Midterms: A Survival Guide

Elizabeth Weir, Staff Writer

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Ah, midterms. The bane of the new year. You think you’re enjoying a wholesome Christmas with the folks and then, amidst the holly and joy, you remember these exist.

But fear not! There is a key to surviving these trials: crafting a master study plan. Never enter exams unaware, for a student without her head is like a knight without his lance: unprepared and soon to perish. With a masterful study plan backed by our top-of-the-line tips, we guarantee you success (or at least passing)! And bear in mind this guide isn’t written in stone, and you can modify any of these strategies to your own preferences.

Remember: you’ve already learned the topics, you know all the answers! All that’s left is to find a way to remember them!

  1. Know how you think

You may recall taking the Gardner’s learning types quiz every year for your foreign language class — if you don’t, I envy you. But reluctant as I am to admit it, it can be exponentially easier to study and learn if you know your learning type. Now, I’m not making you take a quiz, but if you relate to any of the statements below, consider changing your study habits accordingly — it may make all the difference.

If you have a knack for vocabulary, spelling, word games, or can remember state capitals (Linguistic):

  • Make mnemonic devices and acronyms! For example, in U.S. History last year, I remembered the successes of Reconstruction through MUFASA (made Civil Rights Bill, Union back together, Freedman’s Bureau, African Americans in government, started idea of racial equality, and Amendments 13-15). You can also make things rhyme! For example, to this day I still remember latitude is horizontal because in third grade I heard that “latitude is fatitude.” Seems dumb, but it works.
  • Study out loud – if you’re Linguistic, you’re more likely to remember things if you say them to yourself or others. It could also be helpful to summarize things verbally by explaining it to a friend or family member.

If you ask a lot of questions on how things work, are good at math or manipulating numbers, and enjoy logic puzzles and categorizing things (Logical/Mathematical):

  • Think logically: categorize; make analogies, timelines, outlines, and Venn diagrams; draw out patterns and relationships you see.
  • Organizing things into numbers, steps, or sequences can also be very helpful for Logical/Mathemical studying — the water cycle, for example.

If you enjoy art, slideshows, charts and graphs, mazes, and are exceptionally good at spot-the-difference games (Visual/Spatial):

  • Use shapes and color!
  • Make informal posters for each unit, put together a simple chart, draw a graphic organizer — maps, graphs, flow charts, highlighters and markers, diagrams, and whiteboards are a Visual/Spatial’s best friend. As someone of this type myself, I can testify to the effectiveness of making posters for AP Environmental.

If you love crafts, sports, taking things apart, or doing anything hands-on or while standing up (Bodily-Kinesthetic):

  • Be active!
  • Make a model of the solar system, a collage of themes from The Scarlet Letter, turn the American Revolution into a ball game, do a craft and relate it to the material!

If you’re in the band, orchestra, or choir, or you’re just a musical aficionado (Musical/Rhythmic):

  • Make a sick beat! Turn that physics equation into a song, jingle, haiku, or simple rhyme! Parodize the carbon cycle to the Drake & Josh theme song!


1. Know what to study

Now we get organized. If you’ve been blessed to have a teacher that provides study guides, use them! Get everything you need to know for each subject into one place so you don’t forget about anything. If you don’t have study guides, go back through your notes or packets or whatever’s in your binder and make one yourself, maybe with blanks you can fill in later when you study.

Then you put those learning styles into action! If flashcards have worked well for you before (Linguistic), make Quizlets for your subjects. If you’re Visual/Spatial, you may want to make your own physical flashcards with colors or pictures. Another bonus for homemade study materials is that you’ll remember even better if you make it yourself! Start on your posters, board games, acronyms, and flowcharts! Have everything ready for when you start really studying.

We recommend getting through this step the week before exams; if you haven’t started getting yourself together yet, you probably should.

2. Know when to study

I usually do this one the Thursday or Friday before exams. Now, start off by ranking your subjects by how well you know them — how many nights do you need to study each subject? Do NOT try to study everything every night; you’ll just tire yourself out and get everything jumbled. Rather, say you need to study religion two nights, math three nights, and science four nights. Make yourself a schedule you can handle — limit yourself to two or three subjects a night. Plan out which study tools you’ll use each night: if math is on Tuesday and you want to study for three nights, you can re-read the lessons in the textbook on Saturday, crank down on the topics you struggled with on previous tests on Sunday, and take a sampling from each chapter review on Monday. Plan something like this out for all your subjects, and bam! You did it!

Decide how much time each night you’ll spend, too — at least half an hour if it’s easy, but don’t push yourself past two hours if it’s challenging. Find a tutorial video, ask a friend to explain it, or just put it aside for later. Breaks can make all the difference!

Congratulations! You’re well on your way to acing your midterms. Use our tips, make a watertight study plan, and you’ll survive. We promise!