Originally Posted: Apr 24, 2012
Last Updated: Sep 26, 2016
Even if you aren’t the best test-taker, there are some simple ways you can improve your readiness for graduate school midterms and finals. Conversely, there are always some ways to “blow it.” The key is always preparation—graduate school requires a lot more of it than undergrad. Don’t let any of these mistakes ruin those big exams and hurt your graduate school success!
Don’t ever cram the night before
Graduate school midterms are not the type of test you can successfully cram for in one 24-hour period—taking any test exhausted is a surefire way to wind up with bad scores. Make sure you are sleeping regularly at least six hours a night in the weeks leading up to midterms. Information “sticks” in your brain better if it is revisited in short bursts over an extended period of time, and you will only be able to memorize so much information in a short span of time.
Be extra neat on your scantron or grid
By the time you get to graduate school, you will have taken hundreds of tests that use a scantron or grid-in. A number two pencil lets you mark in each answer and allows for professors to grade multiple choice questions quickly and efficiently. Though most midterms now also require a short answer or essay portion, make sure to be cautious with the grid. Bubble in your choices fully and darkly so that there is never any confusion as to which choice is intended. If you need to erase and change an answer, always erase neatly and as completely as possible. It may sound silly, but many students still miss one or two answers due to machine error. The neater you are, the better likelihood of that not happening!
Cheaters never prosper
The best graduate schools are institutions with strong academic policies and extremely strict cheating punishments. Whether it’s on a multiple-choice midterm or a thesis essay, don’t ever, ever cheat. We’ve all heard the phrase, “cheaters never prosper,” and it’s true! Character and integrity is part of what you came to grad school to build, and cheating doesn’t prepare you for success beyond academia. On a practical level, there is no guarantee that on test day, the person you are cheating off knows the correct answers, or that the person whose essay you copy is any more convincing than your own thoughts would be. If you are caught cheating, it could lead to a serious blight on your academic records, and you could even be dismissed from the school. Trust that you are capable of doing well on your own!