Overcoming the Second-Semester Slump (or More Tips on How to Prep for Exams)

Posted by Garima on February 21, 2017

Get In The Know | Journey to the Centre of York

Hello, everyone, happy beginning of Reading Week! As your taking these days to recharge a little bit, I also wanted to give a few tips on how to prepare for what comes after: exams, assignments and large projects.

Open agenda

February and March can be stressful months. With countless midterms, group assignments and projects, the work load can certainly be overwhelming and take a toll on our health. However, as a second-year student who has gone through the second-semester slump at least once, I have discovered some midterm, organization and overall study-tips that can help you be successful!

Tip #1: Print Out All Course Outlines

If you didn’t already do this at the beginning of the semester, the first thing I recommend doing when studying for midterms is printing out your course outlines. This allows you to have a tangible list of all chapters, practice questions, readings and other material you are responsible for. I personally print these course outlines out and put them on a bulletin board above my desk. When studying and reviewing, I highlight each item on the course outline as I review it. This way, I am motivated to continue doing my work and I am also aware of how much needs to be done.

Tip #2: Make a block schedule

One of the things that has helped me become productive this year was creating a block schedule. A block schedule uses a Monday to Sunday week long schedule where you draw a box and write within the box what you need to get accomplished during a certain time period. As you finish the corresponding task, you colour or highlight the box. For example, if I finished 50 per cent of the total study material I allocated for the time, I would only colour in half of the box. But if I finished it completely, then I would colour in the entire box. My goal for every day was colouring the entire column and, if I couldn’t, squeezing in time the next day to finish it. You can draw these block schedules by hand or make them on Excel/Google Sheets.

Clourful block schedule

(Sample block schedule for midterms; not including break times)

Tip #3: When in doubt, use OPI

Time management is a super important skill to have, especially during this time. A technique that I use to manage my time is “OPI.” This is an acronym that stands for “Organize, Prioritize, and Interval-ize” (it’s something I have also talked about in an earlier post on time management I wrote for the YUBlog).

The first thing to do when studying for midterms is to organize. This could be printing out the course outlines as I mentioned above, or it could be something as simple as creating a list. This step is meant to bring together in a structured manner all your thoughts in one common place, so one glance can tell you exactly what you need to accomplish before exam day.

The next step is to prioritize. Which exams are coming up first? Which exams have significantly more material to cover? What subjects are your strengths and what subjects are your weaknesses? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself when prioritizing your list.

The final step is to interval-ize. It is important to switch up tasks once in a while to ensure you are retaining information and not losing motivation by focusing on one task/subject for days on end.

Hand writing in notebook


Tip #4: Limit break times

The number one thing that a lot of us students struggle with is maintaining momentum. Suppose you have been studying for many hours. It’s finally time to eat a meal and you decide to add an additional half an hour on top of eating as a break time. Sound familiar? The problem with this method is that the longer the break is, the harder it will be for you to get back to being productive. As time passes, you begin to lose that focused mind-set and your brain starts to relax.

Increasing break times means falling into a loop of wasted time. For example, if you told yourself you could watch one episode on Netflix after a long study session, it gives you the opportunity to watch many more episodes as your productive mind-set lessens over time. Instead of scheduling long breaks during the day, try to schedule your longer recuperation periods after you know your work will be completed. The message here is not to take fewer breaks, but to take smaller breaks of very limited time, so that you can be productive when you need to.


Coffee cup with cookies and reading glasses on a table


I hope that these tips have helped you prepare yourself for those March midterms, projects and assignments approaching soon. Make sure to use this reading break properly, giving yourself enough time to relax and recharge, and also doing school work little by little when you can. Happy Reading Week!


Garima is a second-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Student at YorkU . She no longer blogs regularly for the YU Blog but may post on occasion as a guest-blogger.

See other posts by Garima

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