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How I Write and Learn

How I Juggle Multiple Midterms at Once Using My Planner

By Natalie, a UNC peer tutor

Midterms are a daunting and seemingly never-ending cycle. When I fill out my planner, I can feel very overwhelmed looking at the various midterms and projects I have in the span of just a few weeks. However, over the years, I have picked up on a few strategies that help me avoid cramming and survive the infamous Carolina midterms.

Making a plan class-by-class

First I look to see how much material will be on each test. For example, what sections does this midterm cover? How many lectures does that span? For my most recent math test, the material spanned 8 lectures and 7 textbook sections. After knowing how much material there is, I am able to plan exactly what I will study each day. The word “study” is broad and vague, but writing in my planner that I need to review 3 lectures and rework 2 homework assignments is a concrete plan for the day. First, I plan for each test individually. Then, I combine the test schedules with my planner that has other assignments to create one place with everything I need to do each day. Here is a sample of my plan for my most recent math midterm.

Math Midterm Study Plan

February 18, Thursday (Day 1) Review Lectures 1-2.
February 19, Friday (Day 2) Rework Homework 1
February 20, Saturday (Day 3) Break (We all need breaks!)
February 21, Sunday (Day 4) Review Lectures 3-6 and Rework Homework 2
February 22, Monday (Day 5) Review Lectures 7-8 and Rework Homework 3
February 23, Tuesday (Day 6) Take Practice Exam and make overview sheet
February 24, Wednesday (Day 7) Practice Problems from the textbook and reviewing challenging concepts. …And a good night’s sleep!

Setting SMART goals

The most important component of my study plans is to write SMART goals for myself. This means my goals should be specific, measurable, action-orientated, realistic, and time-specific. It is crucial for me to make my goals realistic as it is overwhelming and discouraging to look at my agenda for the day and know it is impossible for me to get it all accomplished. On the other hand, breaking up the tasks to be achievable motivates me. Measurable goals include specifying exactly what material I will cover, and action-oriented tells me exactly what to do when reviewing so I am not just rereading notes. For example, “rework the odd numbered problems in section 4.2 covering homogenous equations” was one of my goals for my recent math test. The goals are time-specific since I set a date that each needs to be done by, and I dedicate a certain amount of hours each day to studying the material. 

Consolidating class study plans into one calendar

 Beyond studying for exams, I often have other assignments for other classes that I need to plan time out for during these midterm weeks. I will combine my study plans for each assignment due date and midterm into one schedule so I can see exactly what I have planned for each day of the upcoming weeks. When completing my full planner, I start by highlighting due dates or test dates and putting them at the top of the day. Then I am able to fill in my study plans for each particular class and schedule time to do assignments based on when they are due. It is important for me to consider how long something will take when filling out the planner so I do not overload a particular day if a certain assignment is time-consuming. When filling out my planner, I make sure to put my SMART goals for each day rather than putting every task I have to complete. It is important to do this because a task like “study” or “complete take-home exam” is not something I feel as though I could check off, but I could check off working on my take-home exam for 3 hours or reworking the math HW and watching 2 lectures off of my list. This makes my to-do list seem doable, which boosts my morale. 

Here is a sample of a busy 2 weeks I had: 

Plan for Feb 18th- 24th

February 18th, Thursday
  • Spend 3 hours working on take-home exam
  • Review Math Lectures 1 & 2 (2.5 hours)
  • Readings for Sociology (1.5 hours)
February 19th, Friday
  • Work on take-home test for 1 more hour
  • Review Math HW #1 (1 hour)
February 20th, Saturday Break
February 21st, Sunday
  • Finish take-home exam (1 hour)
  • Review math lectures 3-6 and rework HW 2 (6 hours)
  • Complete math HW and submit (1.5 hours)
February 22nd, Monday
  • Complete notes on the last 2 stats classes to prepare for the quiz (1 hour)
  • Review math lectures 7 & 8 and rework HW 3 (3.5 hours)
February 23rd, Tuesday Math HW Due
Stats Quiz

  • Take practice exam for math and make overview sheet of exam material (4 hours)
  • Complete PreLab and submit (1 hour)
February 24th, Wednesday Lecture Reflection Due

  • Practice math problems from the textbook and review challenging concepts (3 hours)

After looking at all my responsibilities for each day together, I can adjust the plan accordingly based on if a certain day looks too overwhelming or if I know I am busy with classes during that particular day. Typically I use a paper planner, but I use the same process in highlighting due dates at the top and having a task list of SMART goals each day. Then I get the satisfaction of checking things off of my list. This process prevents me from getting overwhelmed because I know I have not forgotten to set aside time for any assignment. For me, writing a detailed schedule like this is important because it makes studying tangible and creates a specific plan.

A checklist written in a notebook with multiple items checked off.
Checking items off my paper planner is such a satisfying feeling!

It’s okay if I do not always get everything completed exactly on time because the schedule is flexible and can be altered to meet my needs. Midterms are intimidating and seem to be a looming force throughout the semester, but by using the method of planning 1 to 2 weeks ahead, I feel less overwhelmed and more motivated to tackle whatever lies ahead.

This blog showcases the perspectives of UNC Chapel Hill community members learning and writing online. If you want to talk to a Writing and Learning Center coach about implementing strategies described in the blog, make an appointment with a writing coach, a peer tutor, or an academic coach today. Have an idea for a blog post about how you are learning and writing remotely? Contact us here.

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