When students get to high school, you hope that they already know how to study, including which study methods work best for them. If your student doesn’t, however, or the usual methods aren’t working well enough, check out our best midterm study tips for high school. Maybe, there’s one or two your student hasn’t considered before.
What and How to Study for Midterms
Tips for Identifying What to Study
Believe it or not, in some classes, identifying what to study is the biggest part of the battle.
If the teacher gives your student a study guide, that’s great. But what if there is no study guide? Or what if the study guide is really vague?
In that situation, some kids feel like they have to study every single thing the class has covered as well as every single word in the book. That would be fine except that many students look at the task, decide it’s impossible, and give up.
That’s why it’s important to know other options.
1. Ask the Teacher.
If a student takes the time to go up to the teacher at an appropriate time (in office hours, in between classes, etc.), then, most teachers will do what they can to answer the student’s questions and help. That might mean guiding a student to a specific part of the chapter, pointing out that many of the prior test’s questions came from the footnotes, or even pointing out what subject or topics the student has struggled with most (from the teacher’s perspective) and needs to work on.
I wouldn’t recommend relying only on this method, but combined with the others, it can be very helpful. Also, many teachers appreciate the extra effort.
2. Look at Past Tests.
No, I don’t mean “study last year’s test.” Most teachers won’t allow that, and if the test hasn’t changed, that would be cheating (which defeats the purpose of learning).
Students should, however, look at any tests they’ve already taken with the teacher that year. Here are some important aspects to look at.
- How closely the test matched the study guide: If it matched the study guide perfectly, then the student should study the study guide. If not, then, the student needs to study more than the study guide alone.
- Where the topics on the test came from: Were they in the student’s notes from class? Were they the bolded headings in the book? Were they in the footnotes? Many teachers follow patterns, so if a student’s past test(s) included information from the graphs in the book, the next test may include that information, too.
- What questions the student missed and why: If the tests aren’t cumulative, then, you’re not looking for topics the student missed as much as types of questions. Does your child struggle with true and false questions? Did he or she miss points for not showing work or not using complete sentences? Those are the kinds of problems that students can work on at any point to help their grades.
Students can learn a lot from how they did on past tests, which, it turn, can help focus and direct their studying.
3. Take notes during review sessions.
Taking notes while the teacher is reviewing something or going over what will be on the test not only helps the student know what will be on the test but also starts the studying process. In fact, for many students, writing something down is one of the best ways to ensure remembering it.
Additionally, if the class or teacher are confusing, but the student still takes notes, those notes can help someone else like a tutor or older sibling explain the material to the student. It’s really hard for someone who doesn’t understand a topic to describe what he or she is learning. Writing down what the teacher said or showed, however, can help a tutor get up to date on what the class is doing – to better help the student who is confused.
4. Ask upperclassmen.
Most of the time, your student isn’t the first person to take this class with this teacher. Upperclassmen or even older siblings may have had the teacher before and can give your child tips on what to study. If a teacher always gets questions from the captions under the pictures, upperclassmen should know that and may be willing to share.
How to Study for Midterms
Once students know what to study, they need to figure out what method(s) to use. Some of these study tips may seem familiar, but others are less well known. I recommend that students try a few until they find the solution that works best for them.
5. Go over Homework and Quizzes.
Students should go over what they missed until they understand how to answer correctly. That’s one of the best ways to raise a student’s grade.
Also, students should read through the ones that they got correct (especially on quizzes) to familiarize themselves with the types of questions. With word problems, for examples, many teachers use the same basic idea as on the homework and change the numbers.
ELA, history, and science often have patterns, too. If nothing else, if a question repeats on more than one quiz or homework assignment, then, your student had better know how to answer that question correctly. And the more types of problems the student has seen, the more likely the student will already be familiar with the types of problems on the test.
This is the only tip that I would recommend that every student do because it’s not as much about the study method as it is about finding out what the student doesn’t know.
6. Consolidate Notes ( Make Flashcards or a Study Sheet ).
Whether your student prefers making flashcards, a study sheet, or some other format altogether, there are two major benefits to taking the effort to consolidate the student’s notes:
- Streamlined Information: A student’s notes and textbooks can have a lot of information that will not be on the test. A study sheet or stack of flashcards has only the information needed for the test, so studying takes less time and has fewer distractions (why study information that won’t be on the test?).
