Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

September 28, 2010 2:40 PM

Managing Midterms

By this time, you have probably settled more comfortably into your living situation and life here at UC Berkeley (regardless of your class year). However, are you comfortably settling in on the prospects of midterm season (a season that seems to come in wave after wave instead of solo in the middle of the term)? Of course not. Why? Because we're mostly all hard working--or procrastinating--Cal students. No worries. You've obviously made it this far to Cal, but that doesn't mean that whatever you've been doing in the past is going to still work in your freshman, sophomore, junior, or even senior year.

Through over 3 years at Cal, I have discovered that your success is related to your understanding of the course, synthesizing skills of material learned, preparing well, and doing your best on performance day a.k.a. exam day--not just the days leading up to a midterm.

Understand the course. What does the course ask of you, demand of you, require you to do while juggling other huge course loads and extracurriculars? Finding out how a class works (your professor's teaching style, GSI's discussion section functioning) will help you prepare best for going to class and soaking up as much information with in 1 hour or 2. Ultimately, you should be doing most of the work on your own, getting rest and sleep (and exercise too), and then going to class pumped and prepared to learn as much as you can. Think Sponge Bob but smarter. Diffusion is the key, not osmosis. If you really procrastinate and don't synthesize and really learn the material until the night before the exam, good luck to you; I really don't know why some one would but themselves through so much anxiety, fear, and unhealthiness if they can help it.

Learn and synthesize material. You're ultimately here at Cal to learn and retain knowledge because you are naturally interested in your major topics and naturally interested in getting a meaningful job or higher education. Yes grades are important. But if it's the letter that's all you care about and not your professors, peers, and the knowledge that floats invisibly and actually very tangibly around you, then it'll be much harder for you to motivate yourself to study for a puny letter. Think on a macrocosmic scale! Keeping the large picture in mind helps HEAPS.

Prepare for your midterm well. GO TO BED AT A RESONABLE TIME (10-11pm) the night before an exam. You're a long distance runner. Not a sprinter. Sprint, and you'll burn out while still at Cal and not even at work, law school, med school, or wherever. Take it easy on your body. Do the work early. Results will come. You will thank yourself later--not me.

Performance day. Test day just pokes at your knowledge, and it is your duty to yourself and all the hard work you put into studying to do your best. The hard work has already been done. Yes, adrenaline will kick in. Use it to your advantage; with adrenaline, know that your senses will sharpen and your mind will move faster. Don't freak out. Just breath, try to relax your body, and let your mind do its work. It's not magic. It's called proper preparation, hard work, and getting to bed at a reasonable time.

Please feel free to leave comments.


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