Midterms are one of the most stressful times in a student’s academic career. Much of the stress comes from a lack of preparation, resulting in pulling last-minute “all-nighters.” Midterms usually account for a significant portion of a student’s grade, therefore, each student must do well to pass their course at the end of the year. As educators, it is your role to help students maximize their chances of succeeding for their midterms by giving them a variety of ways to prepare for the exams.

Top Midterm Strategy Tips

When it comes to preparing your students to succeed in midterms, there are many strategies you can incorporate to set your students up to perform at their very best.

1. Create a study guide for your students.

One of the biggest causes of stress is the lack of clarity that comes with midterms. Because so much material has been covered in the first half of the semester, it’s hard for students to predict what will or won’t be on the exam. Study guides are extremely useful in any exam preparation. Creating a study guide gives students a structure for them to follow when studying for midterms. This tool prioritizes what is most important to remember. Organize them by sequential lessons, and highlight big lesson takeaways, while also using graphic organizers such as illustrations and matrices as needed. Study guides can be used as content knowledge, reading comprehension, or exam prep. For math or science classes, you can give practice questions related to solving problems. These guides can also be presented in a video format to make it easier for different types of learners. Allow students to complete your study guide, and then give them time to ask for feedback before the midterm.

2. Form study groups for your students.

Another way to improve studying without taking away from class time is by creating study groups for your students. Study groups, even in a virtual setting, are helpful because they allow students to learn from their peers. Sometimes other voices are needed to help students understand different concepts. Participation in a study group boosts students’ motivation, helping them learn new study techniques and gain a new perspective on a topic. Study groups can also be fun. Encourage them to use flashcards, trivia games, and other unique studying methods to help students memorize the material.

3. Be clear about the details.

Make sure you’re clear in giving all of the information needed for the exam. Here’s a list of questions that your students should know before midterms:

  • When are midterms? Be sure to give the date, time, and location. 

  • What is the format of the midterm exam?

  • How many points is the midterm worth?

  • Will there be an in-class review session or review packet that will be delivered to students?

  • What materials and lessons will the exam cover?

4. Remind your students to get an ample amount of sleep and food before the test.

It’s no surprise that students who have a good night’s rest typically score better on exams. A 2014 study found university students who slept seven hours the night before exams scored almost 10 percent higher than students who slept less. Encourage students to study in advance to prevent pulling “all-nighters.” Sleep deprivation will negatively impact a student’s ability to concentrate, problem-solve, and possess a positive mood or energy level. Additionally, healthy food is fuel to your brain. Students should have healthy slow-release carbohydrates, like whole-grain bread or oats, along with protein, like eggs or yogurt.

5. Do reviews following each lesson or chapter.

Help decrease a student’s chance of procrastinating by incorporating mini-reviews after each lesson. This helps students study in small chunks over a long period rather than studying all of the material at once. For a regular test, students might get away with pulling an “all-nighter.” However, a midterm is an accumulation of the entire first half of the semester. Try to have weekly or bi-weekly review sessions to go over what you’ve covered. One study found that students have forgotten over 90 percent of a lecture after 14 days. The more your students are exposed to the material, the more likely they will remember the information when midterms arrive.

6. Poll and review your students on their weak areas.

As a teacher, you can do your part in helping your students pass. Send out a Google Form to poll your students about which topics they are currently struggling with. This is an excellent opportunity for students to provide feedback on their weak areas. Take time in class to address these issues by re-explaining the lesson or going over practice problems that may be on the test.

7. Offer office hours or teacher’s assistant (TA) tutoring sessions.

Make your students feel comfortable around you by encouraging them to attend office hours or tutoring sessions. Many students may be fearful of asking for help during class. Instead, remind your students to visit you during office hours if they need help to prepare for midterms. For example, you can help your students by reviewing their previous quizzes or homework and explaining how they could have improved. If you have a TA, you can have them host tutoring sessions for students. It’s a great way to review past material without taking up extra class time.

8. Pass back previous homework and quizzes.

Make sure that you have graded and provided feedback on all quizzes and homework leading up to the exam. Students should be able to see what aspects they need to work on to understand their weaknesses. Students can also use this time to correct their missed areas instead of only studying the material they already know. Remind them that you may use similar ideas or questions from past quizzes and homework in their upcoming midterm.

Mastering Midterm Mania

Midterms play a significant role in your students’ final grades, which is why they become overly stressed. Online learning can increase the potential for students to feel unprepared. Therefore, it’s important to incorporate different studying strategies to help your students. You can improve a student’s performance on midterms by properly preparing them for it, like creating a study guide, incorporating mini reviews, and offering office hours. Discover more helpful resources for your students to succeed at the GoGuardian blog.