Midterms: A Blessing in Disguise

Are you one of the many students whose school no longer gives midterm exams? Or are you one of the lucky ones? You might think I’m kidding, but actually, I’m not. Many local public school districts and independent schools have abandoned the midterm exam in an attempt to lower the stress on their students. That’s a laudable goal to be sure, but, in many cases, they’re actually doing a disservice to their students. The key to successfully navigating your upcoming midterms, if you do have them, is to go into them with both the right attitude and the right preparation.

Embrace the Opportunity

Let me tell you a story of two students, Alice and Bob. They both have a B- average in history class right now. Bob doesn’t have midterms and is happy about that, but he’s also stuck with his B-. Alice, on the other hand, does have a midterm after break that she’s none too happy about. But what Alice also has is an opportunity to improve her grade. Alice is jealous of Bob’s break, but Bob may end up jealous of Alice’s B+ when all is said and done!

Your semester grade gets a little harder to change every week that passes during the school year—that’s just how averages work. So even if you rock the last test of the year, it may do little to actually impact your final grade. But midterms, which can make up as much as a third of your semester grade, are the great equalizer. And you only need one good morning to make a meaningful change in your grade! A little sheepish about maybe not turning in some homework? Did you, overwhelmed one week, prioritize your English paper over your math exam and not quite do your best? Most of those blips can be erased by a great performance on your midterms.

Do the Work 

Let’s be clear: you’re about to go on Winter Break, and your most important job is to rest, recharge, and spend time with your friends and family. So don’t let anything get in the way of taking care of yourself so that you’re ready to head back to school in the New Year.

That being said, it’s unlikely that your holiday schedule is so completely packed that you can’t find, oh, let’s say, 30 minutes a day to devote to preparing for your upcoming midterms. Midterms tend to be hard because they’re a mile wide but also easy because they’re an inch deep. Keep that in mind as you do your review. You’ll want to make sure your review touches at least a little on everything you’ve learned in the semester thus far.Be sure to remember not to simply reread your textbook but to incorporate active learning into your review: make the study guide, quiz yourself, play the flashcard game. Stay engaged and that 30 minutes each day will fly by—just like your all-too-short holiday break!

Reap the Benefits

Rocking your midterm not only can improve your grade in the class, but more importantly, it can also solidify your understanding of the material covered in the first semester. That’s really helpful, since most high school classes tend to be incremental: a solid foundation makes it much easier to understand what comes next. And if you happen to be looking ahead to an AP exam or two in the spring, your midterm study guide and all the work you’ve already done will make your life that much easier in May. In fact, even students in AP classes that don’t have midterms should strongly consider doing some review over break. It doesn’t have to be every day and it doesn’t have to be stressful, but any time you spend now working up a first semester study guide will get you that much farther ahead of the game!