Tag Archives | exams

Don’t Attempt to Cram all Your Studying into One Session

Image by DariuszSankowski, pixabay.com

The most stressful time for any student is, of course, the exam period. Simply trying to pass an exam or score a good grade, while struggling to get all your other activities completed is extremely frustrating. The fact that there never seems to be enough time for everything just makes things more difficult.

Students usually tend to make their situation more complicated than it actually has to be. Face it, you’re usually procrastinating and getting distracted by the quite interesting – to put it mildly – student life, until the very last day. After that, it’s panic and hysteria to try and get everything done on time. There are ways to make the best of your studying attempts and pass your exams, while maintaining your sanity and low stress levels. Here are a few tips on how to study smart, not just hard.

Plan ahead
The key to making the most out of studying is to plan how, where and when to study. Furthermore, you must identify and set clear goals you want to reach in order to find effective ways of accomplishing them. Most students, whether in high school or college, have a tendency to cram studying into one session due to the lack of organizational and planning skills. Cramming everything in at once can cause information to mix in your head and inevitably cause confusion.

Carefully planning out your studying process will help you learn everything you need, minus the stress. Start by identifying a learning style that suits you best. See whether you learn better in groups or alone, and try to find out if you prefer studying in the morning or evening. Make a study plan based on your preferences.

Manage time
For students, managing time and daily activities can be quite a nightmare. Furthermore, it’s easy to lose track of time when focusing on too many things at once. That’s why it’s important to be consistent when it comes to studying. For example, a few hours of studying each day will help you learn a lot better than studying for twelve hours straight, the night before an exam. If you fit a few hours of studying each day into your schedule you will be able to progress much better. However, it’s important to be consistent with your daily study plan in order to get the best results. You may have to sacrifice some personal time to achieve this, but it’s for the right purpose.

Always take notes
Taking notes in class is greatly beneficial for learning the subject. Each student creates their own unique set of notes that help them learn more effectively, and many times you catch some information a professor mentions that isn’t included in textbooks. Some students neglect to take notes or simply take the opportunity to doze off during class. If you miss out on a chance to take notes, borrow them from a friend or search through websites like Thinkswap for similar study notes. The important thing is to have notes, as they will greatly aid you in learning what you need to know for an exam.

Distractions
Whether you study at home, your dorm or a park, there will always be distractions. Learn how to focus on what you’re doing and tune out random things around you. Avoiding distractions altogether is almost impossible, so choose a place to study that has the least commotion. Remember to turn off your smartphone and other devices when studying, because no one can distract you more than you can distract yourself. Some things can throw you off balance such as relationship or family issues – in these kinds of situations, studying can be quite difficult. The important thing is not to force yourself to learn. If it’s not your day, take a break and relax. Forcing yourself to study is ineffective and counterproductive – you will only stress yourself out further.

Taking some “me” time every now and then is good for you. Rest is just as important as dedication and hard work. Everyone needs time to recharge and clear their thoughts in order to improve their well-being and concentration.

Studying smart is not that difficult; it just needs some good planning and organization. Mix in regular breaks to eat, sleep, exercise and relax. After all, you want your brain to function properly and not burn out completely.

This article was contributed by guest author Alex Williams.

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Reach For The Top: Tips To Help You Pass The ANCC Exam

Image by Nick Hillier, unsplash.com

Taking the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam is a stressful event for many students. This short exam can have a major impact on your future career and will validate all of the hard work you have invested into your studies. Here is a look at a few tips to help you pass the ANCC exam the very first time.

Prep For Six Months
In order to get a good score, most students need around six months to prepare for the exam. During that time, you should set aside a few hours every week to go over the Test Content Outline (TCO). Much of the information that students must know is relatively new, and that is why you should only use study guides and practice exams that were released within the last few years.

Purchase The Formal Practice Tests
The ANCC regularly releases practice exams that students can purchase in the months leading up to their official exams. These practice tests are around 75 questions each, and they cover all aspects of the official exam including cultural information, recent studies, and hypothetical data. Unlike many other practice exams, the ANCC’s practice tests are almost identical to the actual tests. That allows students to familiarize themselves with the layout of the exam and the wording of the questions.

Sign Up Before You Graduate
Students who put their ANCC tests off for more than a few months might struggle to relearn much of the information. Whether you are studying in a traditional classroom setting or have decided to complete your MSN program online, your ANCC test should be taken no more than four or five months after you complete school.

