’t feel as stressed or worried if you put your best effort into reviewing the material.

Tip 5: Use Textbooks

I know they seem like very expensive dust collectors, but they really do have a greater purpose than that. Depending on the discipline, these books are helpful in different ways. Studying a lot of terms? Check if the textbook has a glossary and make friends with it. My astronomy textbook’s glossary become my best friend when a whole bunch of terms I did not remember learning in lecture turned up in my study guide. Studying a novel or work of fiction? Review the main themes and skim back through the work to pick out important events in the plot that display them. Studying equations? Use the examples in the textbook and then check your answers in the back – even if they seem stupidly hard. I’m sure some section in there explains how it works!

Tip 6: Rewrite Your Notes

Whether this means condensing them into simpler terms and only crucial information, or writing them all out again word for word, just do it. It will refresh your memory and help you remember what you already learned. Plus, condensing the information down will allow you to remember only what you really need to know. You can weed out the notes that are just filler, and use the real meat of what you’re learning. Trust me, it will help.

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