We’re all familiar with late-night cram sessions and all-nighters during the week of midterms. Exams and tests come one after the other, it seems, and not too long after the school year starts! Studying doesn’t have to be that stressful, though. Here are handy tricks to help you ace your midterms:
Rewrite your old notes
Copying your notes over again is a great way to cement information into your memory. The act of writing them out slows you down, requiring you to engage with the material in a deeper way. This works better by hand than on the computer, so keep pen and paper nearby. You could try color coding your notes as well — either the first time around or while recopying. This allows you to work with the material visually, and it can be more fun!
Draw a map or diagram
Try drawing a map or diagram from your notes or from the textbook. This can help whether you consider yourself a visual learner or not, especially because it allows you to comprehend information and concepts that could be hard to describe verbally. This strategy also helps create a visual memory that you can refer back to while taking the test.
If you’re not in too quiet of a location while studying, consider reading material aloud. Similar to rewriting notes, this method has you sit with the material in a different way and strengthens connections in your brain. For a twist on this strategy, find a study buddy to explain or “teach” information to, and have them do the same for you.
Use mnemonic devices
Using a mnemonic device is an excellent way to secure information. Some common examples are PEMDAS for the order of math operations, or “i before e, except after c.” You can likely find already created mnemonics online that you can use, or try coming up with your own mnemonic by telling a crazy story with required information or setting concepts to a song.
Quizzing yourself is one of the best ways to mimic a test environment. Ask your teacher what the format of the test will be, and quiz yourself using similarly formatted questions. You can often search for practice tests online or your teacher may have extra resources. If the test is timed simulate a practice test at home with time restrictions so you know what to expect the day of the test.
If you’re a kinesthetic learner, try moving around while you study. Taking a walk, or even quizzing yourself while hopping on the treadmill or taking a light jog, can provide new ways to access information on the test day. For example, you can recall “the topic I studied while exercising.” Similarly, consider studying in different environments to strengthen associations your brain makes with the material.
Not surprisingly, our brains work well when they have had time to rest. Schedule regular breaks for yourself during study sessions. A walk, snack, time to stretch, and so on, are all great ways to give your mind a rest. Start studying several days ahead of time so you can take breaks without feeling like you’re wasting time!
Take advantage of downtime
We all have random in-between times that often aren’t good for starting a completely new activity: 5 or 10 minutes here or there waiting for the bus, sitting in a waiting room, or waiting for your take-out to arrive. Maximize your downtime by keeping flashcards on hand and flipping through them whenever you have a spare moment. There are even free apps you can download to create your own digital flashcards and be quizzed on certain topics.
Whichever method you try, keep in mind your daily habits and best times of day. Whether you’re more of a morning or night person, schedule your study sessions accordingly, with the most important subjects at your most energetic hour. To change it up, try studying with a friend or finding a study group to join as well.
Good luck this midterm season!
This is a guest post by guest writer Lisa Low. Lisa is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.