Focus On Your Health
Your physical health and cognitive abilities might be more closely intertwined than you realize. Students who continue to eat well and exercise will reduce their risk of depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Eating healthy meals and exercising will also reduce your risk of coming down with an illness just before your test.

Getting Ready For The Test Day
In the days leading up to your exam, you should begin collecting all of the paperwork and other supplies you will need. That includes a form of identification, directions, and your confirmation number. No food or drinks are allowed inside the testing area, so you must come well-hydrated and eat a large meal beforehand.

Your ANCC exam will have a major impact on your future career options, and it is vital that you start preparing yourself as soon as possible.

This article was contributed by guest author Emma Sturgis.

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Study Tricks to Get You Through College

Image by StartupStockPhotos, pixabay.com

Image by StartupStockPhotos, pixabay.com

You spend a lot of money and invest a lot of time in your college education. To make the most out of your college career, you should consider a few study tricks that will help you sail through smoothly.

Use School Resources
Colleges are geared toward successfully educating students. They have tons of educational resources available to you on campus. Some places you may want to look for resources include the library, student services, the school’s website, career center, study sessions, and peer tutoring services. By just asking, you can find a lot of services and free resources you haven’t taken advantage of yet.

Online Resources
There are many online resources that will make your education much easier. You can find classes for an online masters in organizational leadership or supplemental courses for your own major. Services range from online tutoring, to free classes on a variety of subjects from Saylor Academy, to managing your academic career with an app like iHomework. Just performing a google search for help may return some extremely useful web tools which are available to you around the clock.

Get to Know Your Professor
It may seem old fashioned, but talking to and getting to know your professors is a great tool professionally as well as academically. They are a wealth of knowledge, and are there to help you succeed. Getting to know each professor can give you insight on how they grade, what their expectations are, and they might even serve as a mentor to you and help guide you in your career path. You never know what great benefits you might receive from forming professional relationships.

Study Groups
Many students form study groups. If study groups are well-organized and efficient, they offer many benefits. Some of the benefits include seeing information from different perspectives, filling in learning gaps, no procrastinating due to a set time for studying, and learning to work cooperatively with others. Be sure you choose your study group wisely. If you find the group mostly chats and wastes time, you should search for a new one.

Be Prepared for Class and Take Comprehensive Notes
Completing homework and the required reading before class is critical. The lecture will be based on your assigned reading and the professor will highlight important information during class. You will understand the lecture more thoroughly if you go to class prepared. During lecture, your note-taking should become an art. You will rely on your notes to review for tests, so they must be comprehensive. If you still do not understand a concept during lecture, ask for clarification in class or through an email.

Use these tips, and you’ll be that much closer to success!

This article was contributed by guest author Brooke Chaplan.

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Can Modern Technology Help Students with Exam-Time Stress?

Image by Shane Global, Flickr

Image by Shane Global, Flickr

There is hardly a student who hasn’t experienced exam stress. Professors say that you don’t have to worry if you’ve studied enough, but the reality is strange: you get more worried the more you study. In some students, the stress grows into a state of anxiety, characterized with excessive worry, fear of failure, and psychosomatic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, stomach pain, and extreme fatigue.

During exam week, students are burdened with too many tests within a short period of time. As a result, they feel little or no control over the situation. Exam anxiety is often accompanied with tough self-criticism and pessimistic predictions.

Technology, with its power to make studying easier and help students surpass different issues, has the capacity to reduce exam-time stress to a certain level. When the anxiety is excessive, the student may need counseling. However, proper use of technology can release some of the tension.

Let’s see how exactly technology can help students reduce the volume of stress during exam week.

1. Social media serves as virtual group therapy

Students are not left on their own to deal with exam-time pressure. They can always use social media to support each other, ask questions, and help each other find the answers. Facebook groups are a very effective tool that helps students connect and show support. When you’re extremely stressed and you notice that everyone else is feeling the same pressure, you realize that you’re not alone on this journey. The sole realization that all students go through stress may make you feel more comfortable with exams.

When students connect via social media, they can share notes, thoughts, useful links, and explanations. As a result, you can find resources that help you handle the studying material more easily.

