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It is now midterm season in North American higher education institutions and I was/am preparing a review class for my students. As I prepared, I decided to include a list of study tips that I have gleaned over my years as a student and educator. They seem to make sense to me so I thought I’d share them with you lovely Graduable readers. Note that I have adapted these from the original format so that they are less specific to the class I am teaching.

  • Study in allotted amounts of time. Simply put, do nothing but study for a set amount of time (say, an hour) and then take a short break.
  • What to study? The good news is that, if you regularly attend class, do the readings and practice questions, you’ve been studying all semester long. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to study.
  • Take breaks. This goes with the first tip above. You need to pace yourself when studying. Get away from what you’re studying for a few minutes. Allow yourself a longer break if you’ve been studying for a long time.
  • Cramming = BAD, BAD, BAD. Cramming is probably the least effective means of studying. If you’ve been present and active in all aspects of the class, you shouldn’t feel the need to cram. Cramming is for people who have done little work. It is just another name for panic. Don’t cram.
  • Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is a student’s best friend sometimes. I would urge you to avoid it close to exam time, though. Have your morning coffee, to be certain. In my experience, however, caffeine puts students on edge if consumed in large quantities nearer exam time.
  • Take breaks. As your instructor, I am instructing you to take the night before any exam off. Watch a movie. Chop some firewood. Skin a moose. Whatever you fancy the night before. Do anything but study the night before an exam and ensure you get a good night’s sleep. If you feel you absolutely must study the night before, I recommend doing mental study only. That is, go over the material in your head while you’re doing something else. Eg. Recite parts of speech as you fold laundry.
  • Relax. It’s only a test. Will this exam/test/midterm matter in 10 years? Probably not. Higher education is not about grades and tests are not good indicators of actual learning. Instead, they are highly stressful contrived situations that place students under unnecessary stress for some imaginary learning outcome. If you get a low mark on a test, it does not mean you’re stupid, a failure, or whatever. Of course I want you to do well on your midterm and I’m required to have you write it, but just know it is not the only way you express how and what you’ve learned.
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