Tips for Overcoming Midterm and Finals Stress

Test Prep Tutor and Writer,

Oct   2012



A grad school workload can sometimes feel deceptively light. With fewer “assignments” than undergrad and more independent research, reading, and synthesizing, you may start to feel more and more stressed as midterms and finals creep closer. Without intermediate assignments to use as benchmarks, it’s a little harder to sense how well you’re grasping the material. If you feel like your study skills are suffering, read on for some tips of how to battle those nerves!

Create a routine schedule, and stick to it! Rome wasn’t built in a day as the saying goes, and you won’t be able to “cram” for midterms and finals. Make sure you have a set schedule for studying and non-studying. Try to keep a balanced routine the same in the weeks before your big thesis is due. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Your body is a creature of habit, and it usually takes about two weeks to form a new one in the brain!

Don’t procrastinate! Easier said than done, right? A surefire way to feel stress is to put off studying until a couple weeks beforehand. There’s no way you’ll be able to absorb several books’ worth of material in a condensed amount of time. If you feel you’re falling behind, try to choose at least one primary source to become an expert on. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Better to know a great deal about one aspect of a course than very little about everything.

Create an accountability group with friends. Compare strengths and weaknesses, describe major concepts to each other and do “teach-backs” to see how well you know the material. This will help relieve stress since it’s social-studying and you’ll find yourself studying in longer chunks! More importantly, set weekly goals and check in with your classmates. Are you meeting them?

Get those “terrible drafts” done early. Most midterms and finals involve term papers or essays of some kind. Even if you don’t know the prompts yet, you can probably anticipate them. Write some “bad versions” of these essays at home and send them to friends for feedback. Give yourself permission to write poorly at first. Who cares if your grammar is terrible, or your ideas on the material are trite and unordinary? You’ll be so much more prepared for these midterms and finals if you’ve been brainstorming and practicing articulating your thoughts on the classwork weeks in advance!

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About Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr

Vivian Kerr has been teaching and tutoring in the Los Angeles area since 2005. She graduated from the University of Southern California, studied abroad in London, and has worked for several test-prep companies including Kaplan for whom she taught ACT, SAT, ISEE, GRE, GMAT, and did admissions counseling. She is a contributing blogger at Beat the GMAT, and currently blogs, tutors, and writes content for the online test prep company Grockit, which focuses on making standardized test preparation affordable and accessible for students around the world. She loves to see her former students succeed in grad school!

You can find Vivian's profile on Grockit or subscribe to her CollegeXpress blog