I can breathe a sigh of relief now that my first round of midterms in optometry school is over! Of course, this was the first of an endless line of midterms that will dictate my life in optometry school. I did some things well and I did some things not so well, but I will get plenty of practice over the next four years. After talking with my fellow classmates and looking at what worked for me, these are some ways to get through your midterms:
1. Don’t panic!
I cannot say this enough! Panicking is not helpful and does not create an ideal environment to study. It diverts your focus from the task at hand, which is reviewing your material. It’s normal to be nervous but do not let that paralyze you. Should you get frustrated, take a step back and take a few breaths.
2. Be willing to change your study habits.
During your first few weeks, you will still be adjusting to optometry school. The study methods you used in undergrad may not be sufficient for optometry school. Make sure that you are not simply reading your notes, but are actively analyzing them. The key is to make as many connections within the material as possible so that you can understand it, increase your ability to retain it and answer exam questions. Some methods that my classmates and I have used successfully include drawing diagrams and cartoons, tables, flow charts, flashcards, homemade models, mnemonics, etc. If you’re unsure what works for you, use your professors, deans, tutoring, and other available learning services for ideas.
3. Get an early start.
By starting early you leave yourself plenty of time to review the material. This way you can still keep up with your classes and leave some room for unexpected time-consuming events. I usually start doing extra studying for an exam about a week before the exam date. This is in addition to reviewing material every day, even if you do not have an exam coming up. This allows for more studying without feeling too rushed or stressed.
4. Take frequent breaks.
At a certain point, you will not be retaining any information and will need a break. Use the opportunity to take a nap, watch a movie, go exercise, or even do something random like launching paper airplanes with rubber bands. The urge is to keep studying, but once you take a break like this, you will be refreshed and much more productive.
5. It is OK to be disappointed with your grade!
If you don’t get the grade you desired, it’s understandable to be disappointed, and this happens to most
people while in optometry school. Just remember that you’ve already made it into optometry school and it isn’t necessary to always get an A . You just need to pass your classes and become a competent
optometrist. Also, use this opportunity to analyze and improve your studying techniques, and use all resources available to help in this regard.
6. Reward yourself.
Optometry school is difficult and requires a lot of hard work. Don’t forget to reward yourself for your hard work with a little bit of time off (but not so much that it affects your studying). A part of the whole optometry school experience is to have a little bit of fun and build friendships with classmates. You will be happier in school and build connections that can help you in the future.
This is only a very small list of tips and certainly not everything that can be done. The key message is to stay calm, be as efficient as possible, and make sure to take care of yourself. For more specific studying techniques read Part 1 and Part 2 of this article series!