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

February 25, 2011 4:45 PM

Studying for Midterms

Midterm season is a stressful time for everybody; it doesn't matter if you're a freshman or a veteran senior. In my experience, I find the most useful strategy to study during midterm season is to maximize the QUALITY of my studying time, and not the QUANTITY. I can put off all the sleep I need to maximize the amount of time I have to review my material, but that doesn't accomplish anything. The way to maximize the quality of your studying time differs for every class, but here are some of the things I do that I think could be helpful:

1) Memorize things in 5's or less
A neat thing I learned from a psychology class is that the brain has a capacity of memorizing 4-7 sets of ideas at a time. If I gave you 10 random numbers to memorize for 5 seconds: 45 53 91 27 93 65 83 02 40 16 45 and tell you to close your eyes and recite them to me, most people can probably recite 4-7 of those numbers back without looking. Try it!
The idea here is to organize your material into 5 or less shorter subsets. For example: Suppose I need to remember 7 classes of viruses. I would first organize them into a 2 groups (how you group them is also very important, but that depends on the material), and then learn one group at a time. I found that this is much better than memorizing all 7 at once. However, GROUP THEM IN A WAY THAT IS LOGICAL TO YOU. In the case of viruses, I would group them by RNA viruses and DNA viruses.

2) Set a REALISTIC schedule for yourself
Setting a mental goal for yourself can help avoid procrastination; the catch is that it must be realistic! Many people who just tell themselves that they will study endlessly the whole weekend might end up procrastinating. But if you set a goal to study for 3 hours and in return watch one episode of "The Office" as a reward, you might follow through on it.

3) SLEEP
This is usually the hardest one to do, but I think it's the most important. Another neat thing I learned from Psychology class is that sleep is important for the brain to reorganize information. A simple google search will display numerous studies that show that sleep is important. Without sleep, you will find yourself not only forgetting information for harder problems on the test, but also mis-reading or mis-interpreting easy questions.

Have fun studying!


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