Study

Study Smarter for Your Next Exam

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Now that classes are in full swing, midterm exams and essays are back in town, and have brought their sister Procrastination with them.  If you’re anything like me, you’re absolutely dreading your first round of exams.  Luckily though, I have been doing this whole student thing for quite awhile now, (try 16 years, YIKES!) and have perfected the art of studying.  I’m here to offer you my best studying tips and tricks to make your next exam a little less stressful.

Study Tip 1: Flashcards really do help, especially for those classes that are pure memorization (hello, medical terminology!).  Not only will the process of making your flashcards help you memorize your key terms and facts, but they’re the perfect size to keep in your backpack or purse, so you can whip them out anytime you have a few free minutes.

Study Tip 2:  Make a study schedule.  I LOVE being organized.  I look forward to buying a spiffy new academic planner at the start of each semester, and I did in fact ask for a label maker for my 16th birthday (and was gifted not one, but THREE of them).  Making a study schedule is a sure way to stay organized when preparing for your next exam.  Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that you need to start studying for your exams weeks in advance, because God knows I don’t.  Instead, give yourself five days, and study for about one to two hours each day.  Write down exactly what you plan on doing each day, whether it’s rereading a chapter of your text, or reviewing your flashcards for 45 minutes.  Here’s the hardest part… You actually have to stick to your schedule!

Study Tip 3:  Get out of your house.  I know for me, if I try to sit in my living room and study, I won’t go more than 5 minutes without getting distracted by a riveting conversation with my roommates, or the newest episode of The Real Housewives of NYC.  Grab your books and head to the library or nearest coffee shop, and just get it done.  Try to avoid bringing your laptop, because we all know Facebook will be calling your name the second you open that chemistry book.

Getting into the Mindset for Summer Classes

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You’ve decided to get ahead in school or retake a class to get a better grade. When you were first signing up to take your summer classes, your parents were proud and you thought it’d be no big deal. But now your night of hanging out late with friends is making an early morning wake up for class difficult. Even a class in the afternoon is torturous, as the sun shines beautifully in a gorgeous blue sky just outside the classroom window. Seriously, how can they expect you to pay attention and do well?

Set yourself up for success by getting yourself into a particular schedule. With an online class especially, it can be difficult to motivate yourself to take  the time to prepare for your class and actually get your work done. Between internships and a social life, it’s easy for summer classes to become ignored—who wants to study during the summer anyway? Depending on the kind of class you have, specifically schedule time to do your homework and study. Even if you’re in a classroom a certain number of hours every week, make sure to set up some extra time outside of class to attend to your school obligations. There’s no point in taking a summer class period if you’re not going to even try to pass it.

Do your best to ignore the weather and your phone while doing your work or sitting in class. Close your curtains or move to your basement to avoid being distracted by the sun or tempted to take a break that stretches on for the entire afternoon. By turning off your phone for a while, you’ll avoid the temptation to hang out with your friends when you really just need an hour to write your response paper.  It might sound lame and anti-social, but hanging out will be much more enjoyable without your parents grounding you for the rest of the summer to get your work done or knowing you have no time limitations on your outing.

You can also try setting up a mini reward system for yourself for getting work done. After completing one homework assignment, give yourself a snack break or a quick swimming break. Power through an entire essay and allow yourself a day at the movies or a shopping trip. By giving yourself different motivational factors, you’ll be more likely to get your work done quickly. But don’t try to rush through what you have to do either to get to your fun time either. Putting no effort into your work is only one step up from not doing it at all.

Just treat your school work during the summer as you would during the year (which hopefully means putting some effort in, at least). It might mean having some less fun than the rest of your friends, but in the end it will be worth it. You’ll get your credits, you won’t have wasted your parents’ money by failing a class and you’ll have at least one worthwhile accomplishment of the summer. There’s plenty of time or fun, you can give up a little of it for your work.

Good luck!

 

 

A Note Taking Upgrade

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Having a powerful note-taking device at your fingertips can save a lot of time and angst.  Microsoft’s OneNote is a great option for Windows users, but most Mac users on my campus were using some variation of Microsoft Word, a solution I found unsatisfying.  In case you are unfamiliar with it, I’m talking about the “Notes” format in Word, which looks like this:

As the semester wore on, the doc got clunky, taking a long time to load and save and I found myself still juggling multiple docs between classes.  A much better alternative is Growly Notes, a powerful application that gives an incredible amount of freedom when taking notes.  Unlike Word, which confines the user to strict formatting, Growly is the equivalent of a white board.  Notes can be as structured or as scattered as you want, which is really convenient if you’re writing an essay and get inspiration for a different part than you’re writing.  Just jot it down in a text block to the side instead of having a hanging thread at the bottom of a doc, or worse, in a separate “notes” doc altogether.