2. Brainstorming, note-taking, and mind-mapping tools help students study more efficiently

Technology makes the studying process more organized. There is no need for messy notebooks that the student himself doesn’t comprehend. With brainstorming, note-taking, and mind-mapping tools, students can easily generate ideas, highlight important facts, and memorize information. These are only few of the many effective tools that make the studying process more effective:

  • Stormboard – an online brainstorming and planning tool, which helps students think of an answer plan on potential essay questions. Brainstorming is a necessary aspect of the preparation process whenever there is a certain level of creativity involved in the answers.
  • Evernote – a note-taking tool that students can use on all their devices. With Evernote, they can take all types of notes and organize them in notebooks. They can also share those notebooks with their friends, so they can discuss and collaborate in real time.
  • MindMup – an online tool that enables students to create effective maps, which are very effective in classifying, organizing, and memorizing data.

3. Technology makes time management more effective

A plain daily planner can help a student organize time more effectively. However, a simple notebook can get messy, since it doesn’t allow you to edit the plan when something comes up. An online planner, on the other hand, is much cleaner and more effective.

  • Google Calendar is an excellent online calendar that makes planning less stressful. As a student, you can use it to keep track of important exam dates, and plan your time in a way that allows you to progressively cover the entire coursework material.
  • RescueTime is an app that monitors the time you spend online, and then provides an eye-opening report. It alerts the student when he/she is spending a lot of time on a certain online activity, such as browsing through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit feeds. It also measures the time the user spends in effective online research. At the end of the day, the student can evaluate his/her online time and block distracting websites if necessary.
  • Remember the Milk is a simple, but very effective to-do app that reduces confusion during exam time. When the student has several subjects and assignments to cover, he/she can easily forget about important responsibilities. With this planning app, task-management becomes a breeze.

4. The writing process is easier thanks to online tools

Studying for the exams is important, but so are all term papers, research papers, book reviews, and essays with strict submission dates. When students are burdened with all these assignments, the exam anxiety gets even worse. Some students decide to use writing services to delegate part of their work and get more time for studying, but that’s not an ethical academic practice and all colleges sanction it.

There are other ways students can get practical advice, such as YouTube videos that help students to grasp complex concepts that are not properly covered in their textbooks. Writing Forums and Writers Digest are only two of the many online communities of writers who are ready to offer opinions, critiques, and tips for students who want to learn how to write. In addition, the editing process becomes really easy for students who use Hemingway App, Grammarly, and similar automated editing tools.

Thanks to the online world, students can get answers to all their questions. Google Scholar is a great search engine, which gives instant access to relevant resources that students use for their essays. When they read some of these materials, they get better chances to answer the essay questions with great success.

With Proper Use of Technology, Exams Are Easier to Cope With.

You won’t free yourself from exam-time stress entirely when you start using technology. However, you will handle the busy schedule and huge volumes of studying material much more smoothly. Try implementing the right tools and practices into your routine, and tell us about the results you notice.

This article was contributed by guest author Mary Kleim.

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Online Test Prep Resources

Image by Miss Lolita, Flickr

Image by Miss Lolita, Flickr

We recently came across a few free online test prep resource we’d like to share. Share your favourites in the comments below and we’ll keep this post updated with all the best resources for exam prep!

Varsity Learning Tools
A free resource with over 75,000 professionally written problems and thousands of distinct practice tests across 150 subjects. Subjects include history, math, foreign languages, and science for all experience levels, as well as practice tests and problems for the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, ISEE, and SSAT.

Khan Academy
Khan Academy’s goal is to provide free resources for students of all ages. They have the typical math and science prep, but also include resources for subjects like art history. They have partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

Exam Masters
Exam Masters provides tutoring and test prep resources for high school students in math and science. They also offer tutoring for the SAT, ACT, SSAT, and LNAT. Free resources include practice tests and subject notes.

Gold Standard MCAT Prep
Gold Standard MCAT Prep is what it sounds like – an MCAT practice test provider. Providing MCAT test preparation tools for over 25 years, they have a number of options for test preparation courses, including free practice tests and helpful information & tips on their blog. 

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5 Tips to Effective Studying

Image by Steven S., Flickr

Image by Steven S., Flickr

Exams can be intimidating. There is so much to remember, and tricky questions tend to get you second-guessing yourself. Let’s not forget the pressure to get a good grade. It can be difficult to know what to memorize and what to skim over, but it is possible to make the most of your study time and ace your exam.

