Tackling your First Midterms
Updated: Oct 7
There is no doubt that your first set of University exams is daunting. Unfortunately, the past few years of switching between virtual and in-person school did not prepare us well to take in-person exams. Here are my five top exam-taking tips to hopefully make the midterm season a lot less scary!
1. Create a study schedule
My first and most important tip because it got me through my first-year exams is to use a study schedule. One of the biggest challenges I faced was figuring out how to study for all my exams at once. Using a schedule to plan your studying allows you to take it one day at a time, hopefully lessening the feeling of being overwhelmed. Creating a study schedule takes more work upfront, but I guarantee it will be worth it when you ace all your exams!
There are many ways to create a study schedule, either planning by the week, the day, or the hour. You can find the Queen’s University sample exam study schedule here. Personally, I like to create a simpler version that lists out tasks by the day leading up to my exams.
2. Explore different study methods
There are SO many study methods, and I suggest you try as many as possible until you find what sticks. What worked for you in high school isn’t necessarily the best way to approach the larger amounts of content in a University course.
My favourite study methods include active recall, flashcards, summary sheets, and studying with friends. Active recall focuses on studying by retrieving information from your brain instead of reading your notes repeatedly, trying to cram in as much information as possible. Flash cards are useful in improving memory and strengthening recall speed, both essential skills for writing timed in-person exams. For more theory-based courses, I will often create summary sheets to provide a quick overview of the main concepts. Finally, studying with friends is another one of my most used methods. I strongly believe that only when you can teach a concept do you know it inside out. Friends are a great (and often underutilized) study resource; even just taking turns quizzing each other can go a long way!
3. Switch up your study spot
One of my favourite tips is to change up your scenery regularly. Studying for exams can become very boring, very fast. By studying in different spots, you can fight the monotony of exam season. It can be as simple as checking out a new library floor or sitting at a table in a different building. Some of my favourite study spots on Queen’s campus are Common Ground Coffeehouse (Cogro), Goodes Hall breakout rooms, and residence common rooms (especially Smith or Brant!).
4. Take breaks
I feel like this tip is so obvious that I am not sure if I should include it, but I wanted to emphasize its importance. The biggest mistake a person can make during exam season is forgetting to take care of themselves, whether due to lack of exercise, poor nutrition, or any other reason. Strong mental and physical health are key to a successful exam season! So please take care of yourself and schedule breaks in your day. It can be as easy as going to lunch for an hour with a friend or fitting in a quick workout at the ARC. My favourite way to take a break is going for a walk along the pier.
5. Be prepared
Be sure to familiarize yourself with your exam schedule. Write down all your exam dates, times, locations, and what you need to bring. You do NOT want to be scrambling an hour before your exam trying to figure out all these details. By being ready and prepared, you can focus on staying calm going into your exam.
I hope my five best exam tips help you out this midterm season. Take a deep breath, and you will be fine. Good luck! :)