Sara Klimek

If you're a college student, you probably know the fear that comes when a professor mentions the word ‘midterm.’  Maybe it’s for a class that you haven’t done well in thus far, or maybe it’s a class that has heavily weighted exams.  For many, college exams bring up a different kind of stress than high school exams do.  While your teachers in high school may have given you a study guide filled with terms that would appear in multiple choice questions, college is essentially ‘every person for themselves.’  Often, you won’t know how to prepare.  You won’t get a glimpse of what is on the exam before you sit down in your lecture hall the morning-of.


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It’s easy to feel like you’re floating away into the oblivion of exam season. But, here are some bSmart tips for how you can manage your time during exam season to ensure that you will do the best that you can do.

Self-care is important.

You won’t do well on an exam if you haven’t showered in three days, loaded up on french fries from the dining hall, or have found a way to evade sleeping.  In reality, choosing a piece of fruit over of chips isn’t a time-consuming thing, yet this is a minor change which can easily improve your overall wellbeing.

Go to your professor’s office hours if you have questions.

Professors have an open-door policy for a reason!  Drop by or email your professor if you have questions regarding exam material.  If you wait to do this until ten minutes before the exam starts, you’re likely to be met with everyone else who decided to wait until the last possible minute to flip through their material.  There is little use in attempting to swallow weeks worth of material in a single crowded review session.

Don’t sit near your friends during lecture.

In a room of 300 seats, it can be tempting to gravitate towards the people you know.  But let’s face it, it’s inevitable that you’re going to get distracted with your friends instead of focusing on the material.  Sit towards the front of the lecture hall and try to find a spot that works for you.

Scope out a study spot.

I personally love sitting in a coffee shop, sipping my iced latte, and reading a good chapter from my Environmental Policy textbook while some of my friends need the quiet spaces on the top floor of the library.  I suggest poking around on your weekends to discover a place where you can spread out, claim space, and immerse yourself in material.  Not only does this make studying more manageable, but it can help decide what strategies work best for you when it comes to studying.  You’ll use these strategies for the rest of your academic life, so I suggest learning them sooner rather than later.


Taking time to methodically prepare rather than scrambling at the last minute is the best way to ensure your success.


Don’t wait until the last minute.  Seriously.

Cramming is scientifically proven to be ineffective.  Your brain can’t absorb all that information in one night.  I find that preparing for the exam is best done a week prior.  Every night, I’ll review a small chunk of the material.  This means that I can find a balance in studying for multiple disciplines in one night.  On the night before the exam, I’ll usually read over my materials once and then shut the book.  If there’s something you don’t know the night before, chances are that you won’t recall it on the exam.  Trust yourself, and get some sleep.

Reward yourself for surviving exam season.

Exams can take a toll on your wellbeing and your personal drive.  After you finish an exam, try to relax and let your brain recover.  You should know that you did the best that you could, and that there will always be room for improvement!

Exams can be a very tough time to prioritize both your academics and personal wellbeing.  Over the years, I’ve come to learn that taking time to methodically prepare for your exams rather than scrambling at the last minute is the best way to ensure your personal success.


Sara is a managing editor at bSmart and Environmental Law student at the University of Vermont. Outside of her studies, she enjoys spending time with her horses, doing yoga, and cooking.

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