What you eat may go straight to your brain, so pick your food carefully. (Image via Harvard Health)

8 Tips To Help You Not Fall Behind This Midterm Season

If you find yourself overwhelmed with all the midterm tests looming after spring break, sit back, take a breath and follow these eight tips.
March 27, 2018
7 mins read

You just came back from your spring break to realize that your midterm exams are coming.

Your body might be full of alcohol, but your mind is empty. What to do now?

1. Planning

In order not to outstretch yourself, it is important to plan out your daily schedule based on what is pertinent. A weekly planner is a good tool to keep track of both what should be worked on and for how long you should focus on that single task.

After that, set aside hours to work on that task alone and be specific as to what you would like to accomplish during that period of time.

With various things going on, it is easy to feel overwhelmed with what is left to do. When you are confronted by everything all at once, you feel discouraged and your stamina drops.

In pacing yourself by dedicating specific time to specific assignments, the workload appears more doable. It is also important to refrain from focusing on a singular subject for a prolonged period of time; you need breaks in order for your mind to function properly.

2. One Step at a Time

As humans, you are unable to physically multitask. In fact, when you think you are multitasking, you are sacrificing the quality of your work for quantity, delivering two mediocre results simultaneously.

In order to effectively study, it is important to restrict yourself from doing simply studying. In the current age of media, blocking out white noises is increasingly difficult to accomplish.

For example, if you try reading the study guide in one tab and scrolling through Facebook in another on your computer, what you fill your head with is not the words from the study guide but the news of your friends’ messages.

Instead, focus on a singular screen either by setting a window that takes up the entirety of your browser or simply set your phone down so that you cannot see the screen.

3. Go Off the Radar

Just like how you are unable to multitask, you cannot split your attention. Setting priority, then, becomes the life-saver.

It is important to prioritize oneself rather than the lives of others, which translates to prioritizing any matter that will directly impact your life, such as studying, over what social media shows about the lives of others around you.

Eliminating white noises is key to maximizing your studying effort (Image via Chicago Tribune)

Psychologically, it is almost impossible for people to refrain from looking at a notification once they see it pop up on their screen as it has been induced by intriguing triggers and positive reinforcements.

The notification piques yyour interest, and in refusing to check it, you are only met with the curiosity of what your friend said in their text. Turn your phone on Do Not Disturb mode. Don’t be bombarded by notifications. Go by your own schedule and refrain from looking at the time or someone else’s agenda.

4. Health is Wealth

It is important to incorporate healthy eating at any point in your life, especially while under stress. It is not only to maintain a healthy body but also to optimize your performance.

Certain foods are even shown to boost your intellectual capacities, such as concentration and memory. The vitamins and minerals contained in many fruits and vegetable aid countless ailments within the body, while others, such as avocados, blueberries, dark chocolate and salmon, heighten brain function.

Try not to drink too much coffee or stimulants since they make your brain jittery and cloud your mind. On the morning of the exam, make sure to have a large breakfast a few hours before test time.


Exercises are also indispensable in maintaining your physical and mental well-being during the stressful midterm season. They release endorphins, which interact with the receptors housed within your brain to induce a positive feeling in the body.

Without getting up and moving for at least 10 minutes each hour, or a recommended hour each day, you are left sluggish and anxious. Letting your body move reduces these anxieties, clears your head and allows you to sleep better. A win-win-win!

5. Get Some Sleep

Although studying is impossible to accomplish with your eyes closed, sleep should constitute a priority in the days leading up to the exam. Without establishing a sleep routine, you are unable to focus and, more importantly, unable to retain information.

Regardless of how many cups of coffee you consume, it is impossible to rework a brain that is already fried. A few days prior to the exam, try to integrate a consistent sleep schedule in accordance with what time you have to wake up for the exam. Allow your mind to take a break from all the material that you have blown through in a day.

6. Think Positive

The most detrimental feelings you face during midterms are possibly the feelings of being overwhelmed. Uncertainty has taken over. You can only study so much and go through so many notes before you realize that your grades ultimately depend on many factors other than your performance on the test.

In high school, I thought those finals were the worst. However, midterms eat finals for breakfast when it comes to confusion and hassle.

With conflicting schedules of different classes, I found myself having to do homework for one class while preparing for exams for another. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle by careful management of what I can control, such as my diet, sleep schedule and study plan, played an integral part in my coping with all the midterm chaos.

I also found it pertinent to refrain from setting unrealistic expectations for myself, not only in my day-to-day studying but also in my overall performance on the exam. You can’t be perfect in those situations even if you try to. Failure to reach unrealistic goals only leaves you more depressed and feeling unhappy.

7. Plan Backwards

In the days before the exam, look at where the exams are located, what time it is at and how long it will take to get to the site. Plan for your travel to make sure that you can get to the site at the exact hour you need to be present.

If you feel as though you have little control over the situation, you are more likely to get anxious about where we stand relative to the situation at large.

8. Don’t Make it a Race

During the exam, try not to look at others’ times, or worry about who finished the exam first. The exam is not a place to demonstrate superiority over our classmates, but a test of individual capacity, unfit for any outer judgment.

Elise Bortz, New York University

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Elise Bortz

New York University
Liberal Studies Program

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