Monthly Archives: April 2009

Yay! It’s Summer! Now Get a Job.

The B.A. Blog just wants to say “Congrats on being done all your finals!” and hopefully you have spent the past week relaxing in whatever way, shape or form you wanted to relax in. Like watching really time-wasting TV, moving permanently into Facebook-land, spending the last of your student loan cash on summer clothes, spending the last of your cash on relaxing beverages, or just lying on the floor staring at the ceiling, quietly repeating “Thank goodness I made it.”

Whatever the case may be, perhaps reality is rushing back at you in the guise of your bank account balance, which could very well have the following tagline attached to it: “Get up off the floor and find yourself some form of  a paycheck!” If you aren’t one of the lucky ones who have their summer job all lined up in advance with a start-date and everything, you might be looking for a way to make some cash over the next few school-free months. Here are a few local places to check:

Good Luck with the Job Search! Unless, of course, you were born under a lucky star and are traveling to Europe or a tropical country for the next few months, or you were born under a less-lucky but probably more productive star and taking some spring classes to get the old degree finished faster. In any case, may it all go well!

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Facing the Final: Tip #4 for Exam Success – Study Methods

There is no one “right” way to study. It really depends on what you’re studying for, how you learn, how much time you have, etc. Most people develop a system that works best for them, and then alter it as needed!

System 1: Hands On And/Or The Outline
Some people learn kinetically. That is, they don’t absorb simply by reading material. They need to be hands-on. Exams, especially in the Bachelor of Arts program, are rarely hands-on. In this case, these people might learn best by rewriting notes in a shortened, outline style format. Rewrite the notes with main headings and subheadings to show how topics relate to one another, and use point form to jot down important facts, vocabulary, etc. Then spend time going over the outline, learning it through and through.

System 2: The Q&A
Others prefer to answer questions to practice what they know. If old tests are available, those can be very useful tools, obviously. Some textbooks have great question sections. Some instructors give out sample questions that you might see on the exam. If none of the above apply, it’s time to do a little more work. Go through the textbook/notes and make your own questions. Then practice answering those.

This method lends itself well to studying in groups. You can trade questions and go over answers with other group members, which is always useful since others are more likely to come up with questions you wouldn’t have thought of and so don’t know the answer to ahead of time. You can also get a friend who knows nothing about the class to ask you questions from the textbook/notes, and you can answer them yourself. Excellent practice for the exam.

System 3: The Student Becomes the Teacher
Another very useful way to learn material is by teaching it to somebody. You can do this either with other classmates or with a friend who knows nothing about the class. Explain concepts to them, define vocabulary, discuss issues and opinions. Get them to interact and ask questions back or delve  if you didn’t explain something thoroughly enough. This back-and-forth is a great way to ensure you know the material inside out.

System 4: Memorize
Some people really have a photographic memory, or close enough to it, that they can go through their notes, memorizing them in entirety. This doesn’t ensure you understand the concepts – but if your notes are detailed enough and this is how you remember best . . . then go for it!

System 5: Cram It!
Well, we all know that cramming is not the best method of studying, the brain does not retain the information effectively, etc, etc. But let’s face it. If you have six exams in five days, there may not be adequate time for you to prepare at your leisure. When worst comes to worst, you may just have to cram. In this case, make as little work for yourself as possible. Go through the notes/textbook first. Cross everything out that you already know just from showing up in class and being a reasonably intelligent individual. You may surprise yourself with how much you already know and how much help a really quick review can be. Things you somewhat understand and could likely figure out on the test you can skim over. Concepts that are trickier or more in-depth you can then spend most of your time focusing on.

However, if time is REALLY an issue, and you’re really overtired, and your brain is packed too full to even do this, then cram the easy stuff. Focus on the fact that you’ll get the easy questions at least, and for the tougher ones, you’ll just have to use what’s left of your brain power!

The important thing is to study. It doesn’t matter how – take some time to think about what methods work best for you and for the particular class and for your particular situation and type of exam.

And . . . . GOOD LUCK!

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Facing the Final: Tip #3 For Exam Success – Set a Schedule

Tip #3: Set a Revision Schedule
Go ahead. Be a geek and create a study schedule. It’s a bit of work to set one up, but it’s worth it for sure.

Planning Your Schedule
If you have a number of exams coming up, especially if they are scheduled fairly close together, it can be hard to figure out what to revise and when. Since you can’t always just study for one exam, write the exam, and then move on to the next, you might need to be juggling a lot of material in your head all at once, and a schedule can help you keep that clear.

Start by looking at your exams. There may be some that you can’t really study for (ie, an essay exam for English with a topic you will find out on the date). There may be some that are not cumulative, and so you will not have as much material to study for them. There may be some that you can count on as being fairly simple and straightforward; others will be complicated and require a lot of studying.

