As we approach the first midterm season of the academic year, preparing for in-person tests for the first time in over a year may feel daunting. If you feel like your old study habits won’t cut it anymore, or you’re in need of some different strategies, this article will cover it all. It can be overwhelming whether you’re experiencing midterms for the first time or what feels like the millionth time, but there are still ways to manage the stress.  

Create a to-do list or use a planner 

Being organized is the key to acing your exams. You can use Google Calendar to schedule important dates or input tasks for the week. For example, setting out time on Sundays to list the upcoming week’s important assignments on a calendar will keep you on track. Even writing down all the assignments and exams during the first week of the month helps you visualize how much time you need to dedicate to each subject. Planners from Barnes & Noble are also great if you want to have a physical copy of important dates. For those who like digital copies, the Google Calendar or Apple Calendar are both handy.

If you have the extra time, you could also go through each class’s syllabus to create an assignment calendar. By looking ahead, you can avoid jam-packed days by working gradually until the due date. Whether it’s scheduling work during your free time on Tuesdays or penciling in dinners with friends so you know that you’ll have that time off, planning ahead is a stress reliever. It’s extremely helpful to have your deadlines and exam times in one place so you don’t miss any crucial dates. 

Add tools to stay focused

To resist getting distracted by your phone, you can incorporate productivity apps into your study routine. Flora, an app available on both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, allows you to keep a timer on your phone as you study. The app discourages you from closing out and blocks any social media notifications. Flora also helps time your study sessions and even enables you to put break times afterward.

Another app that is useful is Study Bunny, a focusing timer with a fun twist. You can personalize your own “study bunny” and earn coins by studying to purchase items such as food, room decor or outfits. The more hours you study, the more coins you

(The Emory Wheel/Ally Hom)

receive, which encourages you to stay productive. There is also a to-do list feature to oversee completion of certain tasks and a flashcard feature to quiz yourself on material. No matter which app you use, it will ensure that you actively study during long periods of time.

Try listening to new music

If you enjoy music while you study, listening to unknown songs is a great way to reduce distractions. By eliminating familiar songs, you can avoid getting a song stuck in your head, or you may even end up finding your new favorite song to save until after studying. Asking friends for their playlists is one place to start, but major streaming services also provide options to discover new tunes. 

For one, Spotify updates their playlists every Friday and has a variety of mixes designed specifically for studying. If you do not have Spotify, Apple Music also has several playlists to choose from. Another option is a free app called Insight Timer that has meditation music, instrumentals and even vibrational hertz. 

Don’t miss office hours or discussion sessions 

Professors are there to help you out if you’re struggling; don’t hesitate to reach out to clear up any misconceptions. If office hours don’t work, many professors are accommodating and can set up individual meetings with you. In addition to the professors, TAs can be a great resource because they typically hold a different set of office hour times. 

Study groups and discussion sessions are also a great form of studying. When students explain concepts to each other, they are often able to break them down in a way that professors can’t. It serves as practice for classmates to teach others and for others to learn the material. The library is a great place to meet and collaborate on a confusing topic before midterms. Group study keeps you focused and lets you learn more as a team. 

Clean environment, clean mind

Keeping your learning environment clean improves productivity and minimizes distractions. If you choose to study in your room, make sure the area is organized so you won’t worry about the mess and get distracted. A lingering thought of chores to do while studying will not let you entirely focus on the task at hand.

However, if your home study space isn’t doing it for you, there are so many spots on campus to enjoy. Now that we have entered fall, the weather is perfect to sit outside: in the Quad, outside of Kaldi’s Depot or outside the Emory Student Center are a few options. There are also rooms that can be reserved for group study or individual use in the library. There are even cubicles on the seventh floor that are quiet and extremely private if you like isolated places. Your environment can become your sanctuary, so pick the best one that suits you. 

Regardless of how you choose to study for exams, it’s best not to overwork yourself. It’s easy to fall into the trap of losing sleep, skipping meals or avoiding social events, but remember, you always come first. Take care of your body and know when it needs a break. Especially amid a pandemic, you must take care of yourself and be safe. If you need someone to speak with, TimelyCare has emotional health support 24/7. There is no need to overwork yourself — study smarter, not harder.