Every class can have its own color, and different stages of drafts can each have their own “page” under a single heading.  My favorite feature of Growly (aside from the fact that its free) is that it has a “floating window” feature that snaps to the front of whatever application you’re currently using (for me, usually a web browser).  Say you’re studying for a final and find helpful notes on–line, you can copy and paste notes onto the floating window rather than going from browser to doc, doc to browser.  It saves a ton of time and frustration.  The floating notes are automatically saved under a separate tab.  If you are still using Word, this app is a huge upgrade and well worth the time to learn to navigate, though you will mostly find its use intuitive.

 Happy note taking!

-WonderBread

The Other March Madness

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As the semester comes to a close it inevitably gets harder to hunker down and hit the books.  The weather is gorgeous and the spring fever is tangible.  In one day, I saw 3 girls doing P90x from a laptop, a girl cutting a guy’s hair while he wore a trashbag over him like a teepee, and guys frolicking in grass playing frisbee, all out in the lawn outside my dorm in the space of about thirty minutes.  When studying while people are literally frolicking 100 feet from your window becomes unbearable, try these tips.

String up a hammock.  Back home in south Texas, everyone has a porch swing and a hammock (a little “tex” and a little “mex” I suppose).  Something about the motion and a tall glass of water with lemon in it feels like an instant vacation.  Eno hammocks are a little on the pricy side but they last and are super portable.  http://hammockcompany.com/detail.php?id=ENO-DD002

Just looking at a hammock makes me feel more relaxed, happy, and recharged.  You get all the benefits of the outdoors with none of the sun’s rays.  Prop up a book and you can be in the action but still get work done!

Do some easy cardio with a book.  High-intensity workouts may be good for burning calories, but some time on the elliptical at a moderate pace, one that still allows you to read, can bring some relief when you’re feeling cooped up with the books.  Finding time for exercise and studying can be challenging when you’re trying to have a life, too, so knocking them both out at once every now and then feels great.  It may sound like a hassle (and I definitely wouldn’t bring my stats homework) but when you get out you will feel doubly accomplished, and that’s a feeling that can get you through the toughest day.

Take a study break with a friend you don’t see very often.  Call that person up you’ve been meaning to get to know better (I feel like we all have one of those) and invite them to get a frappaccino and plop down under a tree.  Aside from the usual fun of getting to know a new person, the added benefit is if you’ve been dealing with the same stresses for a while (i.e., job, school, break up), your usual group of friends has heard it all before.

Spring can be a blessing and a curse, when you can’t go out and enjoy it, but balance your time right and keep that brain refreshed and you’ll be out there in no time!

-Wonderbread

Recover After Your All-Nighter

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First off, let me congratulate you for actually successfully staying up all night. So many people fall asleep with their coffee cups in hand, or wake up with their notes stuck to their face. So you should be pretty proud that you made it all the way through. Though, likely, right now you’re not feeling very proud. Your eyes are probably drooping, a hint of dark circles giving away your marathon school work endeavor. All you want to do is curl up and sleep forever. But, there are better steps you can take to return to your normal self.

Though after an all-nighter the only thing on your mind is skipping classes you don’t need to go to and napping, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. Your sleep schedule is screwed up, and long naps will likely only make you more tired and even more useless in the classroom. Instead, you’re going to have to force yourself to stay awake until bedtime—early bedtime that is. Think about what time you usually turn off the lights and go to bed 3-4 hours earlier. You may be thinking that’s not enough sleep. You’ll likely still be tired the next day, and we’ve all learned there’s really no such thing as “catching up on sleep,” but this step is important to get your sleep schedule back on track. By following this step, you’ll be able to fall asleep at your normal time for the rest of the week and get up in the morning as usual.

During the day following your dusk-to-dawn cram session, there are some options to help you stay awake and also remain tired enough to hit the sack earlier that night. You need to keep your day as normal as possible, following your routine like you spent the night dreaming of unicorns and butterflies. Caffeine was your friend to stay awake, but now it is your enemy. You can drink some coffee or tea in the morning to give you some energy to get through the day. After noon stick to water or some other non-caffeinated drink. Though you may have to drag yourself through the finish line, it’ll be better than getting too wired and energized that you stay awake way longer than you planned to—no need for another all-nighter.

When you do nod off or can do nothing but yawn, instead of reaching for an energy drink, you need to get up and do something. We’re all well aware that when a teacher has that droning voice or turns the lights off for a movie, at least one person is bound to fall asleep. Well, it’s not going to be you! Once your head hits the table, you’ll have a hard time waking up again. Instead, opt for a nice little walk to the water fountain. Go to the bathroom and splash some cold water on your face. Take a walk around campus and soak in some rays. You’ll feel a little more energized and you can feel a tiny bit less guilty about skipping the gym for sleep later on.

