Midterms? Already? But the semester just started!

Well, even if they’re not here yet, it won’t be very long before your midterms are staring you down. If you haven’t been able to follow our advice on preparing for your midterms along the way, here’s some step-by-step advice to keep your stress at a reasonable level when midterms come knocking.

Take stock

How many midterms do you have, and in what subjects? Grab a calendar and your syllabi and mark down exactly when your midterms (or midterm papers) will occur (or be due).

Plan your work

Using a digital tool like Evernote, or just a single sheet of paper per midterm, plan out exactly what you’ll need to do to prepare for your midterm. You may not know all the steps you’ll need to take for each class just yet, but do your best to get everything out. Then, if you have any gaps, seek advice from your teachers, TAs, or professors during their office hours, or consult with a qualified friend or tutor.

Determine how long you need

Based on this plan, how much work will each midterm be? Taking into account the difficulty of your class, the syllabus’ description of the midterm, and the amount of work you’ve received thus far, you should be able to get a sense of what your midterms will look like. For college classes, you may also be able to access copies of past midterms from professors. Based on this estimation and the amount of work you have, allot a specific amount of time to each midterm. For example, if you have three midterms—calculus and biology tests which will be exceptionally difficult, and a 5-page paper on a film class that might be a bit easier—allot two weeks each of study for the difficult exams and at least one week to write the paper.

Schedule specific times to work. 

Within the time that you’ve allotted, schedule specific days and times to actually study. Be specific—what are you going to work on and where? For how long? Know that breaks can be helpful: schedule in a short break every hour and a longer break after a 3-hour session. No day should have more than six hours of study. Beyond those limits, your retention will plummet.

Execute. 

Plan your work, and work your plan. 

Be sure to start early and adjust whenever necessary. You’ll want to make sure you’re changing your plan based on whatever you’re learning or encountering as you execute. Be sure to keep your notes as well, as they may come in handy for estimating study times for future, similar exams.