Teenage male in backwards cap taking exam at desk with other students

How to Successfully Prepare for Mid-Year Exams in High School

Worried about midterm exams? You’ll be fully prepared to ace your tests with these six tips from a real high school student’s study playbook!

The end of the first semester is fast approaching in many high schools across the nation, ushering in a wave of midterms and other cumulative exams for already stressed students. Many districts, including my own, have done away with a traditional midterms week, forcing students to balance studying and cumulative review with coursework, regularly scheduled testing, and extracurricular activities. Here are some suggestions to help you power through mid-year benchmarks while avoiding burnout.

Use your weekends wisely

As midterm dates approach, be sure to use your weekends productively. Some students may save studying and assignments for weekday evenings and find themselves tired, run down, and burnt out during school hours. If familial and extracurricular commitments allow, take time on the weekends to study for cumulative exams or get a head start on the coming week’s work. Weekends may be the only uninterrupted time you have to prepare for your tests, so take advantage!

Related: 5 Smart Study Tips for All Students

Work backward through course material

In my experience, while studying for exams, it’s most important to review the topics and units you learned longest ago. Material from August, September, October, and November is likely foggier in your mind than more recent coursework. As earlier units typically require more time to review, try studying concepts from them first and work forward to more recent lessons.

Attend extra-help and review sessions

If your teachers offer them, attend extra-help and review sessions! Although they may require you to wake up early or stay late at school, opportunities for personal questions, guided review, and test preparation with a teacher are well worth your time. Furthermore, teachers often hint at or reveal topics covered by an exam during review, which is valuable knowledge to keep in mind as you study.

Prioritize your time and effort

The end of the semester can be an extremely busy time for high school students. If you’re swamped, you may have to prioritize major tests over more minor quizzes and assignments. When you’re under significant pressure and find yourself spending too much time on homework or reading, consider whether you’d be better served studying or completing another more important task. Likewise, honestly evaluate which exams you need to prepare most for and put those first, even if you have other, less difficult assessments as well.

Related: Top 5 Time Management Tips for High School Students

Avoid last-minute cramming

Reviewing the night before an exam can keep concepts fresh in your mind, but it’s best to begin preparing well in advance of a cumulative exam, important test, or midterm. Studying over multiple days or weeks will ensure test topics enter your long-term memory rather than fading from your mind by the time you sit for the exam. On test day, you’ll be ready for success, armed with a thorough understanding of your subject matter.

Articulate concerns and conflicts

If your midterms are during the school day and you have classes before and after an exam, don’t hesitate to respectfully discuss scheduling concerns and conflicts with your teachers. In many cases, teachers are unaware of other departments’ testing schedules and are more than willing to move a test or quiz to accommodate their students. Teachers may also allow you to complete a test or assignment later if you explain your situation and ask for an accommodation.

Related: The Simple Secret to Being a Student Professors Love to Have in Class 

During midterm season, high schoolers may feel overwhelmed by a wave of testing and exams to cope with. However, with some proper test prep, midterms provide you with an opportunity to raise your average, demonstrate your abilities as a student, and refresh your knowledge before finals, AP Exams, and state testing. Though success is never guaranteed, studying thoroughly and skillfully will place you in a position to ace your upcoming exams. Good luck!

The right atmosphere is one key to a great study session! Check out our Top 5 Ambience Playlists to Soundtrack Your Studies for great background music to help you concentrate.

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About Hunter Maguire

Hunter Maguire is a rising sophomore at Garden City High School in New York. He is a straight-A student, eager to learn and excel in all academic subjects, and is taking three AP courses this school year. Hunter is interested in social justice and environmental issues, reading up on related topics, and participating in the environmental club at his school. His other hobbies include running, genealogy research, creative writing, and discussing literature.


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