By: Annamarie White
How to Master Midterms in 3 Easy Steps
Can we please have a moment of silence for the days when a test was just a test?
Words on paper. A grade. A chance to wow your teachers with your big, fancy brain. You studied for it, took it, and moved on to worry about more important things, like getting into college, or what you packed for lunch that day. Sometimes you scored well, sometimes not so well. Sure, it was normal to be upset about a “bad” grade (whatever “bad” meant to you), but getting a less-stellar-than-expected mark was hardly the end of the world. There was no need to call in the Don’t Worry, It’s Going to Be Okay Troops — an organization that I just made up, but imagine would look something like this:
Nowadays, it seems like every exam requires the Don’t Worry, It’s Going to Be Okay Troops (yes, I’m going to continue using this imagery). In college, each “exam” is a “midterm” is “a chance to bomb your class and ruin all future prospects of a successful career”.
So, as September grows to a close and your mind begins to swirl in anticipation of late nights at Lau – and how maybe you should have gone to that teensy liberal arts college that hands out smiley faces and gold stars instead of letter grades – try to take a step back. Please. Do it for me, a person whom you have likely never met and whose opinions mean pretty much nothing to you – for me, just take a moment of pause. Read the following guide, How to Master Midterms in 3 Easy Steps, and recognize that you are absolutely capable of doing well. Even if “doing well” means getting a B.
How to Master Midterms in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: Study. OMG! Groundbreaking stuff here, people! Good thing I’m here to remind you that unless you are a super-genius with a photographic memory who pays complete attention in class and has such a knack for this subject that, really, you should be teaching the damn thing, you will need to study. I get it – I, too am a student with a cell phone and a Facebook account, and interests outside of calculating the net present value of a bond. In fact, I hate calculating the net present value of a bond. There, I said it. Come at me, MSB gods. Take away my printing privileges, for all I care! I. Hate. Finance. *Deep breathing.* Unfortunately, I still had to take it last year. I had to take three midterms and a final, which means I had a whole lot of studying to do just for that class alone. How did I survive? By constantly remind myself of why I was doing this. So, I’ll probably never work on Wall Street – that doesn’t mean that I won’t buy a bond or two in my lifetime (once I finally succumb to societal pressure and become a real adult). Find something, anything, that gives purpose to what you’re learning. Hell, even if that purpose is deciding whether or not you actually like the stuff. A wise woman, my first grade teacher Miss Sunny, once told me that you aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover, so crack one open and delve into the material within its pages. You might be surprised that what’s inside is actually fascinating. It’s a special moment when you would rather do your Chaucer reading than watch House of Cards. Maybe you haven’t felt like this yet. That’s okay! You’ll get there. Just put your phone on Do Not Disturb, find a space that allows you to be productive, and know that your future self is toasting you from their well-earned position at a totally fulfilling job that they commute to every morning via hoverboard.
Step 2: Use your resources. Classic superhero tales have shown us that it’s really not all that practical (or fun) to do things by ourselves. If it suits your study style, get yourself a study buddy (note: it is not recommended to openly refer to this person as the Robin to your Batman). Finding a group, usually anywhere from 2-5 people, allows you to work through concepts verbally and check your understanding of the material with someone else who has been listening to the exact same lectures as you – you might be shocked at how much they picked up that you didn’t catch. It’s also nice to have someone that you can direct your “dumb questions” (even though there are no dumb questions) towards. Another good person to word vomit your confusion to? Your professor. Professors teach because they are passionate about the material and want to share that passion with you, their students. Many of them have literally written the book on what you’re learning, and contrary to popular belief, they actually don’t want to see you fail. Visit them in office hours or send them an email – let them know that you’re interested and putting energy into their class. Oftentimes, they’ll remember this effort at the end of the semester when they’re going through their gradebook. Other resources to consider: TAs, the Writing Center, upperclassmen that have gone through the class before. A general rule of thumb: it never hurts to ask for help.
Step 3: Get over it. What the what!? This girl is re-using steps from her last article! I know, I know. I swear that the reason behind this is only partially because I’m lazy. Mostly, however, it’s because this I believe the attitude of “letting things go” is a healthy one that we don’t get enough of here at Georgetown. A test is a test. It’s an opportunity to show your professor that you’re more than a warm body who sits in their classroom two or three times a week. It is not, however, a way to measure the value you bring to the world. Surely, you’ve heard this. Now please believe it. I got Cs on two out of my three Calc. midterms Freshman year – does that make me any less of a good friend, caring daughter, or mediocre karaoke singer? I mean, come on, when was the last time you deemed someone a “bad person” because they got a 66% on their Bio test? Look, I am the first one to point out: Georgetown is hard. It is fast-paced and intense. My dear friend (and blog co-founder!) Hayden and I have lovingly deemed it, ‘the pressure cooker.” It is also, however, Jesuit. Cura personalis is not about getting a 4.0. It’s about encountering challenges and overcoming them. Discovering what makes you happy and what you hope to bring to the world. So take each test for what it is, words on paper, and allow your brain the freedom to worry about other things like “am I being a good friend” or “does this activity really add value to my life” or “what did I pack for lunch today”.
There you have it: another three step guide for crushing college and being totally flawless at life. Am I expecting this article to free you forever from worrying about your exams? No. That would be amazing, but also highly impractical considering you got into Georgetown and thus you likely have enough sense to understand that grades are important and worth caring about. That being said, I do hope that this piece reminded you to take a deep breath. You will survive this midterm season – and the ones after this, too. You will probably get some phenomenal grades – and you will probably get some grades that have you begging for the Don’t Worry, It’s Going to Be Okay Troops to roll in. Both are okay. At the end of your four years here, grades are just a small fraction of your experience. So put in some time with your books, take advantage of your resources, and remember that in the grand scheme of things, there is so much more to you than the score on a little blue booklet.
Have a burning question that you want broken down into three easy steps? Send it in anonymously here and we might address it in our next segment of 3 Easy Steps!