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Seven Steps to Midterm Success

By: Raven Edwards (she/her/hers), Peer Success Leader, 2020-2021

It’s that time of the year again. Midterm season! Although it seems as if we were just getting back on campus and reuniting with our friends, it’s time to buckle down and ace our midterms. Because this semester is so different from the others, a lot of us may feel nervous about figuring out how to reach our goals for our classes, whether they be in person or online. Trust me, I just recently had a major freak out about how I was going to juggle all of these changes while also effectively studying for midterms. So I came up with seven steps that will ensure we can all get ourselves on track to meet our goals!

Step 1: Know when your midterms are!

It’s easy to hear your professor remind the class that there’s a midterm coming up, but did the date actually register in your brain? I know it didn’t in mine. Go through your syllabi for each class and write down the date of each midterm you have coming up. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you’re done with that: Are any of them overlapping/are on the same day? Do you need to meet with your professor about a topic before the test date? Are they online or in person? Do you need to download a specific software to take the test? Physically writing down the dates on a calendar will allow you to visualize the time frame you have to study and will help you with the next step!

Step 2: How much time can you dedicate?

You know the difficulty level of each of your classes. Some require many hours a week of reviewing and studying, some may only require a few here and there. Sit down and figure out how much time you can spare to dedicate to studying for each individual class. A pro tip is to start studying for the “hard” class first! I have a habit of wanting to study for my fun or easier classes first, but by starting with the more difficult material you will have dedicated more time to learning that material before the test date shows up. Don’t forget to factor in things you need to do like eating, sleeping, spending time with friends, talking with family, etc. Also, DON’T CRAM! I know we all think that cramming for a test the night before is such a ~college thing~ to do, but trust me, it isn’t worth it. Your mental and physical health come first and losing sleep over a test will not benefit you in the end.

Step 3: Don’t forget you have other assignments!

Sometimes we can get so caught up in focusing on studying for midterms that we completely forget that we have other assignments due around the same time. Make sure to also write down in your planner or calendar when these smaller assignments are due. Maybe even try to get a head start on them so they’re already turned in before you start studying for your midterms!

Step 4: Use a planner or calendar to stay organized!

I’ve mentioned writing down all of these dates and assignments, but where are you writing them down? In a planner or calendar of course! I know that not everyone likes to keep up with a planner, but I’ve found that writing things down has helped me to keep track of things I need to get done. Also, it’s incredibly satisfying to cross through tasks once I’ve finished them! If you don’t want to waste paper there are plenty of planner apps that you can use for your phone,

laptop, or tablet device. Other than writing down dates of tests and assignments, use your planner to write down what days and times you will study and for how long.

Step 5: Eliminate Distractions!!

Okay, this is definitely the hardest part of this checklist for me. If I take a break from studying and end up on my phone, I will probably spend 30 minutes scrolling on TikTok for absolutely no reason. To combat that, I use the app Flora to lock my phone while I’m studying. It allows me to virtually grow trees and plants and track how much time I’ve studied distraction-free! You can also use the app to study at the same time as your friends and be productive together! If you’re like me and you are easily distracted by noise, try using earplugs or listening to lo-fi study music to enhance your focus. Now let’s talk about where to study. If you don’t prefer to study in your room due to distractions, my go-to place is always and will always be Howie-T. (Personally, my favorite floor is the 5th because who can resist that view??) If you aren’t a library person, there are plenty of other quiet and ambient noise level places on campus to try out (see the Fall 2020 Study Spot List)! If you know that your midterm will be given online, make sure to utilize a Zoom Room space to eliminate noise and distractions while you’re actually taking your test.

Step 6: Personalize your study method for each class.

Not every class is the same, so using the same study method for each may not work for everyone. For example, maybe your tests for a class are heavily focused on vocab. If I were studying for this class I’d study using spaced repetition with Quizlet (or Anki for my advanced folks out there). For classes that rely heavily on reading, make sure you are familiar with main topics and type or write out an outline that will help you keep track of them. For most of my classes I always create an outline for each test I have coming up. I do this by combining notes I take to prepare for class, reading notes, and lecture notes. I write the outline in my own words to make concepts easier to grasp, and include pictures or graphs from the book or PowerPoint slides. Below I will include some examples of an outline for a midterm!

Step 7: Make time for yourself!

Now this is the MOST important step! I’ll break this one down into three subsets that I feel are the most important to succeeding on your midterms.

GET ENOUGH SLEEP! You will not properly remember things if you’re pulling all nighters. Your entire body needs rest, but especially your brain. For memories to be stored in the brain, the brain needs YOU to rest so it can do its job. Try and get a full 8 hours every night, or even take quick 30 minute naps in between your time blocks of studying.

Don’t forget to nourish your body! I know that when I’m deep into studying mode I tend to snack on junk food and drink more Dr. Pepper than any amount known to man. But constantly eating and drinking things that will cause a crash later on isn’t helpful. Some great study snacks include fruit, nuts such as almonds or pecans, and granola bars. Make sure to drink plenty of water and stay away from too many energy drinks and don’t overdo it on the coffee. Trust me, I know it’s hard. I feel like I could drink 4 cups of coffee a day and be fine but your heart says otherwise!

Make sure to make time to connect with your support system! Whether that includes your family, friends, or both. Don’t forget to reach out to them and lean on them for support when you need it. It’s easy to block everyone out in order to focus on studying, but doing so can make you feel isolated and could possibly hurt your studying more than help it. Don’t feel guilty about not having as much time to spend with them, they’re your friends/family! They should completely understand that you have goals you’re trying to meet and that requires you to buckle down and spend more time on studying every once in a while. However, when you’re planning out your study schedule, make sure to include hanging out with friends! Go off campus for an hour or two to get ice cream or just sit on the quad and do some light studying. Remember that they are there to support you and breaks are essential to a productive study schedule!

Just remember that you got this! If you’re ever feeling bogged down or confused on where to start. Book a meeting with a PSL and utilize the resources from the Newcomb-Tulane College Student Succes team!

Sample note outline Sample daily schedule


First picture: This is an example of an outline I’d make in preparation for a test!

Second picture: This is an example of a study schedule I made using Google Sheets while I studied for my MCAT. *Disclaimer: this was during the summer when I had no other obligations like work or classes so I had all day to study. Don’t try to fit too much into one day!*