College

Midterms: Top 5 Tips for Acing Your Exams

Midterms: Top 5 Tips for Acing Your Exams

It’s a midterm season and I’ve been incredibly busy with getting my papers returned on time and preparing for the tests. While my time is a bit limited these days, I do not feel as stressed out as I used to when I just started college. It’s all because I was able to develop studying techniques that allow me to be a more productive student. Today, I’m collaborating with Wacom and Her Campus Media to share my midterm preparation strategies and hope you find them handy.

Tip #1: Take Handwritten Notes

I don’t know about you, but every time I tried taking notes on my laptop or iPad, I didn’t feel fully prepared for the exam and couldn’t remember things that I read about. I figured that such phenomenon has something to do with a way I’m used to studying in high school: having all of my notes written by hand, it’s hard to adjust to a new strategy, especially if your exam preparation time is limited.

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These days, I’m a big supporter of taking handwritten notes and here are some of the strategies I use while note taking for midterms:

1. Use loose paper and number each page before you start writing. That way, you can easily add your midterm notes to your class binder and never have a problem with figuring out the order of each page.

2. Take notes with the same pen and don’t use a highlighter or pens of other colors until you have finished note taking. Use a highlighter only when you are reviewing your notes to emphasize the most important moments. That way, you’ll speed up your initial note taking the process and will program your brain to actively read your notes through as you are looking for information that has to be highlighted.

3. Do not write things down word by word. Instead, try organizing information in bullet points and write down short explanations for every concept. That way, you will spend less time taking notes and more time mentally dividing information into categories and properly storing it in your memory.

4. Dedicate a separate page in your binder for definitions. Usually, I write down the term with an equal symbol afterward and write the definition on the right from it. I do it in a way that each new line starts right after the equal symbol and not at the beginning of the page. That way, you visually emphasize the terms so it makes it easier to find them.

5. If a topic I’m studying requires additional research that is not in the textbook you were assigned, I write down those notes on colored sticky notes that I put on top of the initial explanation. I love using this set as those notes are big enough and lined, but you can stick to your regular Post-It notes if you are okay with writing on non-lined pieces of paper.

Tip #2: Digitally File Your Notes

It happens to me every semester: I’m so happy that the midterms are finally over that I start cleaning up my space and eventually misplace my midterm preparation notes. When the finals come though I’m in distress as I need to go through the textbook again as opposed to referring to the notes I already took a few months prior. This semester, I’m implementing a new strategy when I’m saving all of my midterm preparation notes with the help of Wacom Bamboo Slate Smartpad (℅). Basically, it’s a device that allows you to take your regular handwritten notes and save them in a digital format. In other words, you can take your regular notes and file them in your class binder (learn more about my college organization strategies here) and save an additional copy in a digital format.

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Here are some of the tips you can use if you’d like to incorporate your Bamboo Slate in your midterms preparation routine:

1. If you like drawing diagrams and flowcharts, there is absolutely no better way to do so than using the Bamboo Slate. With this device, you can simply draw what you need and save it as a .jpeg file. It’s so handy! I actually use this strategy not only for midterms, but for college papers too. Once you finished with your sketch, you can add it to a Microsoft Word file and, if needed, edit it in Photoshop.

2. If you have a studying buddy, having your notes saved digitally makes it so much easier to share your ideas and opinions. Simply send him or her a special link you can create using Inkspace App (that is compatible with the Bamboo Slate device) and you are all set. If preferred, you can also save your notes in Evernote—that what I do with all sorts of college-related passwords.

3. My favorite thing about Bamboo Slate smartpad is that is that it allows eliminating typos or parts of the note you don’t need. Use an eraser tool to eliminate unnecessary words and a lasso tool to select certain areas of the file and move them around (super handy for the diagrams!).

Tip #3: Learn How to Manage Your Time

Honestly, time management is one of the most difficult things for me to deal with during the exam season. Since I’m both a full-time student and a full-time blogger, finding the time to do both could be tricky. Since both areas are equally important for me, I try stretching my time and learning the ways how I do things more effectively.

