Coaching From Assumptions to Strategies for Midterm Prep

As the first midterms begin to come into view on student calendars, anxieties and fears can get in the way of students getting the clarity they need to prepare effectively for their first midterm exams. When a lack of information leaves a hole, these paralyzing emotions often rush in and take up energy and time that could be far better spent on focused and active studying. Whether students aren't given the details they need or they avoid looking up information out of fear, confusion leads to assumptions, which derails effective preparation.


A coach can gently call a student on their assumptions and motivate them to find out the details they need. Often a student will be so nervous about knowing the truth of what an exam will cover that they have actively avoided looking at the LMS or syllabus -- something they may be willing to do within a coaching meeting and with a supportive coach there to talk it through with them. How can coaches use powerful questions to help students investigate and set aside their assumptions, and make room for information and action?

  • Ask what they know about the format of an upcoming exam, and listen for vague guesses. Ask, How do you know this? or, Where did you find that information? If they say they aren't sure, encourage them to look it up on the spot.

  • If they say it will be tremendously difficult, ask: What leads you to assume that? Who else may have a different opinion, and why? What could help this seem a little more approachable?

  • If they are feeling paralyzed because they think the exam is heavily weighted, ask: What are you assuming about how this exam is graded or weighted? How can you find out for sure? What does the syllabus say? 

  • Investigate their preconceptions of their future performance. Ask, What are you assuming about how you are going to perform? What leads to that assumption? What is one thing you can change right now that might lead to a better outcome? What is one action you can take that will take your preparation up a notch?

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