The following day, as much as you might be tempted to sleep in, you need to get up at your normal time. Just because you were good and went to all your classes after an all-nighter doesn’t mean you get to reward yourself by skipping out today and sleeping to your heart’s content. This too would throw off your sleeping schedule and keep you up later at night, thus going back into this vicious cycle of constantly being overly-tired. So, don’t hit that snooze button and set a bunch of alarms to make sure your open your pretty little eyes. By doing so, you’ll have helped repair your sleep schedule and it’ll be as if that horrible all-nighter never happened.

Finally, you should remember all-nighters should be kept at a minimum. Don’t torture yourself by staying up all night several times a week because you put off homework or studying. Cramming and waiting until the last minute won’t get you very far in your classes or your real job down the line. It’s not only bad for your grades and your work ethic, but you can seriously throw your body completely out of whack. So, rather than sitting here reading this article to get ready for an all-nighter or feeling like death because you just finished one and need some help getting over it, try making a schedule and getting nights of regular sleep. You’ll thank yourself later.

-ToonyToon

I’m reading Short Course in Digital Photography

Brain Foods to Get You Through Midterms

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Midterms are approaching and that means it’s time to eat some brain food! The best thing you can do for yourself when you have a test is to stay hydrated. If your teacher allows water in the classroom bring a bottle to sip on when you need a moment to clear your head. If water is too boring for you, add flavor with a crystal light flavor packet; they make multiple flavors and only have 10 calories. If water is not allowed, try to drink as much as you can before a test; just make sure your professor will allow you take a bathroom break if you need one.

Another thing you can do to concentrate is to chew gum. Chewing gum stimulates the brain while maintaining a singular focus.  According to Livestrong.com, “Balanced nutrition plays a part in testing well. The Food Research and Action Center discovered that students who eat a complete instead of partial breakfast work more quickly with fewer math and number errors than those who don’t. Healthy eating also contributes to better performance on vocabulary and visual skills tests.”

The night before your midterm, eat a well-balanced dinner. A brainy dinner needs to include multiple food groups. I normally prepare a meal from: Grains (pasta, corn, bread); Protein (chicken, fish, nuts); Vegetables (carrots, peas, baked potato). Choose foods that you like and that are also healthy for you. If you’re up late cramming and get hungry, try eating a yogurt or some fruit. Lighter foods late at night will give you a boost without sticking to your stomach. If you want, reward yourself after you ace your exam with your favorite dessert!

The day of your midterm, eat a big breakfast. Eating breakfast in the morning helps get your brain and metabolism going. A good healthy breakfast could be a bagel with peanut butter, eggs, or cereal. Adding dried fruits to your cereal is an easy way to balance out your big meal. Make sure to include both carbs and protein. Aim to eat a breakfast around 300 calories; anything larger might upset your stomach and do more harm than good. Along with breakfast, try a cup of coffee. The extra caffeine will give you a morning boost; especially if it’s right before a test. Controlling your caffeine intake is key, as it can be a depressant as well as as stimulant, so stick to orange juice if your exams are later in the day.

Studying for a test will only get you so far. If you aren’t in the right physical or mental state during your Midterms, you’ll do worse than you probably should have. So get some sleep, don’t stay out the night before drinking and eat some brain food before your big exams!

-Speedy G.

I’m reading Psychology: Modules for Active Learning

Tips for Reducing Stress During Finals Week

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Finals are right around the corner- are you ready? It’s the time of year when students from coast to coast are stressed, nervous, and anxious. Students are stressed because of the realization that they have three weeks worth of work to do and one week to finish it all. They are nervous because if they fail a class it would be devastating. I know I’ve had all of those feelings at one point or another during finals week, but over the years I’ve found some ways that I deal with the stress of finals week. Here are some tips and tricks I have learned along the way

  • Find Yourself a Study Group. This will allow all members of the group to split up the work evenly. It’s an efficient way to make the best study guide possible so that you focus on learning the study guide instead of trying to find all of the answers.
  • Sleep, Sleep, Sleep. Many of us can’t remember the last time we got eight hours of sleep. This makes finals much harder, because the brain needs proper time to shut down and recharge. When it doesn’t recharge properly, you will notice yourself being slightly “out of it.” In my opinion, getting sleep and studying in the morning is much better for finals week than not sleeping at all.
  • Know Your Study Schedule. As soon as you know when your finals will be held, create a schedule so that there are no surprises. Surprises during finals week are never good. Take the time to figure out exactly when you will study for what exam and stick to the schedule. Being organized is key during finals.
  • Find Music to Keep You Going. Pick some music that helps your brain keep going. Just make sure that it’s not a distraction. The right songs won’t be very noticeable because you’ll be busy studying. The wrong songs will keep your brain focused on the song and not the work that’s piled up right next to you. My advice- listen to instrumentals, they are the best for me.
  • Forget About What Else is going on. Of course finals week is the time when the best video games come out, the best TV shows are on all day, and all of your friends are finished with their finals and ready to celebrate. FORGET ABOUT IT! Focus on the task at hand and you will get through finals week knowing you did your best. Even if you don’t get all of the grades you want, remember you did what you could. When it’s all over, you will either feel a sense of accomplishment or know that you didn’t try hard enough.
  • Do What Works For YOU. Hopefully by this time, you understand which study habits work the best for you. Forget about the way everybody else studies, just stick to the methods that have worked for you in the past because they are most likely to work in the future.