To study effectively, all you need is a combination of time management skills and discipline. You don’t need to spend too much time studying in order to successfully retain information (wait, what? I’ll explain), and discipline helps you to ask your professor the right questions, study the right topics and avoid distractions.

Here’s what you need to remember:

  1. Don’t cram. When you cram, you leave yourself little time to look over notes and textbook pages. This makes it highly unlikely that you will cover all the content required. It also isn’t guaranteed that you will be able to remember all that you read. Give yourself at least one week to study, spreading out your studying every day for a few hours.
  2. Take notes, if needed. It can be hard to grasp certain ideas or facts while studying. You may wish to jot these down multiple times. Then, attempt to write down the ideas on your own without looking at the page.
  3. Create acronyms to remember concepts. If you’re trying to remember a list of items, create an acronym to help you remember it. Start with a phrase that is easy to remember, then turn it into an acronym – a series of letters composed of the first letter of each word in the saying. It may help to choose a saying that rhymes.
  4. Avoid distractions. As hard as it may seem, don’t text, go on Facebook or take phone calls while studying. These are unnecessary uses of your time, and you may spend more time doing these things than intended. You’ll be surprised how much time you can pick up by eliminating these distractions.
  5. Ask your professor for help. If you’re really struggling with the course, it may be useful to ask your professor what subjects will be on the exam. Sometimes they may even provide copies of previous exams. Ask your professor to guide you with concepts you’re having trouble understanding.

Renowned astronaut and physicist Sally Ride once said,

Studying whether there’s life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there’s something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge.

Although studying may be tiresome, it helps you to learn. More importantly, it is 100% necessary in earning a college degree. Don’t give up on studying. It is absolutely possible to ace your exam using some helpful tricks.

What You Need to Know About the GMAT

Image by Ian Lamont, Flickr

Image by Ian Lamont, Flickr

Since 1954, graduate business programs around the world have been using the GMAT to guide their hand in the admissions process. From its humble beginnings, this standardized exam is now in use by over 5,400 programs and taken by more than 200,000 persons annually. So what exactly is the GMAT?

The Basics

The GMAT, short for Graduate Management Admission Test, does not require advanced English vocabulary or a knowledge of math beyond the grade 10 level in order to complete it. It is only delivered in English, and since 1997, it is only administered on computers. The exam runs approximately four hours in length, which includes two optional eight minute breaks. The GMAT may be the most expensive part of your graduate program application, as registering for it costs US $250. If you wish you to improve your score and retake the exam (another $250), you must wait a minimum of 31 days before you can write the GMAT again. You may only write the exam a maximum of five times within any given twelve month period.

The Test

The GMAT requires no prior education in either business or management. Instead, the GMAT is designed to test the higher-order reasoning abilities that students will need to be successful in a Master of Business Administration program.

The exam is divided into four sections:

  1. Analytical Writing Assessment
    In it, students are allotted 30 minutes to analyze a given argument in the form of a short essay.
  2.  

  3. Integrated Reasoning
    In June of 2012, this new second section was introduced, which challenges students’ ability to analyze data and draw reasoned conclusions. 30 minutes are allotted to students to answer 12 questions. There are four types of questions in the Integrated Reasoning section. The first question type, Multi-Source Reasoning, is more of a writing comprehension and analysis exercise, while the other three question types — Two-Part Analysis, Graphics Interpretation, and Table Analysis — are geared toward numerical analysis.
  4.  

  5. Quantitative
    This is the math section. The allotted time is boosted to 75 minutes, a period in which students will be presented with a maximum of 37 questions. The questions come in two different types: Problem Solving, and Data Sufficiency. Problem Solving questions are straight-forward quantitative questions, but Data Sufficiency questions are a little more complicated. They present a problem and two pieces of data, and the student must figure out whether neither, one, or both pieces of the given data are sufficient to solve the question. You do not actually need to find the answer to the question.
  6.  

  7. Verbal
    This section comprises of a maximum of 41 questions, to be completed in 75 minutes. There are three question types: Sentence Correction, to test your knowledge of English grammar and your ability to communicate ideas effectively, and Reading Comprehension and Critical Thinking, which present you with questions based on a short written passage.