- Task-based Studying: Filling out the flashcards can seem more like a craft project than studying, but it is studying. The same is true for the study sheet. Even if the student never uses the sheet, making it will help him or her remember the information on it. The simple act of writing something down can do wonders for memorization (why do you think teachers used to make students write a sentence over and over on the board?).
Some students love using flashcards to study, and some students hate them. For students that don’t like flashcards, a study sheet may be a useful compromise. Students who are more auditory learners may even want to record themselves saying their notes so that they can listen to study instead of reading.
7. Read Out Loud When Studying.
Like writing, saying something out loud can help memorization. Students may find that reading the study sheet out loud helps them remember more than reading it silently. Making funny voices or dialects while they read can also help wake them up if the studying has become too boring (so long as they still pay attention to what they’re reading), and it helps introduce other methods of learning.
For example, visual learning is reinforced by reading the words on the page, but auditory learners need to say the words out loud and/or hear them spoken. So children who are mixed learners or auditory learners can definitely benefit from this method.
That’s one reason why studying in groups with flashcards works well for many students – they are more likely to hear the information or say it out loud, and that is part of what is helping them remember.
8. Visualize the Words on the Page.
Besides simply reading, visual learners might also be helped by picturing how the words appeared on the page. To other kinds of learners, it sounds unfeasible, but a visual learner will tell you which part of the page the information is on, what color the ink is, or simply where the information is in relation to other facts on the page.
For that type of learner, reading the information and then closing their eyes to picture it can be a very helpful method of memorization.
9. Move While Studying.
Another study method to try is moving. While some students may do very well if they sit and study without moving, others remember better if they walk or pace as they study.
If students have trouble moving and reading at the same time, they can try this method as a means of checking their studying. After looking over the material for a while, students can go for a walk and quiz themselves without looking at any of the papers. This can include visualizing or simply trying to list all of the facts they need to know. Any that they can’t remember on the walk need to be studied more when they get back.
10. Read the Study Sheet Daily.
I didn’t say to study it. I said to read it. Simply reading the entire study sheet once through each day can improve a student’s memory of the topic, and it’s pretty reasonable to do, time-wise. It should only take 5-10 minutes tops.
In fact, I recommend doing it right before going to bed. That takes advantage of how the memory works, and what’s more likely to put the child to sleep than reading a study sheet?
11. Prioritize the Studying as Needed.
If your child has 2 different midterms on the same day, or several in the same week, trying to study for all of them equally can seem daunting. Or, if a student’s schedule is especially busy, impossible. That’s when the idea, “Work smarter, not harder,” becomes useful.
When a student needs to prioritize what he or she studies, there are several important factors to consider:
- Current Grade: Is the student’s grade in the class already exceptional, or is it verging on too low?
- Midterm Exam Weight: How much of the student’s grade is the midterm exam? It may have more weight in some classes than others.
- Remaining Assignments: How many more chances will the student have to raise his or her grade?
- Possible Scales or Bonus Options: Which teachers grade on a scale or offer bonus opportunities?
- Type of Test: Essay, multiple choice, true or false, or what? Does the teacher test big concepts or many small details (to memorize)?
Evaluating these together can give a student a good idea of which midterm needs to be the top priority studying-wise. The other tests should get some attention, as well, but it really doesn’t make sense to spend the most time studying for a topic that a student knows well or a test that isn’t worth as much of the grade when there are other tests to consider.
12. Start early.
To be honest, this is my number one tip. Now, I will admit that some students can get good grades by cramming the night before; however, not all students can, and they definitely won’t get their best grades that way.
For best results, students who are doing well in class should start studying around a week out. Students who are doing poorly in a class will need to start sooner, and honestly, if your child is not doing well on a subject, addressing the confusion when it starts can do a lot more than waiting until a week or two before the test.
This is my final and most important tip. Get a good night’s rest!
Sleep has a huge effect on memory, so losing sleep to study the night before is a horrible strategy for remembering what you studied the next day. Planning ahead enough to study and then get a good night’s rest can really improve a student’s ability to reason and remember when taking the test.
That’s why all students should do their best to get a full night’s sleep the night before the test (or, even better, every night of the week of the test!).
As for the rest, students can pick and choose as they need to. If they use these tips to identify what to study and find the studying method(s) that work best for them, then, they should do just fine on their midterms.
Which study tips do your students use? Do you have any other midterm study tips for high school?
Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead