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How To Survive Midterms

Emma Longhurst

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by Emma Longhurst

      Midterms are a stressful time for all of us, filled with sleepless nights, caffeinated beverages, piles of notes and textbooks, the occasional tears and mental breakdowns. Here are some tips to help you survive the coming weeks while keeping your sanity (somewhat) intact.

      1. Stay organized. This sounds simple enough, but organization is extremely crucial for effective usage of time. Make a study plan: gather your notes and outlines together, find practice problems, and make sure you have everything for each subject in one spot. Then, create a schedule; plan when you will study for what subject, how much time you’ll devote to it, and what exactly you plan to focus on. Something I do that occasionally works for me is an ABC analysis. I make a checklist of everything I would like to force myself to complete in a given chunk of time. I then write down tasks that I would like to work on, but aren’t extremely pressing at the moment. Then, if I manage to finish all of that, I make a list of whatever I need to do that isn’t necessary, but will help me get ahead in any way.

      2. Eat healthy meals. I know how cliché this one sounds, but it’s still true. While junk food may be tempting —and comforting— in times of stress, it doesn’t do anything but make us feel worse and less focused. Foods with simple sugars cause a brief period of energy, but glucose levels in the body drop significantly after about 20 minutes, leaving us feeling more tired than before. Eat brain foods, such as whole grains, carrots, avocados, and nuts, if you start to get hungry. If you still have a sweet tooth, don’t worry; dark chocolate contains helpful antioxidants to keep you going.

      3. Exercise. Another cliché, I know, but again, there’s a reason people always say it. Sitting at your desk all day does nothing to help you after the hours begin to pile up, and it will have a negative impact on your future well-being. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day will give you more energy, improve your memory, and increase your productivity. Your overall mood will improve as well, and that calculus packet or history essay won’t seem like the end of the world anymore. If you don’t play a sport, there are still ways you can get exercise. Go for a run if you’re ambitious, take your dog for a walk, or even just get up and walk around your house a few times. Just don’t sit there for too long.

      4. Don’t cram. I really can’t emphasize this enough. We’ve all been up until 3 in the morning before a test, even if we have been studying previously, because we feel some sort of obligation to push harder and harder until the very end. However, you are not retaining any information after a certain point. I think we all know this. I’ve gotten to the test the next day, shaking out of nerves and sleep deprivation, and I’ve experienced anxiety over the simplest questions. I find it hard to recall certain details that I know I studied, which becomes frustrating and casts a shadow over the rest of the exam. You’ve all experienced this too, I’m sure, so just know that it isn’t because you aren’t smart enough or don’t work hard enough. This statement sums it up: “[B]eing able to recognize something isn’t the same as being able to recall it.” Our brain can only take so much information at once. So, even if we know for a fact that we studied the function of that enzyme in biology, and we recognize the name, and we remember reading it in our notes, we still can’t pin down what exactly it does. Another issue that goes hand in hand with these consequences of cramming is…

      5. Sleep. There’s a reason we sleep. Without it, we can’t function. None of us are invincible, and none of us are an exception to this law of nature. The fact is, we have to wake up early everyday and focus in school, then come home and focus some more while studying, and if we don’t sleep, we can’t recharge to repeat the cycle. We don’t remember what we learned the previous day, because our brain can’t recall certain facts. Sleep is when these facts are imprinted in our memory, and if we don’t get enough sleep, we can’t process the information, and it goes flying away into the abyss. Try to get at least 8 hours before a test, and review your notes briefly in the morning. You’ll feel much more confident and prepared.

      6. Keep a support system. You are not alone in your stress, and shouldn’t have to isolate yourself for the next few weeks. Remember that your friends are all going through the same thing right now, and that they probably feel as scared and nauseous as you do. If you are struggling with a subject, ask a classmate for help; you can both go to the library after school and study together for half an hour. If you’re at home, text them and ask them to help explain something to you. Odds are, they have questions too, and you’ll both learn from each other while cathartically venting about the mounting pressures you’re all facing. Learn from each other, check in with each other occasionally to make sure everything’s okay, and you’ll feel less alone in your misery. Knowing that somebody has your back to help you with anything you miss is a priceless feeling.

      7. Take a break every now and then. Break up your studying by getting up and doing something else. I’m not saying you should go binge-watch Netflix (save that for after midterms), but take 20-30 minute breaks, and don’t do any schoolwork during that time. Maybe exercise to boost your energy, or use social media to get your mind off of school. Also, work in hour-long blocks for each subject, and don’t focus on one subject for too long. Don’t work on similar subjects consecutively, either. Instead of working on English and then switching to social studies, move on to math for a little while.

      8. Don’t panic. Remember that midterms are only a few tests in comparison to many others you will take. They happen to to be very large and daunting exams, yes, but don’t forget all of the hard work you’ve been putting into your classes for the last two quarters; that counts more than any test ever will. Your teachers are not working against you— they want you to succeed. Keep in mind that your grades do not define you, your true intelligence, or the knowledge you contain. You are more than just a number, and colleges know that, which is why they look at extracurriculars as well as grades. You are all going to be just fine, and remember that it will all be over soon. So work hard, stay calm, and know that no matter what, you’ll be okay as long as you study until you’re confident. Keep going; there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

      I wish you all the best of luck.

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How To Survive Midterms