Making the most of midterms

By on October 14, 2009

With midterm tests either this week or coming up, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Although everyone handles stress and studying differently, here are a few things that help me get in the right mindset for an exam.

Do something relaxing the night before: Remember, this only works if you have been gradually studying for the exam and have not procrastinated. But let’s assume you are a good student and have been studying the material gradually. When you have looked over your notes so many times one more glance will make you dizzy, then that is your signal to take a break. I have found that there is such thing as studying too much and that the night before I often blank on definitions and main concepts. If this happens to you, don’t panic. What you studied is somewhere in your head. Your brain might just be so sick of that information it just doesn’t feel like sharing it right then. So just relax, call up a friend or watch a show you enjoy. And go to bed early. When you wake up, think about the question you were stuck on the night before. I bet you that definition will come right to you like you were reading from a dictionary.

Dress Up: Comfort during an exam is very important. I would not suggest wearing your tightest club jeans to go sit and take a tedious test. However, you do not need to look like a complete slob for the sake of academics. If you are too comfortable, you’re most likely going to be thinking about sleeping rather than taking a test. So put on one of your favorite outfits, the one that is both comfortable and makes you feel good about yourself. On days I am wearing an actual outfit, I sit differently in class and feel more attentive than on days I wear sweats. It’s all about going into the test with confidence, thinking to yourself “I am smart and I look good and I studied for this test.” This rule goes for guys too, see if a pair of jeans wakes you up and puts you in the right mindset instead of your Nike warm-ups.

Get your hair out of your face: One of my biggest distractions is my hair. I play with it, move it from one shoulder to another and even twist it when I am really thinking hard. That’s why before I go to an exam, I make sure my hair is in a ponytail with a headband. That way, not even a dangling bang can direct my attention and take precious time off of my test. This strategy may also help those who have trouble taking their attention away from their dead ends. It may sound ridiculous but I assure you, everyone has their own classroom tics. Some students tap their pens, others rapidly tap their foot. I have one favorite classmate who likes to squeak his shoes against the desk. Whatever your tic is, acknowledge it and make sure it does not interfere with your concentration.

Eat blueberries: Even if you are not a “breakfast person,” eat breakfast. If your test is not until the evening, make sure you are not hungry. Right before the test you may be thinking that getting in 10 more minutes of studying is the most beneficial choice. However, you don’t want to have your brain and stomach battling for attention during your test. And if you can find decent looking blueberries, eat a handful. They help with memory, not that you need the help, but just for an extra confidence boost.

Don’t let others psyche you out: I do this all the time. I go into a class, so pumped to ace a test and then I listen to the people around me. I hear snippets of conversations and I begin to doubt myself. Wait, is that going to be on the test? Is he even talking about this test or one for his next class? The worst is when someone from the class before comes out and gives feedback. Whether they say, “I bombed that” or, “it was so easy,” either piece of information is fatal. If I hear the test is hard, I have a near heart attack and if it is considered easy I call myself stupid the minute I encounter a question I find difficult. Even though it is challenging, try and disregard all comments by others. After all, you do not know how much they studied or what they studied, you only know the amount of work you put in; and if you are confident with your personal preparation, then you will do great.

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