How to Study Effectively for Midterm Exams (2023)

Knowing how to prepare for an exam can be stressful — especially when you are an international student facing your first midterm exam, which can have a big impact on your final grade. While it is normal to feel a little anxious, there really is nothing to worry about. By knowing how to study effectively, you can prepare for your midterm exam like an expert.

What Are Midterm Exams?

Midterm exams are a type of test or assessment given to students in the middle of an academic term or semester. Compared to smaller quizzes, tests, or even some papers, midterm exams have a bigger impact on your overall grade for the class.

The format of midterm exams will vary, but they can have multiple choice, short answer, fill in the blanks, or essay-type questions. Depending on your professor, some midterm exams are held during class time, while others are take-home exams. Each class syllabus will have all the key details about the midterm exam.

Additionally, midterm exams can be helpful in preparing for your final exams. They help evaluate your current progress in class and can identify subject areas where you may need to improve.

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Do Midterms Affect Your Final Grade?

Yes, they do. However, the impact of the midterm exams on your final grade can vary depending on the subject and the professor. (Again, this information can be found on your course syllabus for each of your college classes.)

For example, sometimes midterm exams may count for only 5% of your grade in History — but in English, the midterm could count for 20%. If you are still unsure about how midterms affect your final grade, you can always reach out to a Shorelight advisor.

How to Study Effectively for Your Midterms

Every student has different ways of studying, so there is no foolproof method that works for everyone. Try out the study techniques below to see which work best for you.

1. Understand Your Learning Style

It is important to know your preferred learning style because it influences the way you process information and approach problems. When you understand your learning style, you will then know which study methods work best for you — and which ways of studying are not as effective.

There are three different types of learning styles:

  • Visual learning—for this learning style, visual concepts like pictures, graphs, and mind maps are used to process information.

  • Auditory learning—this learning style uses sound and music to study. Auditory learners can read their lecture notes out loud, listen to recorded class sessions, or participate in discussions.

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  • Kinesthetic learning—these learners prefer hands-on learning techniques, such as conducting experiments and working on projects.

Depending on the course subject or type of midterm exam, you may prefer to study with one style of learning or even a combination of styles. Research shows that identifying your learning style helps you study more productively in less time.

2. Keep Up With Your Class Work

By regularly completing your assignments and quizzes, you can identify your strengths and weaknesses in the subject. This can help you address any confusion about the subject immediately, instead of seeing issues come up when you are studying for the midterm exam. If you are finding it difficult to study certain topics on your own, speak to your professor or look for a tutor on campus — they are always there to help.

Additionally, you can form study groups with other students from your class and work on problems together. This can also be an opportunity to make new friends. Whether it is studying at the library or the local coffee shop, you can make studying a part of your campus life, so it does not feel like a chore.

My favorite class is ENC 1011. There's a lot of work but I do it and I’ve been getting good grades. I like the professor. The advisors encourage me to visit the tutors and talk to my professors about exams.” – Dennis from Indonesia, University of Central Florida

3. Prepare a Study Plan

Staying organized and knowing how to manage time for study can help achieve the results you want. But as an international student, you may have other commitments on campus, like volunteering for a nonprofit organization, participating in club activities, or even working part time. This is where a study plan comes in.

With a study plan, you can start early and use your available time wisely. For example, you can decide which subjects to prioritize and plan how much time you want to spend on each subject.

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When creating your study plan, remember to schedule short breaks as well—this ensures that you do not cram information or get distracted. One way to remember your schedule easily is to use a calendar app to set reminders for when a study session starts and ends.

4. Study Smart

You have your study plan set, time blocked off, and even a snack or two. Now, it is time to sit down and actually study. Here are some effective techniques to organize your studying to make sure you are making the most of out your time.

  • Make a study guide: In your guide, list and outline the concepts, facts, and equations that could be covered on the test.

  • Use flash cards: Flash cards can be especially helpful in memorizing facts or concepts. If you prefer apps, Chegg Prep, Cram, and Quizlet can help you study for your midterms, or you could use 3x5 index cards.

  • Do practice problems: These are often found in your textbooks, course materials, and online. Practice problems can help you become more familiar with the types of problems included on your midterms.

