Midterm season is truly the worst. I lock myself in the library or some coffee shop for days trying to get through endless piles of work in preparation for a test. For a lot of my classes, I only have two or three tests per semester. Each of these is rightfully dubbed a “midterm” because of how rare they happen and the large impact they can have on your grade.
Midterms are terrifying. It seems like a make or break situation. If you do poorly on one test, you really need to amp it up for the next. Even though one bad grade definitely won’t ruin your life, the thought of failing is daunting.
That’s why midterm season is about more than just studying. It’s about being prepared while simultaneously taking care of yourself. And I have plenty of tips for both.
First, take a break.
When studying, it’s difficult to peel yourself away when you feel like you’re cramming. Instead, you want to stay glued to your desk, shoving as much information in your head before it’s too late. The prospect of walking away from your work seems unreasonable.
Most don’t understand how helpful taking a break is. Staring at a book for hours can be detrimental to your studying. Not only are you refusing yourself time to relax, your brain simply can’t focus for that long. This has been seen through a variety of studies.
By pausing and stepping away from your work, you’re able to refresh your mind. When you get back to work, you’ll have a better time focusing and getting through it. I’ve found that taking half hour breaks in studying have been very beneficial for me. Sometimes, I’ll go for a walk somewhere or just grab coffee. Both activities give me time to refresh myself and improve my mental state to get through more studying. Heading off to a new environment or another building to study has also helped get my mind off my notes.
Second, you should venture off and find new study spaces.
We all have habits of studying in the same place every time. Maybe there’s a coffee shop that you really love. Whatever the case, it can be beneficial to discover a new study spot. I, personally, am unable to stay in one place for very long.
My adventures to find new and better study places have led me to tons of campus buildings I’d never even known existed. I’ve found comfortable seats in relatively uninhabited basements. I’ve also found desks with really beautiful views of the city. Only by journeying out of my comfort zone was I able to make these discoveries.
Moving into a new space can clear your head. Whenever I find myself studying in the same space for hours, I get antsy and feel like I need some sort of change just so I can focus better. It actually works. A change of scenery can keep me more attentive to what I’m working on.
Third, avoid frustration.
Frustration is a common studying companion. Some problems are just too difficult to solve. You can’t help but worry about every little thing that may go wrong on test day. Pushing that frustration away can be extraordinarily difficult.
That’s where self-care comes in.
Studying and self-care don’t really mesh well together. Studying is high-stress, high commitment, while self-care is what you do in your free time to relax yourself. That’s why studying is the best time for self-care – when you’re most stressed, you’re most in need of it.
Self-care can be a quick frustration reliever, especially when the workload gets too high. Meditation, reading a book, or taking a bath can be a good way to calm yourself in preparation for a test. While studying seems like the most important part of midterms, relaxing is nearly more necessary. If you’re too stressed out before a test, it’ll be harder to get your head in the right place to do a good job.
It’s also important to remember that the test you’re studying for isn’t the end of the world. A lot of our frustration can come from fear of consequences. I’ve found that I exaggerate the consequences in my head, which only adds to my frustration while studying.
Being prepared for midterm season is extremely important. At the same time, it’s important for you to keep a healthy mindset during this time of year. Stress can build up, and during midterm season, people should focus on staying relaxed rather than only studying. If you can keep a level-head, you’ll be fine. So, study hard and relax harder.
Also published on Medium.