Managing the Never-ending Cycle of Midterms

Having midterms almost every week of a semester can be very stressful and anxiety-inducing. Preparing for this never-ending cycle of midterms can help you manage your time most efficiently. 

At the start of the semester: 

Create a calendar to see how many days you have between exams. 

Whether it’s a physical calendar hanging above your desk or a calendar app on your computer, get prepared for the busy semester by seeing exactly what the exam dates are for each of your classes. These dates can generally be found in your class syllabi! 

Find a good organization system for your class materials. 

Some classes you may prefer using a physical notebook and other classes you may type all your notes, but make sure you decide early in the semester, so you are not scrambling to find class materials before an exam. 

During the semester: 

Determine your weaknesses.

A week or two before a midterm, it is helpful to do a knowledge self-check-in by looking at a list of the topics that will be on your exam. Check the syllabus, ask your PILOT leader, or ask a friend if you are do not know the topics a class has covered. Being realistic with yourself about how much you know or don’t know can help you strategize for when to begin studying for that exam. If you have multiple exams coming up on the same day, it is always a good idea to start studying the topics from both courses that you feel the least confident on.   

Go to office hours and review sessions as far in advance of a midterm as possible. 

Office hours and review sessions often get very crowded right before an exam. You can maximize getting the most help by going to office hours a week before an exam or the earliest scheduled review sessions. Most people wait until the last office hour or review session to ask questions but asking those questions early can help you get a sense of what you do not understand. 

Develop a realistic study schedule

A week before a midterm, map out the times you plan to prepare for your exam. In each of those study times add a list of things you want to accomplish and review. 

Schedule your free time. 

If you are an overachiever or perfectionist, it is too easy to feel guilty when taking a break from schoolwork and studying. If you keep any kind of daily planner or calendar, it is helpful to literally “schedule” the time when you want to be free from work and school obligations. It can be as simple as scheduling one hour of free time on a busy Wednesday after an exam or scheduling all of Sunday afternoon to catch up with friends you haven’t seen in a few weeks. You will feel much less guilty knowing you planned out a portion of time dedicated to feeling guilt-free from the endless need to study for your next midterm.