You hear that? The clock is ticking as you fidget in the most uncomfortable lecture hall seat imaginable.
Your palms are sweaty, and you’re wondering why you answered ‘C’ to so many questions. You look around the room, wondering if everyone else thinks this exam is ridiculous. There’s that one student who packs up within the last five minutes of the exam, and the sound of the zipper breaks your concentration. (Don’t be that student).
If you’re sick, your nose begins to run. If you’re tired, you can’t think straight. If you’re hungry, no luck (Side note, don’t be that person who crinkles a pretzel bag during a test).
DING DING DING “Time’s up. Pencils down, please fold up your tests and pass them down your row toward the aisle.” You flip to the front page of your exam, looking at the name of a course you wish didn’t exist.
Among the sporadic thoughts running through your head post-exam, one stands out: What could I have done better to prepare? Though there’s no single midterm methodology that a student can follow to attain success, there are ways to put you on the right path.
Get a head start.
The truth is you will not get the results you hope for if you only study on the eve of the exam. If you’re a braniac who can, fine. But for those of us who are not blessed with the ability to retain information we crammed within the last 24 hours, the best approach is to spread out your learning over a longer period of time.
Take a few practice tests from past semesters — which, in my experience, has proven to be the most effective way of preparing myself — do textbook problems, rewrite any notes you took in class and look over lecture slides.
If it sounds impossible to do all that in one night, that’s because it is. So don’t.
Hope you like coffee.
If you weren’t a coffee addict before college, you’ll soon find out that things change. The key to studying late at night or staying awake throughout the day is caffeine.
Five-hour Energy is not the way to go, unless you are partial to drinking poison. Instead, gulp down a coffee from Espresso Royale or Starbucks, hunker down in the Law Library and get working before you crash.
Take a break.
In a study conducted by the University of Illinois in 2011, researchers found that performing a single task over a long period of time will actually hinder your performance and focus. The solution to overcoming this is to take a brief intermission from work, which in the end could dramatically improve productivity.
With that in mind, take a 10- to 20-minute break for every hour you study. Watch a funny YouTube video, go for a walk around campus, grab a bite to eat or fit in an episode of your favorite TV show. In the end, you’ll feel more energized and motivated.
Get some sleep.
Getting a good night’s rest is crucial for doing well on an exam. If you think that pulling an all-nighter to remember everything you’ve learned is a good idea, you’re a little misguided.
Make sure to eat breakfast in the morning, because it’s called “the most important meal of the day” for a reason. Don’t skip out: fit in some protein, such as eggs, yogurt or milk, and avoid sugary foods, such as pancakes or waffles. If you eat too much sugar in the morning, you may crash midway through your exam.
If you have a late exam, it’s also not a bad idea to take a nap during the day. Make sure you’re awake at least two hours before the exam, because this will ensure that you’re at your most alert. You don’t want to be taking an exam in a groggy, post-nap state.
Buy a box of tissues.
… You know, for the occasional crying that takes place when you’re studying something you don’t understand.
Don’t be the person asking for a pencil before the exam. This is college and you’re an adult; if you forget a pencil, I can’t imagine you’re going to do well on the exam. Bring some water in case you get thirsty, extra lead in case you run out and some spare batteries for your calculator if your exam requires one.
Exams take an emotional and mental toll on all students. If you prepare for them wisely, though, you’ll come out of that lecture hall with a huge weight off your shoulders.