Scoring

Each section of the GMAT receives an individual score:

  • The Analytical Writing Assessment section is scored on a scale of 0-6, using intervals of 0.5
  • Integrated Reasoning uses a 1-8 scale with intervals of 1
  • Both the Quantitative and Verbal sections are scored on a scale of 0-60, also with intervals of 1

Additionally, the GMAT awards the student a total score on a scale of 200-800, based solely on the Quantitative and Verbal sections of the exam. So technically, you could bomb the first two sections and still pull off a respectable score overall – but I wouldn’t recommend it.

Average GMAT scores for admission into Canadian graduate programs in 2013 ran the gamut from as low as 540 (Lakehead University) to as high as 674 (University of Toronto Rotman School of Management). Competition is even fiercer in the United States, as the average GMAT scores for elite business schools there regularly tops 720.

In short, the GMAT is a key piece of your application to graduate business programs, as your score demonstrates if you are up to the institution’s standards.

Sources:

Want to learn about other tests?

A Guide to Grasping the GRE

Image by Brandy, Flickr

Image by Brandy, Flickr

 
The GRE is used to gage a student’s ability outside of their institution’s grading methods. Since each university is different, the GRE is meant to give students a chance to showcase their intellectual talents on a level playing field.

The GRE stands for Graduate Record Examinations, and is administered by the same company that administers the SAT and the TOEFL – the Educational Testing Services (ETS). Check out their site for further information.

Difference between the GRE and the GMAT

The GRE is accepted by a variety of graduate programs. Not all Canadian universities require the GRE, but many American universities do. Whether a graduate program requires or accepts a GRE score will be mentioned in their application guidelines/requirements. Many general graduate school programs will accept the GMAT as well as the GRE. In the past, the GMAT has been specifically directed towards business schools, but a growing number of business schools are now accepting the GRE as well.

The GMAT is more expensive to take, and can take longer to write than the GRE. The GRE is composed of three sections (analytic, verbal, and quantitative), while the GMAT is composed of four sections (analytic, integrated reasoning, quantitative, and verbal). If you take both the GRE and GMAT, your scores cannot be compared or judged in relation to each other, as they are completely different tests with different formats and scoring methods.

Structure

The GRE is composed of three sections: Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, and Analytical Writing. Overall, there will be six divisions of the GRE composed of any kind of these sections. The GRE takes approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes. One half hour should be devoted to each of the six sections, as there is a ten minute break dividing the first three from the last three sections; but you should use your time however you see fit, according to your strengths and weaknesses.

The Verbal Reasoning section contains multiple choice questions that test your vocabulary and deductive abilities pertaining to words and written concepts. Most students run into trouble in this section because they have not brushed up on their vocabulary. Research the “top 100 words used in the GRE” to practice. Make sure you understand the meaning of the words in isolation, instead of relying on context.

The Quantitative Reasoning section is, in a word: math. Typically, the difficulty level will not go beyond grade 12 functions, calculus, or data management. If you took some of these math courses in high school, return to your notes to brush up. Students who did not take math in grade 11 or 12 should do some serious studying if they want to do moderately well in this section. Memorize the “special triangles,” how to find the area of basic shapes (circle, triangle, etc), and the Pythagorean Theorem.

The Analytical Writing section requires you to write responses instead of choosing from multiple choice. You will be asked to write a response that tests your analytical abilities, critical thinking, ability to articulate complex ideas, and of course, your writing skills. This section is essentially an in-class essay written in undergraduate final exams, but one that could be on any topic. To succeed in this section, outline the argument(s) and/or structure of your essay before you start writing.

Extra Sections

The GRE may include two extra sections – do not panic. Neither of these potential sections will count towards your score. One is an “Unscored” section that will not be identified within the test. The other is a voluntary “Research” section administered after the main test. Both these sections can contain any kind of question, verbal or math. Neither of these sections will count towards your grade. If you have more than the standard two math sections, it can be assumed that one of them is an experimental section; but do not try to skip the third math section on this basis, since the “Research” section will be anonymously mixed in with the others.

Format

You can write the GRE on a computer or on paper. There is no difference other than the medium through which the test is administered. The computer-delivered test is designed to allow the flexibility of the paper-based test. You can move freely back and forth through the test questions, can tag questions to return to them later, use an on-screen calculator, and can edit answers within a section. The paper-delivered test will provide you with a standardized calculator – you are not allowed to bring your own.

Scoring

You can choose which scores you would like the universities to see. If your score is better the second time you write the GRE, you can send that score to your desired university without them ever knowing the inferior original score.