5. Take Care of Yourself the Night Before the Exam

Some students attempt to cram information at the last minute, but this does more harm than good. According to the American Psychological Association, when pulling an all-nighter to study, memories are harder to retrieve — which means it may be difficult to remember the material when you actually take the test. Instead, remember that you have been keeping up with your classwork and your study plan throughout the semester — this slow and steady long-term approach will serve you well during your midterm exams.

Two important things you can do the night before the exam is to eat well and get plenty of rest. For your dinner, plan to have a healthy meal with a protein, vegetables, and whole grains. You should also try to avoid caffeinated drinks, like coffee or energy drinks, and aim to drink plenty of water. Then, set up a calm and relaxing environment so you can get a full night’s sleep. When you are well rested, your brain retains information better and is prepared to perform at its best.

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If you are still feeling anxious about the exams, talk with your friends or family. It is normal to feel overwhelmed, especially if you are taking your midterms for the first time. Be proud of how far you have come.

Soon, it will be time to put all your hard work into action.

Things to Remember on the Day of the Midterms

Here are a few tips to make sure you are in the best state of mind for your midterms.

  • Have a healthy meal—if you normally skip breakfast or lunch, make it a point to eat something on exam day. Choose a meal with foods rich in omega-3 fats, like salmon, flax seeds, or walnuts, known for their brain-boosting properties.

  • Stay hydrated—drink plenty of water before the exam. According to studies from the University of East London and the University of Westminster, students who bring water into the examination hall may score an average of 5% higher than those without.

  • Bring all necessary materials—remember your pens, pencils, rulers, or any additional tools required for the exam. Pack these items the night before, so you will not spend time looking for them in the morning.

  • Arrive early—plan to be at the exam at least 15 minutes early. If you are living off-campus, make sure to check traffic conditions so you can avoid any unexpected delays.

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Studying for your midterm exams can be challenging. But remember, you are not alone in feeling this way. All students experience anxiety and worry about upcoming midterm exams. Managing your time effectively and staying organized can set you up for success.

Good luck on your midterms!

Ask a Shorelight advisor about academic support services for international students >


How can I study well for midterms? ›

How to Study for Midterms in College: 8 Essential Tips
  1. Start Early. ...
  2. Take Notes. ...
  3. Ask Questions. ...
  4. Create a Study Schedule. ...
  5. Attend Review Sessions. ...
  6. Form a Study Group. ...
  7. Go to Office Hours. ...
  8. Prioritize Rest and Mental Health.
5 Oct 2021

How do you pass a midterm exam? ›

5 Helpful Tips to Pass Midterms
  1. Get plenty of sleep. We have all pulled an all-nighter expecting to become an overnight expert in the subject; however, the truth is those last minute cram sessions are not good for your health or grades. ...
  2. Get creative. ...
  3. Schedule study time. ...
  4. Make a plan and stick to it. ...
  5. Reward yourself.

How many hours should you study for midterm? ›

If you have kept a good daily and weekly schedule, 15-20 hours should be about right for a mid-term, 20-30 for a final exam. Major papers take substantially more time and effort.

What are the 3 secret study tips? ›

3 Secret Study Tips
  • Know what your lecturers want. Before you start studying a topic, write down your lecturer's learning objectives for that topic. ...
  • Make a study plan. Many people waste time when they study because they don't have a plan. ...
  • Use effective study techniques.

What do I do if I fail my midterm? ›

How to Recover After You've Failed a Midterm
  1. Look Over the Exam When You're Calm.
  2. Be Honest With Yourself.
  3. Talk to Your Professor or TA.
  4. Commit to Making Changes.
  5. Take Care of Yourself.
8 Oct 2019

How do I study last minute midterm? ›

Last Minute Exam Revision Tips
  1. Same old, same old… ...
  2. Get up early and get going. ...
  3. Ask those around you for help. ...
  4. Review summaries, rather than full notes. ...
  5. Turn off the technology. ...
  6. Avoid stress—including in other people. ...
  7. Consider taking a longer break: the whole afternoon and evening off. ...
  8. Get everything ready for the morning.

How do you get 100 on midterm? ›

Spend at least 30 minutes studying each day.

