Midterms are typically the middle of the semester large projects, papers, or exams that can be worth a good portion of the grade in a class. They can also provide a good gauge of understanding or comprehension of course material at the halfway point. Professors and Teachers tend to use the middle of the term, or close to it, to see if students have a good grasp of the concepts and terms that they taught in the first half of the class.
In order for this to be assessed accurately, a thorough review on the part of the student is necessary and should start with the most recently learned material.
A thorough review is not simply looking over a study guide (if one is supplied), nor is it sufficient to just re-read all the chapters going back to the beginning of the class. Start with current class material and move back through each concept, class/lecture notes, videos, chapter, etc. until arriving at the beginning. Summarize the main ideas and details from each section. Make note of any holes in information identified or confusion on a topic. Seek clarification from both the professor/teacher and classmates. It is important to talk to both, as each can give a different perspective which will in turn, help to provide clarity. The goal is to become so familiar with the material that it could be explained to someone who has little or no prior knowledge.
This entire process of review should take about 1-2 weeks, so do not wait until the week before the midterms! This process is also just a good habit to get into each week or so, to assess comprehension. Below are some easy steps to follow, regardless of whether the midterm measurement being given consists of an exam, a paper, or a project:
Preparing to write a Midterm paper
The first step needs to be that of the review. No matter the topic of the paper, it is a certainty that the paper will require a detailed knowledge of all material taught to that point, including examples. It is likely that the paper will want the student to apply the knowledge and demonstrate it in their writing. Even if the prompt seems very simplistic, the implication is that the paper will contain many references to the course material and provide examples from class or other sources. Further, it may be required that the paper demonstrate the ability to create something new based on the course material. An example of this could be an English course where the first half was focused on reading examples of creative fiction and the paper was to use similar techniques to create an original story.
Projects are typically assigned in classes that are not writing intensive. The project could focus on one specific idea or topic, but it will be expected that the sum of the knowledge acquired from previously presented information in the class is in some way integrated into the project. It will be important to follow any rubrics or outlines supplied.
When working with others in a group-type project, it will benefit the entire group to discuss roles and responsibilities before diving into the project. Schedule regular intervals to check in with each other and schedule accountability by determining dates by which progress on work should be submitted to the group as a whole for review. This should occur very early on so that if there are issues, they can be resolved with plenty of time to spare before its due date.
As with each of the above, the process needs to begin with a thorough review. Depending on the type of class, the review could take many forms. From creating practice problems for a math or science-based class, to reviewing timelines and important historical figures in a humanities class, the strategy will be determined by the course-type. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, it is recommended that a student start with the current material and work backwards. Each topic or section should be reviewed individually and then connected to what came before and after. Being able to identify and articulate how examples are relevant are likely to be expected.
Again, depending on the subject, but additionally on its complexity, review should take place in increments so as not to overwhelm the student. This process of chunking information will aid with recall when it comes time for the test. The way the brain takes in information determines its ability to remember it later and make connections.
With the proper preparation and review, midterms are nothing to fear. Rather, they can help reinforce what was already learned, as well as help students determine what areas they are unclear on, allowing for time for clarification and understanding before moving on with more advanced material in the second half of the semester.
We are Academic Coaching Specialists. If you have a student who could use help preparing for midterms, give our office a call. We are experienced educators who can provide coaching and accountability for students who are unsure of how to approach these large assignments. This may include those who may be experiencing them for the first time or who perhaps have not had great success preparing for them on their own in the past. We will meet their needs wherever they are in the journey.
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