Aditya's Guide to Acing Midterms

A person sitting at an ourdoor table studying on their laptopWritten by: Aditya Iyer, Medical Sciences Student 

Photo by: Western Student Experience

Have you ever gone through midterm season putting in days’ worth of effort, only for it to end up in utter disappointment? You chalk it up to maybe not putting in effort and double the amount of time you spent studying. Results come back and you are left disappointed again. Questions doubting your abilities begin to arise in your mind and you begin to wonder if you may just not be as smart as your Peers. However, I come to tell you that I have gone through a very similar experience and have been able to improve my midterm exam marks. Here is a guide to give you tips that I found to be extremely crucial in my academic journey.

It is not only the quantity of study time that is important for success but also the quality of studying. 

Let me first clarify by saying that the quantity of time you spend studying is still very important. I feel as though the amount of time I spend studying has an impact on how well I perform on my midterm exams. However, the quality of study time is even more important. As a medical science student, I have seen many of my Peers spend countless number hours studying, only for their marks to be disappointing. But what constitutes quality study time?

Focus on high yield information. 

While I was studying for the MCAT this summer, I picked up a very important tip. Because the exam consists of 7 subjects, it is almost impossible to know all the information for the exam. Spending a lot of time memorizing random facts that may or may not increase my score was just not a great use of time especially when the time was scarce. Instead, I focused on high yield content that I consistently saw came up. Just having a great understanding of the high yield information was enough to allow me to get a good score. A lot of these small facts are still useful, but they should be at the bottom of the priority list when studying for your midterms. 

Understand instead of memorizing.

Understanding the material is probably the most essential thing when it comes to doing well on midterm exams. If you do not have a good understanding of the material, it will be impossible to application-based questions. In addition, I find it easier to memorize specific processes and information when I already have a good understanding of the material. This is the step, I believe students should spend the most time in. Before moving on to another topic, spend as much time as you need to understand the material. I would go to office hours or ask my friends whenever I had questions and it did wonders for me. I would also re-watch lectures if need be. 

Anki is a lifesaver when used properly.

Anki is probably the tool that helped the most when studying for my midterms. One thing to note is that Anki is very helpful after fully understanding the material. It should only be used to reinforce concepts not to learn from them. To reap the full benefits of Anki, I would suggest making and doing Anki cards every day after your lecture. 

Practice makes perfect!

This tip is also very crucial. By doing practice questions, you can apply the concepts you have learned. Make sure you understand why every question is wrong and use these practice questions to identify gaps in your knowledge. I used to never properly check over my answer and it limited me during midterm exams. One strategy I use now is to go over every option to every question and ask myself why each option is correct or incorrect. 

Staying mentally fit and not stressing myself out too much.

During exam season, I would make sure to sleep at least 7 hours every day and I would always take breaks whenever I needed to. Midterm season and exams, in general, are almost always never-ending. This is a long process and burning myself out within 1 week is not a good strategy. Take mental health breaks and take care of your physical health as well because this will indirectly also help you out.

Overall, midterm season is a hard grind, but these are the essential studying tips that help me do well. Of course, these are tips that I use, and they are other strategies that can be used in place of the ones I mentioned. I suggest that you see what works for you and work based on that. 


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