What to Do in the 24 Hours Around Your Midterm or Exam


This is part II of a two-part series on midterms.

Hopefully, by now you’ve been able to institute some of our suggestions from part I of our Midterm series: Prepare for Midterm in 7 Steps

In this article, we’ll walk through tips for the 24 hours around your midterm or exam so that you can put your best foot forward on the big day.

Midterms part II

How to Prepare for Midterms part II :


Before you call it a night, pack your bag

In the morning, your focus will be on eating a nutritious, healthy breakfast and mentally preparing and doing a brief review for your exam. Packing your bag the night before will eliminate any additional stress and surprises that you may have not anticipated in the morning. Your bag should include pens, pencils, papers, blue books, calculator, student ID, and anything else that you will need for the exam. It’s better to know the night before, rather than the day of the exam, about any supplies or items that you will need. If you end up needing something, you can make a quick stop at the bookstore in the morning.

Bring a wristwatch

Some professors will not allow mobile phones during the exam and it is important to know how much time has elapsed as you work through the exam.

Double check the location and time of the exam

The thought of walking into an empty lecture hall for an exam is…. Just double check!


Proper rest and sleep will lead to stronger cognition and an overall sharper mind. You know exactly how much sleep you need to be on your A-game. For some, it’s six hours, others ten. Ensure that you are able to sleep the appropriate amount to feel physically rested and mentally refreshed the next morning. That extra hour of studying the night before may actually be better spent resting. Doing a brief review in the morning might be a better use of time.


Get there early

Arrive to the exam ten minutes early and get situated and as comfortable as you can. Do a quick review and some breathing exercises to prepare for the start of the exam.

Understand the question

Read each question carefully. Know exactly what the question is asking of you and answer that question. On essay questions, pay close attention to verbs (compare, contrast, give an opinion, provide concrete facts) as your answers should satisfy those question(s). Some essay questions are multi-part and you will need to answer all parts for full credit. If you’re nervous or in a rush, you might accidentally read the question the wrong way or miss a word. Points and credits are usually awarded on answering all of the questions satisfactorily, so be mindful that you are devoting the appropriate amount of time and space to address each question.

Manage your time

Once you’re on the clock, it’s a race against time. For essays, spend about a minute writing an outline and some key points you want to include. From there, begin formulating a thesis sentence and building out an intro paragraph. For multiple choice or non-essay questions, efficiency is key. Obviously, answer the ones you know first. Skip any questions you don’t immediately know the answer to and mark any questions that you want to come back to, as time allows.

Stay the entire time

Once you have completed the exam and there is time left, DO NOT LEAVE! Stay for the entire allotted time. The remaining time is to be devoted to double-checking your answers and/or essay questions. You may just want to double-check that page-long calculus problem you think you answered correctly, sans a simple math error. For essays, re-read your response to confirm that you’ve answered the question and your ideas are succinct, fluid and support your main idea.

Even if you’re just staring at a problem, without a clue, you may find something in the exam to jog your memory. Staying the entire time gives you an opportunity to raise your score by fine-tuning your answers and double-checking your work.


Reflect and take action

Be honest with yourself and identify areas of improvement, whether it’s mastery of a certain subject matter or improving your studying skills and habits. It’s all about studying smart, not necessarily more. Eliminating distractions and creating an environment where you can devote a concentrated amount of time to focused studying should payoff with better comprehension and increased retention. Are you an early bird or a night owl? Do you study best in a quiet environment like a library or a coffee shop with the constant hum and activity? Go with what works best for you. Going to office hours is also an opportunity to recalibrate your studying.

After you receive your grade

Take time to review your exam and process the feedback you’ve received. As you review your exam, you may feel that you should have scored a few points higher on a given question. Your reaction may range from feeling slighted to indignation. Calm down and understand that, more often than not, grades are distributed on a grading curve. The professor or teaching instructor has a better idea of the bigger picture of the class’s performance relative to yours. If there are questions worth addressing, consult your class policy on how to approach your instructor regarding a grade dispute. This article from Dr. Rosen from the University of California, Los Angeles, is a great guide to review if you’re thinking about approaching your professor or instructor about a grade change.


Continue to fine-tune your study habits to achieve your academic goals. Each class can be challenging in its unique way but by taking advantage of the resources available to you and fine-tuning your study habits, you will be able to accomplish your goals in the classroom.


Steve Chang
CSO, Propeller Collective

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