Study Hacks for Midterm Season

You are slumped over your desk, your eyes hurt from hours of reading, and you feel trapped in the library. You want to stop studying more than you’ve ever wanted anything, but you are only halfway through the material and your midterm is in a week! Rescue yourself before you have a Youtube-worthy breakdown  with some tried and true study hacks.
1. Read Smart
If you have a mountain of reading to get through and a little bit of time, you need to prioritize. You do not need to read all of the material to understand the main points. For novels, most students rely on online summaries. Make sure you find different sources so that you stand out from all of the other students who only read Sparknotes. Don’t forget to read parts of the actual novel so you get a sense of the author’s style. For academic articles, read the introduction, the first and last sentence of every paragraph and the conclusion. Also be on the lookout for keywords like “Thus, In this way, I/We have proven, First, Second, Always”. Based on this, write down some key points and learn them well.

2. Study Guides
Making a study guide can be a great way to learn course material. When you are putting one together don’t just copy and paste things from the source materials. You will learn ideas a lot better if you write them down in your own words. Don’t forget that your study guides don’t have to be perfectly polished outlines, you are not turning them in! Ignore full sentences. Abbreviate and use diagrams to convey information. The information will stick out better in your mind if you include funny mnemonics or slang. Including color in your study guide is a proven way to kick your visual memory into gear. A colorful organizational system that will freshen up your notes and help you remember important ideas. Just don’t get too crazy with the color-coding or you’ll end up wasting time. Once you are sick of writing, drawing idea maps is a great way to learn how all the information links together. Bonus points if you tape a completed diagram on your mirror, in the bathroom, beside the microwave or anywhere else that you will be reminded to look at it constantly. This tip also works for tricky definitions, equations or concepts you want to memorize.
3. Memorize
Speaking of memorization, flashcards are pretty much the way to go. You can use the classic paper version of an online system like Just remember that some studies show that you tend to remember things better when you write them down rather than type them. This next tip is for when you absolutely need to get out of your desk or you have a lot of things to do. Record yourself reading your study guide, save it as an mp3 and listen to it while you fold laundry, jog  or make yourself dinner.
4. Fill in the gaps
If there was a lecture of a concept that you didn’t understand, go to your professor’s office hours. Nobody does this, but it is super useful. Even if you are in an intro class with a thousand people, 99.99% of professors are happy to interact with students. If you are lucky enough to have T.A. review sessions, go to them! Just make sure that you have studied the material on your own before (or at least have paid attention to class) so that you actually have questions to ask. If it is the eleventh hour and there is no way you can contact a professor or T.A., you might have some luck searching in iTunes U for a similar lecture. Last year I didn’t really understand a lecture about French immigration to Algeria and I managed to find a recording of a Yale professor’s crystal-clear explanation of it on iTunes U (for free).
5. Study groups
Study groups are fantastic. They are total lifesavers for misunderstandings or a missed class. Sophomore year, I walked into a study group not realizing that I had forgotten to look over a whole chapter that was on the exam! To make sure you get asked to be in the study group, be considerate, bring healthy snacks and make sure that you are doing your fare share of the work. This means coming prepared to talk about the material. You definitely get the most out of study groups when you meet together the night before the exam, once you’ve already studied everything on your own.
6. Osmosis
Sleep with your textbook under your pillow the day before the exam. Knowledge will seep right through your brain as you sleep (I wish!).
Good luck on midterms everybody!
Do you have any study hacks that you use to pass?

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