How to study after midterm exams: Reassess your study habits

Study buddyMidterm exams are over. Thank goodness for that. Now, what can we take away from the experience? Did you do okay? Do you need to study more? This is a great time to take your academic temperature, assess how to study for tests and learn some study tips so we can do better for finals.

Study better next time

Maybe midterms didn’t go the way you planned. You realize you need to review test taking tips and attack the problem from a different angle. Here are few tips:

  • Talk to the professor. Discuss the important points of the class material and how you can concentrate on those. If possible, bring your midterm and go over the questions you got wrong.
  • Study with a buddy. Get tutored by a peer who understands the material. Ask each other sample test questions.
  • Take a deep breath. It’s not the end of the world. Get a pizza, play a video game, unwind. This is a chance to learn from our mistakes and aim to improve our grade on the next test.

Study scientifically

Benedict Carey in the New York Times reported in “Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits,” September 6, 2010, that some counter-intuitive methods of studying actually work.

  • Alternate your study location. Being in different environments helps improve retention of class material.
  • Vary the material you’re studying. Do a little reading, then some vocabulary, then some math or problem solving. The different ways of thinking stimulate the brain. Nate Kornell, a psychologist at WilliamsCollege, explained that this strategy undermines the common assumption that intensive immersion is the best way to really master a particular genre, or type of creative work.
  • Study in chunks. Don’t cram all at once. Space out your studying over a period of time to let your brain absorb the information slowly.

Take harder classes next term

Hey, maybe you aced your midterm exams. You’re really getting the hang of college, good study habits and taking tests. Why not challenge yourself to be the best you can be? See if there are one or two harder classes you can take next term. An organic chemistry class, a physics or math class, or just a more advanced version of an elective. Attempting a difficult class helps us learn to tackle challenging tasks and develop coping skills and strategies.

The age-old question arises: Should we take easy classes we know we can get better grades on, or take more challenging classes and possibly get lower grades? Which is better? “Taking too many easy classes can be construed that you can’t handle difficult subject matter,” said a blogger in the article “Are Harder College Classes Better For You Than Easier Ones?” on “[Then] there are times where you can garner more respect because you did take a challenging class that few others would take. It depends on how you present the academic record to potential interviewers.”

Improve your GPA

The general rule is two hours of study for every one hour spent in class. But to improve a grade point average (GPA), a whole lotta studying needs to happen. Professor Carl Zulaf of OhioStateUniversity found that a 40-hour increase in weekly studying was needed to achieve a one-letter increase in quarterly GPA. “A lifestyle change has to happen before an impact is made on a student’s grades,” said Zulaf in “Studying Still the Key to Academic Success,” in USA Today, April 2001 found on “The ability to use time is positively related to academic performance. But it takes a lot of commitment by a student to significantly increase the number of hours he studies.”

How did you do on your midterms? Do you think you’ll sign up for a harder class next term?

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