With a few weeks of classes under your belt, you have probably adjusted to your workload and schedule. Now with prelim season just around the corner, it’s time to throw tests into the mix. Stressful as this time of the semester can be, don’t get too down about prelims; you’ve done this before. Doing well on prelims can be very rewarding, so study hard and you won’t disappoint yourself. Before your big stressful test weeks, here are some things you can do to prepare:
1Keep your notes organized.
If you stay on top of your school work throughout the semester, a big test won’t seem as daunting. Keep track of your assignments, submit everything on time, and record all your notes from textbook readings and problem sets. Whether you prefer to take notes by hand or electronically, prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed by keeping your materials organized.
It’s important to know when your biggest tests are and to decide when to begin studying. If you don’t commit yourself to studying for a certain number of days prior to an exam, you may forget to set aside adequate study time. Look at your calendar and take note of which weeks will be busiest for you. Do you have more than one test in the same week? How will you balance your typical workload while preparing for prelims? Finally, make a study schedule to ensure that you have enough time to review each class’s material.
3Ask for help.
Don’t wait until test week to realize you don’t understand the material. It’s important to recognize when you will need help grasping any lecture content or problem set well before your exam. If you are diligent early in the semester and know you will find a class difficult, approach your TAs and professors before the rush of students cramming for a prelim. There are several benefits: office hours won’t be crowded yet, you’ll receive more attention, and you can apply what you learn to other concepts in your class. Getting help early is never a bad idea.
4Rest while you can.
Despite working hard in the weeks leading up to prelims, it’s equally important to rest yourself mentally and physically while you have the opportunity. Get an adequate amount of sleep each night and take study breaks when you need them.
5Take care of yourself.
While it’s always important to practice good lifestyle habits like eating well, exercising, and washing your hands, take extra precautions in the weeks leading up to your tests. You don’t want to get run down and be unable to study or sit for an exam—make-ups are no fun. Try to exercise a few times a week and eat healthy, well-balanced meals–even if you snack on something unhealthy, at least you can also fill your body with good nutrients that will make it easier to focus in class.
6Finish your ‘other’ assignments.
When you know you have a big test approaching, finish your readings and shorter assignments before you would usually complete them so that you have more study time during the days leading up to the test.
7Know how you are going to study.
In order to be most efficient when it actually comes time to sit down and study for your tests, you need to know how you will approach the curriculum. Do you need to form a study group? Find friends or classmates who can help explain challenging concepts to you when you have last minute questions and your professor and TAs aren’t available. If you are planning to memorize vocabulary, start making flash cards sooner rather than later.
8Get in the zone.
It’s important to recognize that prelims are only tests, and you’ve definitely taken those before. Just do your best and plan your time accordingly so that you can achieve your highest possible score on every exam.