How to Survive Midterms for Musicians

It’s October, which means midterms are almost here. You may have a concert, and you probably have a test or two. So, how do you survive midterms?

Hannah B Flute | How to Survive Midterms

It’s not easy. Especially if you have multiple ensembles, tons of classes, and a job. But there are some things you can do to better survive midterms.

What Is Midterm Madness?

While not an official term, “midterm madness” refers to the craziness that happens around October and again in March to April. It’s that time of the semester and school year where things get crazy.

You might have tests or papers coming due. Many students have projects to complete. And you might even have a concert or two.

If you’re a teacher, you might also feel the madness. As your students have a ton of stuff on their plate, their focus might not always be in the practice room.

Of course, that’s not ideal. However, even if a student does practice their usual amount, they might not make the same progress they did a few weeks ago.

All of these factors can add stress.

Exams, papers, and projects

Oh my! That’s right; midterms are coming up quick. You may have a test or two to study for, and you may have a slew of papers to write and projects to do.

If you managed to find a good practice rhythm at the beginning of the semester, all of that can go out the window come test time.

And you better not wait until the last minute to cram. Not only can that increase your stress, but it will leave you sleep deprived. Oh, and with it being flu season, you might get sick more easily.

Scale tests

A lot of music schools will require some sort of scale test for you to “pass” into the higher levels of lessons. And in a lot of cases, not passing means you can’t give a recital or take other higher level music courses.

Some schools may only give their scale tests at the same time as regular juries. Others may give the test the week before.

However, my undergrad allowed students to perform the scale test at midterms. That can take the pressure off your jury, but it also means you have to worry about it sooner rather than later.


And of course, you can’t forget about upcoming performances. You probably have a concert coming up, or maybe it just happened.

If you’re in your school’s marching band, homecoming season is here, and band geeks will be busy.

And many of you may even have recitals or other gigs coming up.

Already Hectic

Everyone knows how busy music majors can be. It can be hard to fit in certain things during regular weeks. But a concert or test week? Forget it.

If you already have trouble fitting in certain things, midterm madness will make it that much harder for you to survive midterms.


Hopefully, you already know to prioritize your time. For music students and teachers, time management is crucial.

So before midterms start, you have to know how to manage your time. Know what you can cut out of your schedule so you can survive midterms when things get even busier. (Hint: that thing to cut ISN’T sleep. Or food.)

But think of what you can cut or reduce from your schedule. Perhaps you have a part time job, and you can ask for fewer hours at work. Of course, you should still work enough to afford basic necessities.

If you can’t reduce your work hours, think of other things to cut so you an survive midterms. Maybe you are in a couple of activities outside of music. While I totally understand the need to get away from music, maybe one of those activities can go on hold.

Perhaps, you can skip a month of meetings for a club. Or you can ask for help with other responsibilities.

After all, when you’re in school for music, you’re dedicating yourself to your craft. If you can’t find other areas of your life to cut, you may have to reevaluate your major.

Prepare ahead of time

Now that you have a thing or two to cut, you can prepare so that you can not only survive midterms, but you can thrive. Ask your work for an easier schedule now so they can look for help. You can always up your hours later.

Let your other clubs or activities know you have a lot going on. Most good organizations will support you.

And tell your family. They can be prepared themselves to support you through and help you survive midterms.

How to Survive Midterms

Ideally, the end goal is to thrive, not just survive midterms. However, that’s not always possible.

If midterms have already started or you have no time to prepare, here’s how you can survive midterms.

Coming up

If you don’t know what to prioritize, think of what is next on your schedule. Do you have a concert this week? Focus on that music in the practice room

Or perhaps you have a slew of tests. In that case, grab a snack and head to the library with your books in hand.

Maybe you have a masterclass performance on the horizon. If so, practice that music, and work with your pianist if they will play for the class.

And if you have a lesson later today, work on your lesson material.

If you have a lot coming up, rotate through those things each day. That can be especially helpful if you have a lot to do but not a lot of time.

Don’t worry, the other stuff can wait.

What can wait

If you just had an ensemble concert, that means the next one probably won’t be for a while. So while you shouldn’t ignore that music, it’s not as important as other things.

Stick to what you have to prepare for this next week. If you have extra time, look at what you have next week and the week after.

Odds are, you won’t get to everything. And that’s okay. However, you have to know what to put off.


How do you survive midterms? Leave your tips in the comments!


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