Instructor Blog: Tips on Preparing for Midterms

Part of being successful academically and professionally is tackling major assignments and projects early.  While midterms can seem daunting, a thorough approach can help you feel more confident in the expectations for the assessment.
The first step to preparing for midterms is to figure out what information is available about the midterm for your particular course. Some midterms are available at least a week early, and there should be at least a basic description of the midterm in your tracking calendar. If you would like to know more about your midterm, ask your instructor. He or she may be able to provide you with the material early. However, if you are not able to obtain further information, I recommend viewing the midterm on Sunday so you can see if it is a timed assessment or essay.
This allows you to look over the material and email your instructors any questions you might have.success It’s also useful to think about the purpose of a major assessment overall. A major assessment is designed to test your knowledge of the course material, and possibly to apply the knowledge to a work-related scenario. With this in mind, consider your progress in the course. Do you thoroughly understand the lecture and textbook reading? How are you performing on the weekly activities? Has your instructor indicated an area you might need to improve or an idea you might not understand correctly?
A great way to make sure you really understand a concept is to explain it to a friend, and think about how you will use the knowledge in the workplace. Take the initiative to read the supplemental reading provided by your instructor (located in the tracking calendar) as well as your own research. Once you feel that you have an understanding of the course material, it’s time to think about the midterm itself. If it is a timed exam, you will need to ensure a block of time is set aside in your schedule.
Consider the circumstances that will contribute to minimal distractions. Do you need to leave the house, or do you have a lunch hour where you will be able to concentrate and work uninterrupted? Upon taking the exam itself, look carefully at the content. Pay attention to any “action words,” such as “explain,” “identify,” or “analyze.”  Pay close attention to any word count or research requirement. A common error I see as an English instructor is students not including research, or the research included is not scholarly enough.  If a rubric is provided, be sure you have read it and understand how you will be graded on the assessment. Lastly, before submitting your work, read it over to look for areas where you might have rushed. Are your ideas explained thoroughly? 
Are there any grammatical errors you might have overlooked? If the midterm has several components, check off each component to ensure that it is addressed.  When you feel like the midterm is your best work, submit! Midterms and all major assignments can be stressful, but it’s helpful to remember there is a purpose. It is essential to understand the concepts related to your major.
This is knowledge that will be used in your field either directly or indirectly. Each major assignment is an accomplishment of being closer to your goal of being not only in your field, but successful and competitive!

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