The paper-delivered test is not offered very often, so research the future times months in advance to register if you want to write in this format. There is no maximum to how many times you write the paper-delivered test. You can write the computer-delivered GRE a maximum of once every 21 days, up to five times within a year.

Here’s a GRE Prep Guide if you want some more in-depth information on it.

Want to learn about other tests?

Accepting Failure, and Learning From It

Image by Mohamed Iujaz Zuhair, Flickr

Image by Mohamed Iujaz Zuhair, Flickr

Sometimes your best effort just isn’t good enough. You can pour blood, sweat, and tears into something, only to have it fail in the end. If this hasn’t happened to you yet, it’s easy to take the possibility of it for granted: I know I did.

It was a second year philosophy course. I passed, but with a measly final grade of 58 percent. It came as a total shock: I did well on the two assigned essays, and studied every last detail of the material for the exam. Infuriated, I contemplated filing an academic appeal. On the first day of my summer break, I commuted to my school registrar, carrying with me a binder full of my essays and short assignments. When I arrived there, the woman at the front desk informed me that all I could do was email the professor to ask if there had been an error in submitting my grade.

In other words, I could do nothing.

I couldn’t be bothered in wasting my time with such an email (“there was no error, that’s just the grade you got” would have been the response). On my commute back home, I tried to forget about it. And it was then, on that subway train, that I came to a realization. I had always heard about the importance of accepting failure from self-help books and lifestyle magazines, but never fully acknowledged it. Now I had to: I was living it.

From my experience, I learned different ways of coping with failure and how to learn from it. And what I learned, you can as well.

Assess yourself

Being bitter and shifting the blame elsewhere won’t change anything. Thinking that you’re infallible is not only unhealthy, it’s counterproductive. Be introspective: meditate on any possible mistakes you made that hindered your success. I look back and realize that I made four major mistakes in my philosophy course:

  • I came in late to most tutorials (sometimes not at all), with having not read the assigned readings
  • I major in English, so I’m assigned several lengthy novels which take up a lot of my reading time. I reasoned that I didn’t have enough time and only read select readings for the essay assignments
  • I caught up on all the course material in the days shortly leading up to the exam – a foolish mistake
  • As a result, I rarely contributed anything meaningful to tutorial discussions. This took a toll on my final grade as participation in tutorial made up 15% of the final mark

Since then, I have vowed to keep up with all the readings in any given course to the best of my ability. Recognize and correct your mistakes, because unless you do so you’ll just end up repeating them.

Feel good about your effort

Putting a lot of effort into something doesn’t alone guarantee a high grade. In my case, my initial outrage stemmed from putting in so much time and effort into studying for the exam. I soon realized that the amount of effort invested doesn’t mean anything if the final results are unsatisfactory to whoever is grading your work. The same applies even more so to jobs in the real world.

All this said, don’t let it get you down. Failure due to laziness is a legitimate source of shame, but failure in spite of trying hard isn’t. Even geniuses make mistakes. When inventing the light bulb, Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts until finally succeeding. When asked by a reporter how it felt to fail 1,000 times, Edison replied,

I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.

Don’t look at your failed attempts as efforts wasted in vain: even a wasted effort is an invaluable learning experience.

Learn to study smarter

Reconsider your study habits. If you already work hard, focus on readjusting the ways you study rather than the amount of time you spend studying. It wasn’t that I didn’t study for my exam; I laboriously did so in the two weeks leading up to it. My mistake was that I crammed in the material within that short period of time. Had I studied in small doses over the course of the entire semester, I would have received better results for both my exam and my tutorial mark. No matter how hard you work within a short amount of time, finishing things at the last minute will only cheapen the results.

Halfway through my self-assigned two-week study period, I realized that I had forgotten to check the format for my exam. Once I did, I was shocked to find out that I had wasted time studying course material that wasn’t going to be included on it. Instead of first carefully going over the exam format, I dove straight into studying. As a consequence, I wasted precious time studying material that I wasn’t going to be quizzed on. Don’t just study hard, study smart.

Look forward

After you re-evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, don’t waste any more time dwelling on your failure. Move on by focusing your energy on new work at hand. Not only will this take your mind off of it, it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate that you have learned from your mistakes. So long as you actively avoid the traps that doomed your last effort, concentrating on current work will provide you with results that will more than make up for your previous failure.

Be at peace with liability

Get comfortable with the fact that the possibility of failure will always be there. Be at peace with it, because once you are, you’ll be better prepared for when it strikes again.

