Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mulling over midterms

It would be the understatement of the year to say I am a terrible studier.

Put me in an empty room with a textbook and a pen to underline and you will probably find me doodling all over the walls until the ink runs out.

This weekend I was supposed to prepare for a midterm. I reviewed my notes once over, no problem. I jotted down some quick blurbs on my study guide, go figure. But when it came to actually sitting down for an extended period of time to try and commit all those facts to memory, I refused.

This problem has plagued me since middle school, the beginning of real tests. I would sit in front of my homework as soon as I got home and get all of my reading, writing and arithmetic-ing out of the way, but when it came time to prepare for that test tomorrow I said "nope, not gonna happen."

I don't know what it is about sitting down to prepare for an exam. Maybe it's that I feel like by studying I'm admitting that there really is a test I will be taking and in my deeply confused unconscious mind, I believe that by not admitting a test is going to happen that it actually won't happen.


Last night I came to the realization that however long I put off the heavy-duty studying, at some point I'm going to have to actually review what I know and stop pretending that there is not a test tomorrow.

So I looked at my book again. I looked at my notes. I prepared some pneumonic devices to whip out a moment's notice if the test were to call for some silly memory recall answers.

And it worked. I think.

I'm usually not terribly confident after taking a test. Forever the victim to the Murphy's Law mindset, I always leave the classroom feeling relieved that it's over, but even more anxious to get the grade back.

While perhaps my terrible studying technique - consisting of basically convincing myself that there is no test and then following up with a freak out a few days to a few hours ahead of time - is not the best method, there must be some respect paid to it.

After all, I've managed to get through two years of middle school, four years of high school and one and a half years at a top tier university with the most unhealthy penchant for preparation avoidance. And I've come out relatively unscathed.

I think the key is knowing your limits and where necessity kicks in. While it's all fine and fun to put off important work to the last minute (and sometimes the least tangible concepts like studying are the easiest to do this with), the important thing is to factor in when procrastination truly must end.

For me there are established rules. Essays must be done at least one - preferably two - days before the assignment is due. Smaller homework assignments can wait until the night before. Studying can be completed within 1-4 days depending on difficulty of material, testing method and overall understanding of the class.

From there the rules become even more segmented and confusing, but they are polished to a tee and have somehow gotten me through years and years of schooling.

So I venture on to the next bridge on my path to the freedom of spring break - a midterm next week in another class. And while I look back with pleasure at having studied just enough to feel comfortable, I look forward with tension and perhaps a greater respect for the art of the cram session.

Until next week, midterm studying.

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