As much as I love USC and Viterbi, I dread midterms and finals. I feel anxious as they get closer, and I tend to fall behind in other classes because I devote most of my time to studying. The first few weeks of this semester were going pretty well, until…
I had three midterms in one week. Not just one midterm, but three. And back-to-back-to-back. To say my brain is fried is an understatement, it’s deep-fried. It’s Friday now and I’ve finally caught a break. So how did I survive this week and manage to find time to prepare for each of these midterms?
I started studying a week before my midterms. You would not believe how many times I started studying for a midterm just the day before. That’s the opposite of setting myself up for success. Now, I am able to tackle 1-2 lectures or chapters a day without having to stay up late.
I went to office hours. A lot. This might seem obvious but as soon as I was confused with any of the material, I’d make sure I went to office hours and get clarification. Whenever there was a topic of confusion for me, I’d ask the professor if I could explain the topic to them or at least what I thought it was and ask them where my thinking was wrong. Instead of just having the professors go over lecture material again, this allowed me to pinpoint exactly what I was misunderstanding. Then, I’m able to walk away understanding the concept but also where I went wrong.
I reviewed material for 1 hour at a time. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I would sit down at my desk and review midterm material for 3 hours at a time. Now, whenever I have at least two midterms, I never study one subject for more than an hour. By only studying for an hour, I give myself time to fully comprehend the material before just piling on top of it with even more material.
I didn’t prioritize the most difficult topics. I should have. My last midterm of the week was in one of my favorite classes. I had so much material to cover, but there was one topic in particular that was always going to be hard for me no matter what. I spent the entire week before going chapter by chapter until I got to the hard material. That was such a bad idea! I was really comfortable with a majority of the material and felt confident with it and I still spent a couple hours working on practice problems. Instead, I should have prioritized the topic I found to be the hardest and just reviewed the other material. The hard topic showed up on my midterm and was a question worth the most points. If I had spent a little more time focusing on that topic, it would have been fine and I’d have been a bit more prepared.
So how can you survive three midterms in one week? Don’t underestimate the amount of material you will have to cover and devote more time to the material you don’t understand!