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Below, I list some of the strategies that help me to be a more productive student:

1. Keep track of your time by using a time blocking cube. This strategy is not really effective when I’m working on my blog posts as creativity is something I personally cannot put in a time tracking box, but when it comes to less creative things like working on research papers and note taking, this device really works. I feel like the cube works like a self-imposed deadline that forces you to be more productive within a selected time slot—and I love is as it saves so much time. Usually, I work in 30 minutes studying & 5 minutes break increments and it’s proved to be an effective strategy.

2. Always have your to-do list on hand. Usually, I have a separated list for my college and another one for my blog. I also have a miscellaneous list, which I always keep next to me when I’m studying just in case my mind starts wandering about some home-related issues. For instance, I’m reading about discourse analysis and something in the book reminded me that I forgot to purchase a dishwasher soap. Instead of keeping that piece of information in mind, I quickly write it down in my notebook, so I don’t need to waste my memory on remembering it and instead concentrate on study material.

3. Talking about to-do lists, I always try to divide things into the smallest parts possible and write them down in my college agenda (learn how I organize my student planner in this post). There is something highly satisfying in crossing out items from your to-do list! Saying so, the smaller categories you divide your to-do list for the day, the more satisfaction you’ll receive for getting things done.

Tip #4: Master Your Midterm Paper Strategy

Over the course of the last few years that I’ve been in college, I figured that the most time-consuming thing about writing papers is putting together a Works Cited page. It takes time to find the right sources in the first place and it takes double time to properly cite things. Lately, I’ve been incorporating the following paper writing strategy that proved to be effective.

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1. When you cite an online document, put a hyperlink to the source in the parenthesis after the quote you included in your paper. That way, you’ll always know where the information is coming from and, if needed, can double-check it.

2. When you are done with the body of your paper, go through each of those hyperlinks and create a citation using resources like KnightCite. Once your citation is done, include a full version of it on the Works Cited page and keep a short one (i.e. just a last name of the author and a page number) in the same place you had your hyperlink (in parenthesis at the end of the sentence with a citation).

3. Also, don’t disregard the importance of the spell check as the professors really pay attention to proper grammar and punctuation. Use free online services such as Grammarly and PaperRater to proofread your papers prior to submitting them.

Tip #5: Don’t Let Exams Overwhelm You

Personally, I noticed that the most stressed out about the exam you are, the worth you perform on the actual exam. Not enough sleep and too much coffee are some of the mistakes people do, but it actually goes far beyond those trivial exam preparation tips. I have a few rituals that allow me to stay sane during the business of the midterms season.

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1. It might be just an OCD nature of my personality, but I can’t concentrate on studying if my nails are not done. I’m not even joking! I tried so many times reading a textbook when my manicure was not in a perfect condition, and all I could concentrate on are my nails. Those days, I always start exam preparation with removing my old nail polish and applying a new one. Since I can’t really do anything else than reading for the next 15-20 minutes after applying a nail polish, I force myself to study during this time. Usually, by the time my nails are dry, I’m already in my studying mood, so this tip actually allows me to avoid procrastination and jump on the studying right away.

2. If it’s possible, I try getting a chair massage at my local manicure salon the night before the exam. Sitting at the table the entire day could make my muscles tight, especially because I usually don’t have time to workout during the exams season, but a short massage is capable of eliminating any discomfort. It’s also a very relaxing procedure that helps to calm your nerves down and give you a little break from the studying marathon.

3. Spend time on cleaning your studying space: organize binders on your desk, wipe out your laptop screen, water the plants in your room, throw out the garbage and make the bed. Granted: those things take the time to accomplish, but they really affect your productivity level. Being in a beautiful and clean environment really motivates me to be a more productive student.

Midterms: Top 5 Tips for Acing Your Exams

I hope you enjoyed my tips on how to get ready for the exams and not get too stressed out about it. In case you didn’t already, I recommend checking out post where I share my college organizing tips. Good luck on  your midterms, everyone!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Wacom and Her Campus Media. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make StyleSprinter.com possible!

  • shannon

    This is great – I especially love that you took the time to talk about things like cleaning up your study environment, those things can really help “unclutter” your mind.

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  • So much has changed since I graduated from college in 2009. A few people might have brought laptops into class but most of us had desktops. I never thought I was a great notetaker but something must have worked since I always passed each class. haha.