How to survive midterms and finals

Dread it. Run from it. Midterms arrive all the same. And now they’re upon us.

Let’s be frank, midterms tend to be one of the worst experiences for any college student. Restless nights of study sessions and exhausted days from the lack of a social life. Worst of all is the weight of a grade that could be the difference between success or failure.

It’s not hard to imagine why midterms stir a primal fear in students. It’s a lot to deal with, even when preparing.

On that note, this article is a collection of tips and advice that might help to relieve some of the stress of midterms.

Prepare early

Studying throughout the semester is the most ideal method of preparing for midterms. It gives time to memorize the material and find out the topics that are the biggest struggle.

Multiple classes, work, family and friends are just a few of the aspects of daily life that prevents this ideal version of preparations.

Instead, preparing two weeks before midterms tends to be a more realistic approach than preparing too early. This gives time to catch up on notes that might have been missed and can be one way to reduce the cram study that typically comes with midterms.

CSULB student Jafet Ortega, often seen working at the Dream Success Center, maintains a smile while preparing for midterms.
CSULB student Jafet Ortega, often seen working at the Dream Success Center, maintains a smile while preparing for midterms. Photo credit: Renzo Pocasangre

Taking breaks

The expression goes, “All work and no play makes a dull boy.”

Spending too many hours studying can result in diminishing returns if breaks aren’t taken. Taking breaks between study periods is extremely important so that you can manage your stress levels and not overexert yourself.

That being said, what should the time balance be between work and study?

According to DeskTime, an employee productivity tracking software, the most productive split for productivity is 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break.

The Pomodoro Technique is another possible split. It consists of 25 minutes of studying followed by a five-minute break. Complete four of these breaks, and then take 15 to 30 minutes of a restorative break afterwards.

These are just two examples of ways to take effective breaks. It might be helpful to test these methods along with what works best for you.

Take time to decompress during your break periods. Do this by taking a step away from your work to do something else, like going for a walk, going outside or checking your social media.

Meet with instructors

Play every card while you are studying for midterms. If the material is tough, it might not be a bad idea to contact the professor and attend office hours.

This is very important and cannot be stressed enough. Sometimes the material doesn’t click, or it’s a struggle to keep up. In these situations, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Instructors are paid to teach and assist in learning the material. If help is needed, and it’s within reason, then go ask for the help.


Let’s be honest, many individuals end up experiencing long days and nights to cram for their midterms and finals.

Sleep is one of the most important functions that the body requires. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute lists that during sleep, the body is working on supporting brain function and maintain physical health.

According to the Sleep Foundation, adults between the ages of 18 to 25 should sleep around seven to nine hours of sleep.

Getting proper sleep during midterms allows for a pathway to success. It keeps the mind in a healthy position to learn information, retain information and avoid crashing before midterms start.

Keep up proper sleep habits throughout midterms, since taking an exam in the best condition should be the goal.

These are some suggestions on how to help tackle midterms. With these tips, everyone should be putting their best foot forward with their exams.

Even if it looks difficult and the stress seems to be piling up, continue pushing through it. Just keep a level head and study as much as you can before your midterms start.


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