Jackson: The point when freshman and sophomores are taking their essential learning courses is underrated in terms of the challenges of studying for multiple disciplines and topics at the same time. My best suggestion is for students to regularly review the materials after the conclusion of each week of class. When you receive the study guide in your classes, go back through your notes, highlight terms and concepts that appear on the study guide, and study the materials that surround those concepts. Study guides offer the best hints as to what will appear on the exam. As a professor, I always remember that my students are most likely studying for three other exams at the same time as mine.
Weinberg: My advice is to study as much as possible throughout the course of the semester so that cramming isn’t necessary. Then, I would suggest focusing on practice tests and on any problems that were missed or required more than one attempt from homework and quizzes. At least a few days before the exam, try to identify problems that you are struggling with so that you can go over these types of problems with the instructor. The instructor should be able to help you streamline your studying and problem-solving strategies. If you are not sure what areas may be issues for you, speak with your instructor one-on-one in order to see if she or he can help you to identify your weaknesses.
Do you think students should have study groups?
Jackson: Absolutely. I pair students up into groups in my lower division classes on the first day of class with the hope that they will study with those groups before the exams. You can easily reserve study rooms in the library, which I highly recommend.
Weinberg: Study groups are fine, provided that students do not rely too much on each other. In study groups, I suggest that students work on their own and then only consult the group when they have questions. When consulting the group, students should be aware that incorrect answers and strategies are often provided with great confidence. I think it is more important for students to consult their instructors or tutors than for them to use study groups. I mainly see study groups as being useful for the purpose of inspiring students to study.
What do you think is the hardest part of midterm week?
Jackson: Anxiety, stress, anticipation, anything that may arise in your personal life that can affect your concentration. Self-care is essential during midterm and finals week – go for a hike, run, take a walk away from campus, watch make-up tutorials on YouTube – whatever gives you a mental break for a half an hour.
Weinberg: As a student, I loved midterm week. It’s a challenge, and I love challenges. I liked pushing myself, staying up late, and stepping up to the challenge of an exam. I think that students often struggle with feeling like they don’t have enough time to get all their studying done. I rarely felt that because there are a lot of hours during a night, and I would just cut back on my sleep. Making major cuts to the amount of sleep that you get can negatively impact your test performances; however, I think that anxiety is a bigger issue, and I think that it’s better to just cut back on your sleep if it decreases your anxiety. By the way, as a teacher, the hardest part of midterm week is either grading or having to deal with incidents of cheating.
Do you have any advice for those students who have bad testing anxiety? What should students focus on during midterm week? Do you have any helpful studying tips or anxiety relief tips for students?
Jackson: Before the exam: If you consistently study (repetition of materials, use of flash cards, practicing your knowledge aloud and with a study group), you will gain further confidence that will mentally prepare you for the exam. Attend any review sessions that your professors offer. During the exam: Pay attention to the time you have left on the exam, but try not to obsess over it. Take a deep breath every once and a while to help center yourself. After the exam: If you did not receive the grade you were hoping for (or intending to receive), go to office hours, talk with your professor(s). We’re here to help! Ask how you can go about taking more effective notes, perform better on the exams, and it never hurts to ask about extra credit opportunities. When professors see that you are making a substantial effort to improve, they will take notice.
Weinberg: For students that have bad test anxiety, I would suggest that they practice doing old homework problems and practice tests in a test-like manner. Try doing these under time constraints and without access to any resources that wouldn’t be available on tests. Furthermore, work them from beginning to end, in a test like manner. I would also suggest that they listen to uplifting music and do something fun just before tests and before practicing for tests. About an hour before any stressful test in college, I would decide to forget about any of my worries, and I would skateboard around campus listening to Metallica in order to get amped up for the exam. I would then go into the exam ready to dominate it. I think that the exercise component was particularly helpful, and I would suggest that students do some sort of exercise before exams, even if it is just a few jumping-jacks.
Jackson: I think that students should focus on the enjoyment of rising up to meet the challenge. With respect to particular course material, they should focus on practice tests and on any problems from homework or quizzes that took them more than one attempt to answer correctly. Do not worry about how much time you have for studying or how long it is taking you to learn a particular concept. Instead, focus on the fact that you can always cut back on your sleep in order to study more. Beyond that, I suggest punctuating your studying with fun and exercise. I also suggest studying someplace enjoyable, where you can still focus. I used to study in a beach chair under a street light.