Once you have filled in the dates of your exams on a blank calendar page, look back to today’s date. Then begin to set your schedule. How many hours do you have each day to study? Which exams are most important? Which ones do you need more time to study for? Fill in a schedule with blocks of time for different subjects. Some people can’t study for more than one subject on one day; but it is possible, especially if you give yourself a break in between or choose to study one topic in the morning and one in the evening, for example.

Once you’ve filled out a revision schedule that makes sense, considering all the factors, you’re good to go! You can make it as pretty as you want with colour-coding and highlighters, or set one up on an Excel spreadsheet or use an Iphone application for it – it doesn’t matter as long as you have a schedule.

Keep To The Schedule
There will be days that you don’t follow your schedule exactly, sure. Who can predict what’s going to happen? But do your best to stick to the schedule once you have it down on paper. One reason we procrastinate is that we don’t even know where to start. This schedule takes that issue away. You know what you need to work on and when you can work on it. You’ll get a lot more accomplished by sticking to your plan. Cross off or check off each day when you finish it. Satisfying!

Be Realistic
You don’t want your schedule to assume that you suddenly have superhuman powers of concentration. Be realistic. If there is a day where you have classes and then work late, it may not be possible to study all three of your exam subjects that day, even if you schedule yourself to stay up till 3 a.m. Make sure you include time to eat and sleep, as well as other breaks. If your schedule is do-able, you’ll be more likely to stick to it than if you overestimate your own abilities.

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Facing the Final: Tip #2 for Exam Success – The Power of Positive Thinking

Continuing on in the blog series on tips for exam success with another tip today. This one is all about the mental preparation you need going in.

Tip #2: The Power of Positive Thinking
It may sound cheesy, but having a positive attitude can change the way you approach an exam, help to relax you during an exam, and give you less anxiety after the exam. Let’s discuss further!

Pre-Exam Attitude
It’s not like you need to jump for joy because of the fact that you’ve got a final coming up. However, think about the way you respond mentally or physically whenever you think of the upcoming exam. You might feel anxiety, dread, despair, exhaustion, grumpiness. Every time you mention the exam, you probably are either complaining or stressing about it and even your tone of voice will reflect that. You might involuntarily clench your fists or frown when you talk about it, think about it, or hear others mention it.

What if you tried to go from negative thoughts and reactions to slightly more neutral ones? Try thinking to yourself “Everyone has to write exams. It’s nothing out of the ordinary. It’s not like I didn’t expect this when I signed up for university. Exam week is going to be a lot of work and pressure, but at the end of the day, these are just exams, not death sentences. In a couple of weeks, it’ll all be over.”  You can even try joking about your exams a bit to lighten the dark mood surrounding the very thought of them. Try breathing deeply and calmly instead of getting tense and anxious physically.

It’s even possible to try to think positively about the exam, though this may be a bit extreme for many! You could think to yourself “I’ve worked hard in this class. This exam is a chance for me to show everything I’ve learned. In fact, it’s going to be a good feeling to prove that I’ve learned a lot.”

In any case, changing your attitude even slightly towards exams from a completely negative one to a more philosophical, humorous or even positive one might help alleviate some tension, which in turn may help you to stay calm and focused when studying, and keep you from procrastinating too much.

During The Test
During the exam itself, you can keep on maintaining your positive attitude just by reshaping thoughts you have. Instead of “I don’t know a single one of these questions! This is insane!” you can think to yourself “OK, this is looking tricky. But I know at least something about the subject. I’m going to give the easy questions my best shot first.”

If your mind begins to really panic, and you start “downward spiraling” in your thoughts, you may find yourself thinking things like “I’m going to fail this exam! Then I’ll fail this class and fail out of university and be a complete failure for the rest of my life!” Definitely try to keep your mind from wandering down this path. Give yourself messages like “I’m OK to pass this exam, at least. If the worst comes to worst and I fail, I may still pass the class. Whether I pass or fail the course, I can always retake the class if I absolutely need to and improve my mark the second time around. It’s going to be OK!” 

After the exam, you might fall into the trap of second-guessing yourself, comparing answers with everyone else who wrote the test, and getting butterflies in your stomach whenever you picture yourself getting the results. Again, try to change to a more neutral attitude. “It’s all over now. I can’t change it anyway so I may as well be glad that it’s done.”

Exam Anxiety
Some people have or develop a real condition called exam anxiety. In this case, no matter how positive you try to make your attitude, the thought of exams may be incredibly overwhelming and fear-inducing to the point that it’s really going to affect your performance. You can link to this post on exam anxiety for more information on symptoms, treatment, and where to go for help.

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