3 tips for studying for your first midterm or exam

Leaving studying to the last minute may seem like a good strategy, but it’s actually easier to prepare for midterms and exams throughout the term. Follow these three steps to build good habits into your study routine.

1. Find your study space  

Studying on your bed might seem like a comfortable idea but you might end up napping. Having a dedicated space that you use for studying can help you focus.

There are so many study places on campus to try out to fit your needs. Do you prefer background noise or complete silence? The Library maintains a guide to campus study spaces for individual and group study. Another option is to see which classrooms are available for studying by using the “Open Classrooms” feature under the Map Layers in Portal.   

2. Keep up with your study notes (don’t leave a lecture and do nothing!) 

Your midterms and final exams include a lot of content from lecture. Get in the habit of reviewing your notes after each class and then making a summary. This can help make reviewing regularly manageable.

Summarizing your notes helps you identify where you may want to follow up with your instructor if you have questions. It also means that when it is time to start studying for your midterm or exam, you already have your notes ready to review. Need help knowing how to make study notes? Check out our note-taking resources.

3. Understand the different expectations of high school vs. university

University exams are different than what you likely experienced in high school. There are different expectations for how you show your learning in university, which means how you approach studying might also need to adjust.

The table below outlines some key differences between tests and exams in high school and university. 

High school tests and exam expectations University test and exam expectations
Multiple choice questions have no significant "distractions" you select the right multiple choice answer by ruling out obvious wrong options Multiple choice questions require you to select from significant distractors- you are required to think critically about the correct answer
Questions are structured to have you recall or even just recognize the correct answer Questions are structured to have you describe, outline a pathway or sequence

Questions asked for straightforward definitions; little or no multi-step reasoning 

Questions require multiple steps of reasoning within a topic 

Questions have only one correct answer 

Questions require a depth of understanding that enables you to choose all the correct options 
Questions are narrow in scope; little or no integration across topics  Integrate material from different topics within the course using information in a new context 
  Predict outcome using several pieces of information; interpretation of data, graphs; compare/contrast 

 Now that you have these tips in mind, good luck with preparing for your first midterm!