After a long wait, midterm season is finally ramping up for most Science students. Many of us might be reflecting on midterm grades in the coming weeks. It’s commonly said that grades don’t define oneself, but this might become harder to believe when you’re attending a university with high entrance averages and rigorous programs. If you’re someone who isn’t happy with their midterm grades, you’re probably not alone.

In my first year, I came into university knowing that it would be harder than high school, but I never accounted for how difficult the transition can be from living at home to living on residence. For a lot of us, first-year is a time of making new friends and connections, discovering one-self, and just figuring out how university works. With all of this said, I particularly didn’t do well on my physics midterm in first-year. This was a pivotal point in my university career. This article focuses on ways to improve a grade, and to provide tips to students in a similar situation.

Don’t Accept Defeat.

It’s easy to get discouraged by a bad grade, but the number one advice that I think I can give is to change your perspective. You might think that one bad grade is going to crush your dreams, but that’s far from the truth. Right after a grade is returned, especially if the midterm itself is returned, it’s important to identify where you went wrong. Some examples: did you cram all the material into one night of studying, did you not understand the material, or do you need to change your type of thinking for certain questions?

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Practice Makes Perfect.

After identifying where you went wrong, it’s important to seek help and change your study habits leading up to the final. Although it might seem like finals are far away, they’re much closer than you think. So during this break between midterms and finals, use your time efficiently. This could include spending more hours studying per week, going to office-hours for clarification, doing more practice-problems, or re-listening to lectures (if you have audio recordings).

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Change Studying Habits.

It’s important to reflect on your study habits. Ask yourself: is the way I’m studying for the course actually the best fit? For some, studying in groups can be a great way to become engaged in material. If this is the case, some study spots I highly recommend are study rooms that you can book across campus, or in the booths found in North Campus Building. On the other hand, you might be someone who prefers to study alone, which is completely fine. You might also find that you tend to study more efficiently between certain hours, so try to schedule around that time if possible. It could be helpful to keep a “productivity journal” where you write down what time you’re working at, what you’re working on, what you got done, and how focused you felt while studying.

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Quick Studying Tips:

  • Create a realistic studying schedule for finals.
  • Study in chunks.
  • Take breaks frequently to avoid exhaustion.
  • Review material for classes at the end of the week.
  • Create a study group: everyone can keep each other on track.
  • You can’t focus when you’re tired.
  • Stick to a consistent sleeping schedule.
  • Exercise! It can increase alertness, brain function, and lead to a better mood.
  • TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. If you aren’t healthy, neither is your brain.

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. There are resources around campus if you feel overwhelmed.

Although school is important, it’s important to put mental and physical health first. If you are someone who is feeling extremely let down by an exam, or are facing mental distress, please reach out for help.  There are several resources available on-campus such as Wellness Education Centre, Student Health Services, Peer Support Centre, Residence Advisors, and Sophs.

You got this. We believe in you.


Special thanks to Michael Groff for editing.

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