It’s midterm season.

As I sit down to write this post, I just finished an Anthropology test. I nailed it. Like, crushed it. No, that doesn’t even do it justice. I took it out behind the classroom, beat to a pulp, revived it lovingly, apologized sincerely, and then beat it again even worse.

Now, I don’t pretend to be the smartest kid in the room, or to be, like, super-awesome at taking tests, but I realized today that I’ve figured out a few ways to make tests both less stressful, and more successful. So I’ll share a couple.

Before the Test

Study Out Loud

Everyone learns differently – some learn by reading, some by listening, and some by doing. If you read your notes aloud to yourself as you’re studying, you’re actually doing all three. You’re reading your notes, hearing yourself say the words, and actively reading out loud. It’s incredible how much more you’ll retain, and be able to recall, just by reading your notes to yourself or a friend.

Condense

You’re not going to need to know every single morsel of information that you’ve covered since the last test, and odds are you’re not going to be able to even if you try. So don’t try. At the beginning of your studying, go through everything you’ve learned and figure out what you’re definitely not going to need to know. Cross it out, burn it, get rid of it; make sure all that stuff isn’t in your way, and isn’t wasting time that should be spent studying important stuff.

Sleep is Victory

You need sleep in order to do well on your test. In fact, you need sleep more than you need to re-read the textbook for the 43rd time. Make sure you get at least six hours of sleep before a test, even at the expense of a little bit of studying – Here’s why.

During the Test

Answer Everything the First Time

Don’t leave blanks as you go through your test. Answer every single question, even if you have no idea. Circle that question so you can go back to it, but make sure you answer it. One, that gives you a shot at guessing right if you run out of time. Two, you’ll be shocked at how often you’re right on your gut-check guess.

Re-read

After you’ve finished the test, go through and take it again. Seriously. Don’t just check your answers, actually take the exam again – this’ll make it more clear when you’ve put a wrong answer, or accidentally misread a question, because you’re not likely to do it twice in a row. Don’t look at your answers until you’ve newly answered the question, and then see if they match.

Don’t Overthink

I can’t tell you how many people I know who have changed right answers to wrong ones, just because they’re freaking out about it. If you’re sure of an answer, go with that! Your first instinct is almost always smarter than your second one, so don’t second-guess things you’re confident about. Spend that time instead trying to figure out the “I don’t even know what this word means” questions. Which are fun.

Tests are easy. But we make them hard by studying too much of the wrong thing, waiting too long to do it, and panicking over and over during the test until our pencil is mashed and we’re openly weeping. Awkward. With these steps, you’ll be a little more on top of your game.

What’s your best “rock the pants off my next test” tip?