“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” – Albert Einstein
For many students, the midterms are one of the most stressful times of the semester, seconded only by finals week. This is the time where students question if they’re cut out for college (you are), if they’re letting everyone down (you’re not) if they even know what it means to study. Don’t stress! We’ve got you covered with some of our best study tips:
Pretend you’re the teacher. Imagine this; you’re not actually taking a midterm exam. You are responsible for teaching a classroom of people about the topic; these people have never taken this class before; they have little to no knowledge on the subject. Learn the information as if you are going to be required to teach it to somebody else, keep in mind that students often ask questions!
Use the 30-10 model. Think of studying like you’re working out. If you try working out for hours straight, you will be exhausted. However, if you occasionally stop to take breaks, you’ll find that you can keep going. Your brain is the same way; you can try to study for hours upon hours, but you’ll exhaust your mental energy. Not only will you be tired, but you’ll also likely find that you didn’t retain as much information as you would’ve liked.
Try using a 30-10 model. Study for 30 minutes, then rest your brain for 10. Repeat as necessary. Those 10 minutes of rest allows your brain to process what you’ve studied and prepare to learn more.
Engage with your textbooks. Ask your textbook questions: What kind of argument is the text making? Does it provide alternative ideas? Is there a detectable bias? Why does what the textbook is explaining work or not work? Even if you never ask these questions in class, you may find yourself remembering more details if you questioned and engaged with them in your studies.
Use sticky notes. Let’s face it. Highlighting in your book very rarely helps you; it becomes such a passive activity that only reduces your book’s value when you try to sell it back at the end of the semester. Sticky notes are not only a simple alternative (being removable, it saves the resale value of your textbook); they also create the opportunity to further engage with your textbook. If you find yourself questioning a particular point, you can leave a sticky note with your question on a relevant paragraph. If there’s a topic you don’t quite understand, leave a sticky note so you know where to return.
You can also put these sticky notes in your class notebook or on your wall to keep track of topics, themes, and ideas. Since sticky notes come in a variety of colors, you could even color-code your classes or different topics within a class.
Plan ahead your midterms. This is another way of saying, “don’t cram!” Give yourself several days of prep time before midterms to study, quiz, and refresh yourself on the information. This is especially important if you have several midterms to prepare for (which most students do).
Take care of yourself. Not so much a study tip as general life advice, but if you don’t keep yourself in good shape, it will reflect in your work. Get a good night’s sleep the night before a test, and make sure you don’t show up to class hungry.