With midterm season around the corner, it’s almost that time of the semester where we will see students hunkered down in the library till 2:00 am. However, I think that given some forethought, and planning, you can be in bed by 11:00 pm and still ace all your classes. It all boils down to your studying habits and time management, both of which become so much easier one your start taking advantage of all the resources around you.
I’ve personally learned that while cramming the night before an exam may work for some people, it usually doesn’t for me. I end up getting overwhelmed by the amount of work I have and end up napping. I also learned that surprisingly, my brain doesn’t function the best when it is running on 2 hours of sleep (shocking, right?). Therefore, I prefer starting a couple days in advance. I find it most effective to start my revision by going over all the lecture slides, taking notes on what I find most important. Ideally, I like to have this done two to three days before the exam, so that the last one to two days can be dedicated to doing practice problems, past exams, and reviewing my weak spots.
Yet even though I know this, it is still really hard to follow. Especially when midterm season lasts two weeks, and when engineering classes have two midterms each, weekly homework and, of course, a final. Therefore, while the lonely study sessions at Leavey may initially be very productive, soon the fluorescent lights and cubicle walls may start becoming something you start dreading. I have found study groups to be super helpful. Not only can you learn from others by asking questions, but you can refine your own knowledge of concepts by helping explain it to others. Moreover, they are more often than not super fun, and is a healthy way of ensuring that you still have a good time while working – something you are bound to do a lot as engineers. Especially at USC, there are so many places perfect for group studying sessions. From the Leavey study rooms or Marshall breakout room to the residential lounges to even sitting and studying on campus, there is no lack of space.
Another helpful thing during exam season are SI (supplemental instruction) sessions. These are dedicated to helping students review concepts taught in class and to provide them with materials like worksheets for more practice. I find these to be some of the most helpful sessions because they are held by students who have taken the class in the past and done well. They therefore know what the important concepts are and do an amazing job at summarizing and reviewing the most vital points for an exam. I find it most helpful to use these sessions and the worksheets provided to help me recognize which topics I need more help in and to figure out how to allocate my time better.
Overall, everyone’s process is going to be different. The most important thing is to not stress and that you give yourself time to learn what works for you.