To retain the most information, it's best to study for at least 20-30 minutes every day in the weeks leading up to the test. Set aside a 30-minute block of time every day to review your notes, go over your flash cards, read new chapters, and work on practice tests.

How can I ace a midterm without studying? ›

12 Study Hacks to pass exams without studying
  1. Find the right workplace.
  2. Make the most use of your time.
  3. Assemble your requirements properly to avoid distractions.
  4. Compile all your notes.
  5. Avoid cramming for long hours. Take breaks!
  6. Prioritize and work accordingly.
  7. Talk to someone around you.
  8. Plan as per your requirement.

How can I improve my midterm grades? ›

Remember, midterm grades do not define you.
4. Improve Your Study Skills
  1. Review past quizzes.
  2. Write your notes in an outline format.
  3. Review notes after class.
  4. Read the text and provide annotations.
  5. Ask questions during class.
  6. Break down large assignments into several mini assignments and make a plan to get them done.
10 Nov 2021

Is 1 hour of study enough? ›

Study Session Timing

A one-hour block gives you enough time to dive deep into the material, but it isn't so long that your mind wanders. However, one 60-minute session often is not enough time to cover an entire chapter or semester's worth of material, so you'll need to schedule more than one session.

How can I remember what I study? ›

Simple memory tips and tricks
  1. Try to understand the information first. Information that is organized and makes sense to you is easier to memorize. ...
  2. Link it. ...
  3. Sleep on it. ...
  4. Self-test. ...
  5. Use distributed practice. ...
  6. Write it out. ...
  7. Create meaningful groups. ...
  8. Use mnemonics.

Which time is best for study? ›

Most of the students prefer to study in the early morning, generally from 4 or 5 AM in the morning as the brain is more likely to concentrate. It could be the best option for students who have more stamina early in the day.

What is best study trick? ›

Spacing out is good

One of the most impactful learning strategies is “distributed practice”—spacing out your studying over several short periods of time over several days and weeks (Newport, 2007). The most effective practice is to work a short time on each class every day.

What are the 5 successful study habits? ›

Try out some of our five favourite study habits and learn some life-long skills.
  • Make a schedule. Number one on any list of study habits has to be making a schedule. ...
  • Create your environment. This one is so important while we're on lockdown. ...
  • Study in bursts. Treat your brain like a muscle. ...
  • Find a study group.
6 Apr 2020

How can I study faster without forgetting? ›

Now let's look at some of the ways research shows you can remember more and forget less:
  1. Drink coffee to improve memory consolidation. ...
  2. Meditate to improve working memory.
  3. Eat berries for better long-term memory.
  4. Exercise to improve memory recall.
  5. Chew gum to make stronger memories.
  6. Sleep more to consolidate memories.

What happens if you cheat on a midterm? ›

Here are some of the common consequences of cheating. Class Failure: You fail the class and may not have an option to retake it. Suspension: You are temporarily kicked out of the institution. Expulsion: You are permanently kicked out of the institution.

Can you fail midterm and still pass? ›

Is it possible to still pass the class after failing finals or midterms? On average, professors will likely let you pass the class if you failed one final or midterms. Some professors finalize one's grade score by weighing the overall final, midterm, and homework or project-related scores.

Is it OK to fail an exam? ›

Failing an exam doesn't make you any less intelligent or less capable of achieving success in life than those who got better results. Just think that the failure you had in exams was just another step towards success. Just have the courage and strength to overcome this failure and move on.

What is the 15 minute rule for studying? ›

Follow the “15-minute rule”

This is where the 15-minute rule comes in: Take 15 minutes to solve the problem any way you can. If you don't have an answer after 15 minutes, you must ask someone.

What is the 20 minute rule in studying? ›

The 20-minute rule means focusing on one particular task and solely focusing on that chosen activity for 20 minutes without interruptions. Nass adds that if this is done for two weeks, people could become more productive.

What should I do 1 minute before an exam? ›

Top tips to prepare for exams
  1. Use your moments wisely. The few minutes before you switch off the light is a fantastic time for memorisation. ...
  2. Eat a great meal. Make a special effort to cook yourself a decent meal. ...
  3. Laugh. ...
  4. Make sure you wake up. ...
  5. Know when to stop. ...
  6. Use the space. ...
  7. Don't drink too much. ...
  8. Do what works for you.