My pieces of advice aren’t instructions for foolproof protection against failure; no matter how religiously you follow them, there will always be that lingering chance. Nevertheless, you can still avoid it. School is like a game of cards. No matter how thorough you may think you play, there will always be a chance that you lose the game. But like any skilled player, you can still increase your chances of winning.

10 Study Tips for Exam Season

Image by rabiem22, Flickr

Image by rabiem22, Flickr

Another exam season has arrived – and you’re probably thinking it came way too fast. Don’t panic – we’ve compiled a few tips to make sure you study the best you can to retain the most information.

  1. Stay healthy, both mentally and physically

  2. Your body won’t function properly if your brain is lacking energy. Now is not the time to eat chips or skip meals. Eat on your normal schedule, and eat well. The last thing you want to do is get sick or feel lethargic when you need your brain in tip-top shape. Remember to also keep a positive attitude about exams (as difficult as that sounds) – you may be stressed, but know you’re trying your best and keep your focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

  3. Stay focused and eliminate distractions

  4. Shut off your phone and put your technology away. If you need your laptop for notes, disable your internet connection; that way, if you’re even tempted to log onto Facebook, the “you are not connected to the internet” warning will remind you of what you should be doing. If you live with roommates, make sure they know you need space and silence for your study time; if they can’t help socializing, relocate to a library.

  5. Give yourself time

  6. Generally, exam season comes right after end-of-semester essay season, which follows almost-end-of-semester presentation season, which follows midterms. You feel like you have zero study time. Realize that even if it’s not much, you just need to make the most of it. Postpone outings with your friends until after exams. Stop complaining about not having time (you’re just wasting it!), buckle down and use the time you’ve got. If you have a free night in between assignments, use it to review what you’ve learned recently. Anything you can do during the semester will help when it comes to exam season.

  7. Create a plan

  8. Spend the first half hour of study time preparing yourself mentally and getting organized. Figure out what you need to study, and how much time you have. Divide the work up over that amount of time and study different sections each day/hour (depending how tight your schedule is). Use the last day of your study time to do a full review. Don’t get stuck on one concept and spend your entire study time on it.

  9. Stay organized

  10. Make sure your study space is clear of any distractions, extra papers, or garbage. At the beginning and end of each study session, clean up your workspace. It will help psychologically – your brain will feel decluttered. Start each day fresh and keep track of what you’ve made progress on. If it helps, make a list of the topics you need to cover, and cross each one off as you complete it. You’ll feel accomplished.

  11. Draw pictures

  12. We’re not talking about scribbles of cats and dogs. Draw a chart or image that pertains to your studies. Even a simple flow chart of steps in a process could do wonders. Sometimes in exams, these are easier for your brain to remember than pages and pages of words. Don’t be afraid to use some colour, but keep your drawings simple; don’t waste your time getting that arrow perfectly straight.

  13. Use old exams and practice questions

  14. If you can get your hands on exams from previous years (which many professors give out as examples), don’t discount them. Study for a while, then try the exam. Chances are your professor will not use the exact same exam, but at least you’ll get an idea of their style and how questions might be phrased.

  15. Talk about it

  16. You’d be surprised how much easier it is for information to stick in your head when you say it out loud. Meet up with a friend and talk out your responses to questions, and you’ll quickly realize which concepts you understand, and which you may need to spend more time on. Take this opportunity to ask your friend questions about topics you’re fuzzy on, or book an appointment with your teaching assistant or professor.

  17. Take breaks

  18. Don’t try to study for 24 hours straight. You will get tired, and your brain will get tired. You’ll stop retaining information. It’s a good idea to take short breaks, even just for a 5 minute stretch, every half hour or hour. Get some food and fresh air. Give the information you’ve been studying a chance to sink in, and then get back to the books. Set aside time at the end of each study session to relax – don’t go to bed stressing about the exam. Your body needs sleep! Listen to some music or read a book to wind down.

  19. Know your study style

  20. Not everyone studies the same way. You may retain information the best when you talk to a friend; others may need quiet reading time; others may need to write things out repetitively. By now, you should know what works for you. Don’t study with your friends because it’s what they need. If you don’t work well that way, do your own thing. Your friends won’t be writing your exam with you, so make sure you do what’s going to work for you.

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Good luck with your studying – the end is near!