Usually just the sound of the word “midterms” is enough to make high school students panic.
Having a test in every subject within the same week can be excruciating. But it doesn’t have to be.
Good study skills—plus mindful test-day preparation—will help high schoolers calm down and perform well on their midterms.
Even better, these skills carry over into college too.
Here are our top 10 ways to do your best on test day.
1. Know what you will be tested on
There’s nothing worse than realizing you created 60 flashcards for the wrong biology chapter.
Unless it’s realizing at the last minute that the test is actually cumulative.
On the other hand, there’s nothing better than using the study guide that most teachers provide. (Hint: Teachers want students to succeed. They’ll almost always let you know in detail what the test will cover.)
2. Identify your strengths and weaknesses in each subject
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses will help you create a study plan. Spend extra time working on areas in which you feel less confident. Review past tests to assess your performance. If short answer in history has always presented a problem, write out some possible questions and answers.
If you can always find the answer in pre-cal but time is a factor, practice pacing yourself by answering the fast questions first.
Answer your strengths first. Answer your weaknesses last.
3. Find tutoring now if you need it
Sometimes you need more than a couple of intense study sessions right before the midterm.
You should seek tutoring if
– you don’t understand an underlying concept or
– you bombed a unit test earlier in the semester.
Ask your school counselor for the best subject tutoring resources.
4. Space out your studying
Reviewing material periodically over time rather than all at once literally grows dendrites in your brain. (Read “What You Can Do” on page 3.)
You strengthen your recall ability by studying with breaks in between sessions, not by cramming.
5. Quiz yourself — don’t just read the material
Active reading means asking yourself questions as you read. Trying to anticipate what questions will be on the test and in what format they will appear also makes your study time more effective.
P.S.: Reading out loud engages more senses than reading silently. Try reading aloud to a study buddy and discussing the reading afterward.
6. Get some sleep
According to a psychologist, a late-night cram right before the test is “the worst thing you can do.”
Instead, prioritize sleep both the night before a test and all semester long. Getting enough sleep is scientifically proven to help you learn.
7. Practice good test-day habits
- Wake up early and make your bed
- Save time for a protein-rich breakfast
- Review your notes and study guides
- Make sure you have enough supplies (pencils, a spare calculator or extra batteries)
- Take a deep breath
- Smile and encourage others to help yourself feel better, too
8. Use your nervous energy for good
If you feel jittery during study sessions, pace back and forth and recite facts or formulas to yourself in time with your strides.
Read for 20 minutes and then do 20 jumping jacks.
Stretch your body before the test itself and then take tiny breaks to roll your shoulders, flex your toes, or even bob your legs if it helps. Physical movement will help the butterflies in the stomach to go away.
9. Take the full time given
Though you’ll want to hurry up and get the test over with, you should take your time.
It’s especially important to review each answer before the test is over to make sure that you didn’t make a hasty mistake (bubbling errors, one blank off in multiple choice, skipped a whole sub-point in your essay).
What we’re saying is to check over your work when you’re done.
(Make sure your name is on your test too.)
10. Don’t second-guess yourself after the test
Good news! When the test is over, it’s over.
A good thing to do is congratulate yourself for making it through.
A bad thing to do is worry obsessively about every question that you weren’t completely sure about and try to guess what grade you made. Same with repeatedly checking whether your semester grades have been posted.
You can’t change your answers now, but if you followed our tips, you will have already shown your best work on the test.
Midterms can be stressful, but good preparation is the key to approaching them calmly and confidently.
Follow the example of Albert Einstein, a lifelong learner whose wry encouragement to a student struggling with math shows that true learning goes far beyond just midterms:
“Do not worry about your difficulties in Mathematics. I can assure you mine are still greater.”