Use these tips as a start to a successful finals week. Remember everybody has to go through it. All of the stress, nervousness, and anxiousness will fade away with the sense of accomplishment that will come with completing your last final.  Good luck on your finals!

 

Alabaster

I’m reading Microsoft Office 2010

10 Tried and True Tips for Pulling an All-Nighter

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It’s here, the time of the year when college students from all over the country are scrambling to organize for the misery that is finals week. My gut tells me that there are some students who study weeks and months in advance to prepare, however the rest of us will have some long nights and early days in the next week or two. I know I will. If you’re a freshman, you might be asking yourself, how am I supposed to learn 10 chapters of Spanish in one day? Or how can I memorize this 15-page study guide in one night? The answer is simple: Pulling the infamous all-nighter. The all-nighter is among the most deadly weapons that a procrastinating student can use in this battle of knowledge that is “higher education.” Most of us have been there before, some of us multiple times, so what is the best way to use this weapon? Here is a list of tips that I’ve come up with during my 3 years in college.

  1. Study Groups – Think about it this way. Everyone in the class must complete the 10-page study guide. If 5 students all chip in, that’s only 2 pages of work for each person. Furthermore, it will give everyone more time to study what he or she needs to know instead of searching for answers.
  2. Caffeine – Whether your caffeine fix involves coffee, soft drinks or energy drinks, finals week is the time to use it to your advantage. Do NOT overuse caffeine if you’re panicking. My advice is study for 90 minutes, then take a short break and consume your drink of choice. Use sparingly and caffeine will be your friend.
  3. Take Breaks – This will ultimately slow you down, but it will help you avoid being sidetracked. I usually take a break every 90 minutes to give my brain a rest from information overload.
  4. Music – I like instrumental music the best during finals week. I’ve found that it’s less of a distraction and it still keeps my brain stimulated. I think it’s ultimately beneficial and helps time go by faster.
  5. 2 Tests to Study For? – It’s best to switch up subject every once in a while, to avoid brain drain. Try studying subject 1 for 90 minutes, taking a short break, and studying subject 2 for 90 minutes.
  6. Don’t Fall Asleep – This is without a doubt the most challenging part of pulling an all-nighter. Some tips on staying awake: take a cold shower, spicy foods can help, exercise will get your blood pumping again, take a smoke break, play a quick game of solitaire, make a quick phone call or talk to someone from your class about your study guide. What ever you do, DO NOT take a nap. That 10 minutes will turn into 30, which will turn into the entire night.
  7. Don’t Give Up – If you find yourself in an impossible studying position, just keep on moving. This can be very hard when your stress level is that high, however I have found that it is best to suffer through it. Think about it this way: do you want to go home and fall asleep, knowing that you gave up? Or do you want to study hard all night and go into the exam feeling confident?
  8. Forget about “I’ll finish this in the morning” – No, you wont. Especially if you are getting little to no sleep already. Think about it realistically: If you go to bed at 5 am, and have a test at 9 am, do you really think that you will wake up at 7am and do equations? It’s nearly impossible to wake up clear-headed and ready to do work after two hours of sleep.
  9. Try to laugh – It will keep your stress from taking over, and it will keep your brain stimulated. Try your favorite YouTube videos during breaks. Also a good way that I’ve found is to call a classmate who you know will be less prepared than you. Their progress will give you that little tiny bit of motivation needed to move on.
  10. Stay Confident – This is easier for some than others, but staying confident and positive about your scholastic ability will ultimately help your study session. For example, knowing that you have the confidence to do well will help your brain take in more information. It’s like knowing you’re better than someone in basketball, that confidence might just be the difference in the game.

Bonus Tip – If you’re freaking out, call your Mom or Dad. I have done this many times over the years, and it has helped me greatly. There is something about talking to my mother that helps me calm the storm and keep moving forward. Tell your Mom or Dad that you are freaking out, and ask them for advice. Their advice might not be golden, but just talking to them will help lower your stress levels.

All-nighters are technically not great for your body or mind, however sometimes you have to step up to the plate and do what you have to do, or fail. The choice is yours, choose wisely!

Good Luck Everyone.

Alabaster

I’m reading Economics: Principles, Problems, and Policies