A Guide to Midterms

Lisa Gardner's picture


For most of us, the return from the holiday season can be a bit saddening. After a week of spending time with family and relaxing from no school work, it becomes hard to get out of bed in the morning and plow through school. Even more disappointing can be learning that in a few short weeks, you will be evaluated on all the material you’ve learned so far this school year. But don’t fret, midterms should be viewed more as an opportunity than a hindrance.

For those of us who have had a shaky start to the year, midterms are a great way to boost the report card. Because midterms cover the whole first semester of school, they tend to be intimidating. Studying so much material in so little time can feel suffocating. But, because of their breadth across subjects, midterms tend to be based more on the fundamentals of the class than the hardest, most specific applications. So while there is more to study, it needs to not be studied as in-depth as the first time through.

If you’ve done well first semester, you shouldn’t blow off midterms, but you should be confident in your ability to enjoy the same success. As mentioned above, midterms tend to cover the basic principles in all subjects, so if you were able to master the advanced ones, the basic ones should be a piece of cake.

Usually, teachers will have some class time to go over material, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed, you should try to get help outside the classroom. You can try to arrange a meeting with a teacher before or after school, or during a free period for extra review. If getting help from the teacher is a little too intimidating or time-consuming, try meeting with a study group after school or over the weekend.

If you find yourself studying alone, you should reference materials from your classes. Especially in math and science, reviewing old tests to make sure you can do the problems can be especially helpful. In subjects like history, or a related subject with a lot of memorization, your teacher will probably lessen the specifics of minor events to focus on the major ones. English and foreign language midterms usually consist of fresh prompts and passages that you have not seen before. This makes it harder to study for them, but in a sense, if you’ve been doing your work the whole semester, then you’re already prepared. Some teachers will make study guides that help you identify important concepts, but if they don’t, just compile your reference materials and split them up, so that you can review.

When given the choice between reviewing over time and last-minute cramming, always choose long-term review. The night before a midterm should be like the night before any test. Review if you need to, but focus on getting good sleep, so that if you forget material you can do your best to make educated guesses. If you know you will have trouble reviewing over time, make a schedule and a commitment to study even 5-15 minutes each night. If you have more time, try to shoot for 20-30 minutes. To make sure you get the studying in, ask your parents to remind you each night, or log off a distracting social network for a month. It will be well worth it.

If for some reason, the test doesn’t play out the way you wanted, remember that you have the whole second semester to turn your grades around. Make sure you consult with your teacher, so that you will be better prepared for future tests. Above all, don’t lose perspective. Not everyone is a good test-taker, and how you do on one test isn’t a good representation of yourself, or even the knowledge you possess in the subject.

Good luck on your midterms! To share any study tips email parliamentarian [at] patsa.org ()<!--style="text-decoration:none;"-->.