My favourite thing about the first few weeks of March is that it falls right in between midterm season and finals season.
This is the optimal time to reflect on the study patterns you exhibited during midterm season to help you determine the next steps you need to take to ensure that you are at your prime productivity when final exams come around. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to kick-start your self-reflection:
Did you feel prepared for the midterms you wrote?
- YES: This is a good indicator that you were able to stay on top of your classes and that you allocated enough time to study for your midterms. Determine what strategies you employed to ensure effective time-management and self-discipline and continue using these strategies to help you successfully prepare for your final exams.
- NO: Reflect on why you weren’t prepared.
- Staying up-to-date with your course content (lectures and readings) and completing the assigned homework is crucial to helping you prepare for an exam. Otherwise, you may have to cram a lot of knowledge into a short period of time, which lowers your chances of successful exam preparation. If you fell behind in your courses, possible next steps include employing a new schedule that promotes effective time-management and helps you stay up-to-date with your classes; this may involve going to all your lectures, taking detailed notes every lecture, doing a small portion of your reading every night, etc. For more details on how to create an effective schedule, read my past post on Scheduling for Success.
- Aside from staying up-to-date with your course readings and homework, it is also essential to spend at least two days prior to the midterm reviewing the concepts and practicing the problems that will be covered so that they are fresh in your mind. Did you allocate enough time to study? If you didn’t allocate enough time, make sure to schedule in more study time when finals roll around.
- Were you distracted when studying? Distractions hinder progress and waste time! Simply allocating enough time to study isn’t sufficient if you are going to be distracted during the allocated time slots. Distractions greatly reduce the amount of available time you have to learn/review content for the exam, hence reducing your preparedness. If you are interested in learning how to minimize distractions, read this post about increasing your focus whilst studying.
- Did you attempt past papers? Most times, attempting a past midterm can greatly help you understand the structure of your upcoming tests, hence increasing your preparedness. Although there is no guarantee that your final exam structure will be similar to a past midterm, doing past midterms acts as extra practice. Set aside some time for it!
- Did you seek help when needed? Sometimes, school can get overwhelming, and in those times, you should seek help as soon as possible. If the reason for your unpreparedness was the lack of seeking help, ensure that you schedule enough time to seek help before finals. “Help” comes in many forms, such as attending professor office hours, emailing a question to the professor/TA, asking your peers, visiting an Academic Success Centre Learning Strategist, looking at online resources etc.
Did you remember to focus on self-care?
- YES: Good job! Continue incorporating self-care into your daily routine to ensure you operate at your peak performance everyday.
- NO: Although it may not seem directly obvious, self-care greatly impacts your academic performance because it impacts your physical and mental health. Make sure that you create a routine for yourself as soon as possible which ensures that you take care of your personal hygiene, and that you are hydrated, well-rested, and well-fed. For more tips on self-care, read this post.
With these reflective questions in mind, along with some of your own personal reflections, I hope we can all learn from our successes and failures during midterms to help us become more successful during finals!