Ideas to help students prepare for midterms (Teaching Tip)

Midterms are due March 6, and as students begin preparing, many instructors grow weary of hearing the question “what’s going to be on the test?” And further, some struggle with helping students effectively study for the exams. In a 2016 Teaching Professor Blog, writer Maryellen Weimer provided teaching activities that can make exam sessions more productive for students and less of a chore for instructors. With some adaptations, a couple of these activities included:

What’s going to be on the test? During class, prompt students to take 3-4 minutes to look over their syllabus, notes, and coursework assignments and write down five things that they are confident will be on the exam. The students then form groups of three to five students and compare their lists. Taking turns, the student groups can write the topics on the board – thus providing classroom-generated ideas for what will be on the exam. The instructor can offer clarifying remarks for exam topics generated.

What makes a good answer? In class, provide at least two examples of previous exam or essay questions. These answers can be constructed from a previous semester and should be at different quality levels. Students evaluate the answers individually and then share them as a group, focusing on what differentiates them. The goal of this activity is identifying concrete features of good answers. On their own time, students could then work on creating their own answers to the question posed and circulate their response to classmates for constructive feedback.

What’s the best way to study for the test? Students may rely on old standbys for studying including highlighting and re-reading class notes. Instructors can help students improve their performance based on cognitive psychology research. This research suggests studying for shorter periods across several days, quizzing and testing themselves, and trying different strategies such as reviewing alone and then with a friend. Instructors can encourage students to examine their calendars and develop a study plan over the course of several days (or weeks) to ensure studying occurs.

In addition to these tips, we encourage you to share the many resources available to students through the Academic Success Center website. This includes individualized and group-facilitated experiences through course-specific and general academic assistance such as academic coaching, Supplemental Instruction (SI), and tutoring services as well as Psych 131, an academic skills course.

With a joy for teaching,
Sara Marcketti, Director
Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching

Full Teaching Tip

View the published CELT Teaching Tip: Ideas to help students prepare for midterms (Feb 27, 2020 – Constant Contact) website.

Prefer a Print version?

To view the Teaching Tip as a printable document with web addresses, download the CELT Teaching Tip for February 27, 2020 (PDF)