Midterm Madness: How to Study Smarter and Manage your Time


Here we are again. Midterm season. If you find yourself struggling to prepare for those impending tests, you aren’t alone. That’s why we’ve gathered some useful study tips to set you up for success.

There are three kinds of learners: auditory, visual and tactile. Whether you learn by hearing, seeing or doing, these study techniques will help you prepare.

Auditory learners process and retain information by talking out loud. The more you speak or are spoken too – the better. Visual learners benefit from colour coded notes and graphics that represent the information they’re studying. Tactical learners gain the most out of studying if they’re given the opportunity to move around and act out the information they’re studying. No matter what kind of learner you are, you’re likely to find some useful skills in this article.

If you’re unsure which learning style you most identify with educationplanner.org has a great study style quiz that can offer insight into what works for you.

Rewrite your notes by hand

Taking notes on your laptop could actually be hampering your learning. Research has shown that not only does taking notes on a laptop or tablet set you up for distractions, it allows us to copy lectures word-for-word. When you hand-write notes, you’re more likely to rephrase the material using your own words. This helps you retain more information than copying verbatim. Of course, it’s not always practical to take handwritten notes in class. If you struggle to keep up while writing notes by hand, try hand writing your notes after class. When studying for a test or exam, try writing a cheat sheet even if you aren’t allowed to bring it along.

Interleaved studying

If variety is the spice of life, interleaved study is the spice of study skills. Interleaved study refers to studying two related concepts at the same time, rather than studying one concept followed by another.

Those who study similar topics together have greater memory recall when asked questions about the information studied in a random order. This technique is especially useful in math and the sciences where topics are introduced and studied one at a time.

Study in a well-lit area

Having weak light in a room strains your eyes making you feel more tired. Studying in a well-lit area reduces strain and keeps you more alert. Indirect lighting in a warm light helps reduce strain on the eyes. For greater productivity and focus try studying in an area with cool white lights. Another pro tip to eliminate eye strain is to use task lighting such as a desk lamp to reduce eye strain.

Ditch those devices

A buzzing phone may seem like an obvious distraction, but did you know that the mere presence of your smartphone could be hindering your productivity? A 2017 study done at the University of Texas confirms this. They asked some participants to turn their phones to silent, some to place their phone face down on the table, some to put their phone in their bag, and others to remove it from the room. They found that the closer the smartphones were, the worse the participants performed on computer-based tests. Even having your phone in sight uses some of your brain power. It forces part of your brain to focus on ignoring the phone. Next time you sit down to study, consider putting your phone out of sight or in another room. You can see that study here.

Take breaks

Who doesn’t love to take breaks? I know I do. But did you know that taking breaks can actually improve memory recall? Next time you study a topic, spend ten minutes afterwards with your doing nothing with your eyes closed. According to Psychology Today, this is an effective way to make sure that information sticks in your brain. It also gives your eyes a rest if you’ve been staring at a screen without pause.

If you still find yourself struggling to recall information you’ve studied, most university campuses have an academic support page online where you can set up free one-on-one appointments with a study coach. Simply google your university and the phrase “academic support” for more information.

Happy studying and good luck on those midterms!