Rochester Declassified: Midterm Survival Guide

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are falling, the snow is snowing, and midterm exams are lurking around every corner. No one likes exams, but they don’t have to be as scary as they seem. I’m here with some tips to turn those midterms from mighty dragons into much-less-mighty lizards.

1. Go to class

The first and most helpful tip I can possibly give you is to go to your lectures. I know, I know, we’ve all had those days where we’ve woken up and decided the 9 am biology lecture was just not happening that day. And that’s fine, as long as you don’t make a habit out of it. Maybe you learn better by reading a textbook, and don’t like how the professor teaches. That’s perfectly fine, but by going to class you know what the professor thinks is important. And remember, your professor is the one who’s writing the test.

2. Do the reading

The second-best thing you can do is actually do the reading. If the syllabus says that you should read chapters 3 and 4 of your textbook, actually read the chapters. Sometimes, there will be material on the exam that you didn’t cover in class, and your professor expected you to read from the textbook. Take notes on the reading as well! If you have to choose which parts of a page to write down, you’re engaging with the material much more than if you skimmed the summaries.

3. Avoid cramming

Even if it’s just for a few minutes, start studying earlier than the day before your exam. This gives your brain time to digest the material and understand it, rather than spitting it out on the test and not knowing what it means. If you really can’t get motivated, set a timer for five minutes and start reading. Once the five minutes are up, you don’t have to look at it for the rest of the day. Whenever I do this, I find myself actually wanting to keep studying! Remember, five minutes is better than zero minutes.

4. Sleep

Seriously. Even if you end up cramming all of your studying into the night before, try and nap for at least an hour. It gives your body and brain time to rest and process the information. If you don’t have time for a full nap, even just resting your eyes will put your brain into a better test taking mindset. Turn out the lights and just lie down for 20 minutes. It won’t be as effective as actually sleeping, but it’s so much better than rolling up to the exam room still vibrating from your fourth espresso.


There you have it! A little disclaimer: I’m not always the best at following these myself. But I find they’re better than setting unrealistic study goals and then feeling guilty when you fail to live up to them. I hope you can use these tips to succeed on your own tests! But remember, your grades do not define your worth.

About the author

Nicole Sammartino

Hi! My name is Nicole, and I'm a math major in the class of 2020. Currently, I'm studying conservation biology for my Take Five program. I'm originally from Fairfax, Virginia and I love the cold Rochester weather! On campus, I'm a member of the Music Interest Floor and the University of Rochester Pep Band. When I'm not in class, you can usually find me trying out new tofu recipes or playing the trumpet.

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