How to Study for Back-to-Back Exams

Pretty! Study! Materials!
Pretty! Study! Materials! By Ellen Deng

Mentally cursing yourself out because you didn’t check your class’s midterm schedule? Looking at your Google Calendar and freezing with anxiety?

We’ve all been in that place where we have back-to-back (or back-to-back-to-back) exams, but these next few weeks don’t have to be filled with soul-crushing sobbing in Lamont. Here are some tips for studying when you have a totally packed midterm schedule.

Start Early

Yes, we consistently plan to do things much earlier than we actually do. But for every time you’ve pulled an all nighter grinding out that pset due at 9 a.m., this is the one time when studying in advance matters. Plan out your week and block out time for each subject so you’ll be ready when exams roll around.

Procrastinate with Other Subjects

Tired of your calculator screen? Turn your attention to some supply and demand graphs instead! By avoiding organic benzene structures with other materials, you’ll keep yourself engaged — and keep the grind going.

Ditch Cabot, or Anywhere You’re Likely to See Your Friends.

Everyone knows that Cabot Science Center Library at night is more busy than any final club party on the weekend, and that’s even more true during midterm season. You’ll plan on grinding out three chapters of Statistics 111: “Introduction to Statistical Inference,” but will end up chatting with the cute kid in your 9 a.m. instead. The Smith Campus Center is usually pretty quiet, but if you need real privacy, the Widener stacks are great!


For those of you who force yourself to study until the sun rises over the Charles: Stop lying to yourselves. No information has entered your brain since you left to grab El Jefe’s. Your brain makes memories as you sleep, so all-nighters do more harm than good by hurting your recall skills during an exam. Make sure to grab at least seven hours of sleep the night before your exam for maximum retention.

Actively Study

Although rereading the textbook four times may seem more appealing than redoing your psets, passive studying never really helps. To really master concepts, we suggest making a study guide for yourself, quizzing yourself with practice problems, or explaining it to a friend.

Get Some Pretty Study Materials.

If you’re like us, Zebra Mildliners and Muji pens keep you going through a tough time — nice stationary gives us the illusion of productivity. With fun colored pens and highlighters, you’ll be more excited to beautify your notes and somehow learn in the process.

While a lot of these tips may be tough to absorb, choosing just one and sticking with it will relieve stress in the coming weeks. And if not, Harvard’s grade inflation will hopefully save the day — and your grade.

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