How do you survive midterms?

This week, I will have three exams in three days. Three exams, one tomorrow, following a 16 hour work weekend.

This year, as opposed to last year, I am trying really hard to do well in school. I have the focus and the determination, and I now have the ability to fight through the stress. I also attend a small school, and have the option to attend study groups for at least two of my four classes. I can’t say I not stressed out of my mind, or that I didn’t feel the huge weight of academic pressure lingering on my shoulders this weekend. Through this midterm process, however, I am learning, or relearning, how to apply my high school study skills, and how to manage my time.

For any students reading this, here is a brief list of study tips and time management skills that I’ve been using to stay sane!

1. In preparation for an exam, give yourself at least two days to study. I always aim for five but, ahem, that isn’t always realistic when you have other things going on in your life. Two days allows you to divide the material up, so you don’t have to go through everything at once.

2. Find a place where you can concentrate. I stupidly tried studying in my bed, but of course that only made me want to go to sleep. I found that in my dining room, with the hard backed chair, a blanket, and a table in front of me, I was able to focus much better. A desk or table is essential for spreading out all of your study materials.

3. Make flash cards. Seriously. Do it. I know everyone learns differently, but there is something very retentive about writing down the facts you have to learn. No matter how begrudging it may seem, it really well help. Flashcards are also a great way to quiz yourself. Instead of having your notes right in front of you, you have a question of sorts on one side, and you have to guess the answer. It’s like a mini quiz.

4. While you’re studying, keep distractors like your computer and cell phone in another room, away from your line of sight. I know that I personally can’t look at my computer and not check wordpress or facebook! Keeping these things out of sight will allow for minimal distraction, and minimal time wasted.

5. Hydrate and fuel yourself properly. It is extremely difficult to concentrate when you’re hungry or thirsty. Have a glass of water in front of you as you study. Not only are you doing good things for your brain, but you’ll be doing good things for your body! My study snack included Greek yogurt and granola…with peanut M&M’s on the side. And on top.

6. Give yourself a break. Studying for hours on end can be exhausting, and I know that I personally cannot study for three hours straight without taking a break…or two. Take fifteen or thirty minutes to relax, whether that means browsing the internet or taking a short walk. Free your mind for a little while, and see what you retained after that break.

7. Sleep for at least six to seven hours the night before your exam. Eight would be ideal, but it’s hard to devote eight hours to sleep when you’re cramming! Six to seven hours will give you adequate rest. Sleeping for a decent amount of time also helps you retain the information you poured laboriously over for four hours. You remember things better when you’re brain’s had time to recharge and organize the information over sleep.

8. The morning of your exam, be sure to eat a good breakfast. A good breakfast will ensure that you have ample energy and concentration throughout your exam. Coffee will help you stay awake!

9. Before your exam, look over your notes one last time! A good refresher may just be the difference between an A and a B. Get the material in your brain, fresh and ready, and you’ll be set to knock out all of the questions you know well.

10. When the exam is over, breathe! Take some time for yourself and relax. Tap a nap, get your nails done. I did both. Enjoy the weight off your shoulders.

Me in my pajamas, with my nails did.

And now, how did I stack up? I blew through my ballet and justice exams, but astronomy kicked my butt a little bit. I’m going to try not to worry too much. I have today and tomorrow off of school, yay! And I’m also not scheduled to work. I am so excited to lay in bed and do nothing. Seriously. Give me a book, and my boo, and I’m set.

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