Published: Sept. 14, 2021

As you settle into your classes and adjust to your workload, it’s never too early to start thinking about midterms. Here are some underrated study hacks you can try to help you ace your midterms.

Plan your study routine and get organized

When studying, try a few different methods to figure out what works for you. This will make it easier to manage exams later on and throughout your college journey. Here are some things to consider when you are making a routine and getting organized:

  • Prepare your materials. Make sure to use more than just your notes. Review your textbook, handouts, practice materials and information shared through Canvas. 
  • Find your study spot. It’s important to have places where you can study and stay focused. Use the Study Spaces filter on the CU Boulder Campus Map to find quiet locations on campus. If you’re studying off campus, make sure your space is organized and free of distractions so you can focus.
  • Organize your notes. Instead of just reading through your notes, try turning your lecture notes into an outline, chart or diagram. Not only does this help you with organization, but it also helps you gain clarity about what you know and what you may need to review.
  • Set aside study time. Making time to study is one of the more difficult aspects of college. A basic rule of thumb is to try and study for two to three hours for each hour you are in class (so for a lecture that meets three hours a week, plan to study six to nine hours a week for that class).

Seek support and use resources

One of the best ways you can ensure you’ll do well in your exams is by using the resources and support available to you. The more you seek out help, the easier it will be to understand and apply the material you are learning.

  • Attend office hours. This can give you the chance to ask any clarifying questions and review material with your professor for the exam. Check out how to maximize your professors office hours.  
  • Participate in or create study groups. Make sure to take part in study groups when given the opportunity. If you can, ask some of your classmates to join you for a study session. 
  • Be your own tutor. One way to know if you really know the content you are learning is to see how well you can explain it to other people. Try explaining the material to your friends, classmates or family members. If they get it, you’ve got it.

Actively engage with the content 

Studying goes beyond reviewing your notes and quizzing yourself out loud. Focusing on how you can apply the content to practice problems can help you in your exams. 

Rather than just reviewing the course material with your notes or skimming the textbook, try to create examples or practice problems to test your knowledge. It can also help to think about concepts in a more critical way. For example, instead of just memorizing what the U.N. stands for, try to think about why it is important in the affairs of politics. 

You can also try to connect concepts from various classes into themes. There may be more ways to understand content by studying it from a different point of view. You can be creative and let your learning experience flow. 

Other factors to elevate your studying

The most important thing about building your study habits is to find what works for you. Here are some strategies to try:

  • Interleaving: Rather than studying one subject for a large chunk of time, try switching between subjects in one window of time to allow your brain to form connections and understand the content more deeply.
  • Study in testing conditions: Learning the content in a similar setting and with similar conditions to your testing environment can help you form associations between those conditions and the course content. It will also allow you to better adjust when taking the exam.
  • Engage multiple senses: Try to engage in your coursework using multiple approaches: visually, listening, body movement and reading/writing. Having a variety of approaches deepens your learning and provides you with multiple perspectives related to the content.