10 things you need to know about studying for midyears


Are you nervous about your midyear exams? No idea where to start studying? Here are some tips from a senior and veteran midyear taker.

1. Okay, first things first. To do well, you ABSOLUTELY need to study—and study thoroughly. Wait…

Yes. This one might seem like a no-brainer, but no matter how “easy” your class might be you absolutely must study for all of your midyear exams. Do not only study for your “hard classes,” and don’t just study the most recent unit in classes tested on cumulative material. Midyears are heavily weighted, and thus too consequential for your course grades to take lightly. (A good rule of thumb: the amount of studying you do per exam should correlate with its weight.)

2. Study effectively. The amount you study will only help you if you do so in a way that is actually useful. Generally speaking, passive study methods like reading and listening are less effective than active study methods, such as writing out concepts in a study guide or explaining topics. The best advice I have for you is this: finish studying a unit when you understand the concept, not when you’ve “studied it for an hour.” Understanding concepts and themes is much more important than logging your hours.

3. No need to freak out. “Wait. But you just told me I need to study, a ton right?” Here’s the thing. While you should try to be as prepared as possible, take midyears for what they are: slightly bigger tests that cover slightly more content and are worth slightly more of your grade. You (probably) don’t need to spend days and days studying late into the night and making 40-page study guides. If you’ve gotten to this part in your education, you’ve certainly taken tests before, and that’s all that midyears are—tests. Remember, test results in no way define your self-worth, intelligence or even your understanding of the material. They measure how well you did on a particular test.

4. Right now, it’s really important that if you don’t understand something, you ask for help. Another no-brainer, right? Well, what with reviewing previous units and learning new material, the month of January tends to be more challenging and confusing academically. If you’re confused in class, you probably won’t be able to “figure it out eventually,” because you won’t have the time or attention span. Ask a friend, ask a teacher, go to an academic help center as soon as you’re confused. Don’t let it hang over your head.

5. Cut (a little bit) into your free time. You’ll thank yourself later. What do you usually do during your free blocks right now? After school? Using (a part) of your regularly scheduled free time as part of your study schedule will help you in the long run. The truth is, in order to review enough for these tests and keep up with your schoolwork, you’re going to have to make some changes to your lifestyle. Better to briefly cut into your free time than to cut into your sleep.

6. Group studying won’t be the same for everyone. For some people, studying works really well with other people. For me personally, a study session with friends quickly turns into a hangout session. Don’t feel bad about turning down a group study session. Do what works for you.

7. Don’t cram. While this strategy might work for a unit test, the material covered on a midyear will be a) larger and b) probably less thematically connected. I’m telling you this now: unless your class is incredibly easy for you, and you could probably get above 80% on the midyear exam with zero studying, cramming for a midyear in one night is impossible. Not to mention, cramming for an exam is stressful and miserable. If it’s a night or two before your exam, and you’ve done nothing to prepare, you’re better off reviewing the first material and the most recent material in the course rather than shoving a textbook down your throat.

8. Know when and where your exams are. As soon as the schedules come out, write down when and where your exams are. You don’t want to accidentally skip an exam, come three hours early or waste 15 minutes of test-taking time looking for the room your test is in.

9. Make use of the time you’ll have during midyears week. The first time you go through midyears week, the free time you have between exams might feel a little jarring. 90 minutes between tests seems like a long time, but there are two very popular things I don’t recommend you do: spend the entire time socializing with a large group of people or attempt to cram. The former will distract you, and you’ll probably end up just nervously talking about exams. The latter is generally ineffective that close to the exam. I would recommend taking the time to grab a bite to eat, and lightly reading over some of your notes or chatting with maybe one or two friends. Or even taking a nap.

10. Don’t forget the basics. Okay, at this point you probably have the hard stuff down: studying, scheduling, where your exam rooms are, asking for help. With all that stuff in your head, it’s easy to forget the basics: bring a pencil and eraser. Go to the bathroom before the exam. Bring a calculator if it’s required. Write your name on the test!

If you follow these tips, you have everything you need to do exceptionally well on your exams. Good luck!