How can I pass a test I didn't study for? ›

If you didn't study or prepare anything, always go for the easiest questions first. When you have reading time, it's best to identify which questions to answer first; therefore you don't waste your time. If your exam has different sections, try to answer the short answer questions first.

What is a failing grade on a midterm? ›

A D is any percentage between 60-69%, whereas a failure occurs below 60%. Even though a D is a passing grade, it's barely passing.

How do you get 95% on a board? ›

Practice previous years' questions, make short notes and analyze the board exam pattern. Do sports or any other activity every day. Attempt Olympiads or competitive exams for confidence. Don't stress over exams, consistent practice is the key.

Is studying last minute good? ›

Cramming just before an exam can (in theory) allow you to remember information in the short term and enable you to take in enough information for the exam. However, this may will most likely mean that you'll have no lasting connections to the knowledge, and you won't develop any deep understanding of the information.

How do you bring an F to an A? ›

Turn your F into an A
  1. Identify the Problem. Before you start working on fixing the current problem, you need to figure out what caused you to be in this situation in the first place. ...
  2. Seek Help. Before you start working on anything you need to seek out help. ...
  3. Formulate a Plan. ...
  4. Use Some Tech. ...
  5. Reward Yourself.
15 Apr 2016

How can a weak student be improved? ›

Teaching Strategies to Improve Weaker Students
  1. Why and where are they lacking in studies? ...
  2. Concise lessons with demonstrated examples. ...
  3. Focus on encouragement and motivation. ...
  4. Small Group Discussions and Learning. ...
  5. Effective Learning – Flowcharts. ...
  6. Healthy Feedback.
1 Jul 2022

Can I miss a midterm? ›

Whatever the reason, missing a midterm exam can have a huge impact on your ability to pass a class. In most cases, it makes up a significant percent of your grade, making it impossible to get higher than a C (or in some cases, pass the class at all).

How can I stop being nervous for midterms? ›

Here are some tips to help you stay calm during exams.
  1. Prepare for your exams well in advance. ...
  2. Put the exam in perspective. ...
  3. Get a good night's sleep beforehand. ...
  4. Eat sensibly before the exam. ...
  5. Stop studying about an hour before the exam. ...
  6. Know the time and place of the exam. ...
  7. Develop positive self-talk.

How do I study for a midterm in one night? ›

A good rule of thumb is to focus for 30- to 45-minute increments followed by 5-minute breaks. If you try to cram in all the information the night before the test, your brain will overload and you'll have to work to regain your focus on studying.

Why are midterms so stressful? ›

Midterms are an especially difficult time because it's an exam with everything you've learned since the start of the fall semester. It's important to take care of yourself mentally, physically and emotionally during a stressful period because stress can harm your body.

What should I do 1 hour before an exam? ›

Top tips to prepare for exams
  1. Use your moments wisely. The few minutes before you switch off the light is a fantastic time for memorisation. ...
  2. Eat a great meal. Make a special effort to cook yourself a decent meal. ...
  3. Laugh. ...
  4. Make sure you wake up. ...
  5. Know when to stop. ...
  6. Use the space. ...
  7. Don't drink too much. ...
  8. Do what works for you.

How can I clear my mind before studying? ›

7 tips to sharpen your mind for exams
  1. Practice mindfulness. ...
  2. Destroy the distractions. ...
  3. If you don't snooze, you lose. ...
  4. A fit body helps a fit mind. ...
  5. Treat yo'self (to something healthy, of course) ...
  6. Pretty up the place. ...
  7. Don't be too hard on yourself!
27 Oct 2016

What is the 50 10 rule for studying? ›

For every 50 minutes spent focusing on studying or working, allow yourself a 10-minute break. Building in a 10-minute break into every hour will help you avoid burning out, cut down on distractions, help you digest new information, and will typically help you be more productive during designated work time.

Can you pass exam by studying 1 day? ›

With discipline and focus, you can still succeed on your exam with only one day to prepare. While it is always best to prepare for a test at least a week in advance, sometimes life gets in the way. There are a few ways to guarantee your best performance on your test with only one day to study.


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