Author Archive | Abbas H.

Image by ccarlstead, Flickr

Image by ccarlstead, Flickr

With exams staring us right in the face, we’re left wondering where the time went. Remember when you thought you had a couple of months to figure out that chapter you’d skipped before? Yeah, those couple of months are gone. So what are you supposed to do now? Start with studying as hard as you can with these 10 Study Tips. One thing you should make sure not to do is to freak out in the exam. You’ll end up spoiling all the studying you’ve done up until then. But how do you manage that? Glad you asked:

Exam Tip #1: ALWAYS read, re-read, and understand the question
Read the instructions carefully. Many students will not take the time to do this and later on realize they did an entire exam worth 50% of their grade incorrectly. It’s better to ask for clarification than lose tons of marks on avoidable errors.

Exam Tip #2: Go through the entire exam before starting & allocate your time wisely
One mistake that most students make is to not preview the exam and properly read the questions. Identify and understand all parts of the exam. Decide which questions will be easier to do and which ones will be more elaborate, and budget your time. Allot time to review the exam and make corrections. The majority of the time, you’ll think of a something new to add while reviewing the exam, and when you do, write the point down immediately.

Exam Tip #3: Break the question down and take notes on it before starting
Read each question carefully, underlining (or highlighting, whatever you are more comfortable with) keywords. For numerical problems, in exams such as Accounting and Finance, identify what you have and what you need. When the exam starts, it helps to quickly write down information that you have been trying to memorize. This allows you to think logically, and with less pressure. Sometimes markers can even see the basic understanding of the question from your notes, and you may end up getting some extra marks for that.

Exam Tip #4: I think it’s time to move on…
Another major error that most students make is getting bogged down by certain questions. They end up spending half the time on the first question, then cramming the other 2-3 questions into the last half of the exam. Always, and I repeat, ALWAYS, keep track of how long the question is taking you. If it is bogging you down, move on. You are jeopardizing marks from the other questions by spending so much time on a question you don’t know how to do.

Exam Writing Tip #5: Do not skip any questions
If all you can do is provide a definition, then do so. If you’re short on time, answer in point form instead of complete sentences. Write down anything you know that is related to the question. Part marks are better than nothing, right?

Exam Writing Tip #6: Blanked out? The world hasn’t ended just yet…
Don’t panic and allow anxiety to take control of how you’re going to do on the exam. Ask yourself, “What do I need to know to answer this question?” and start writing down your thoughts. Think of the key points your instructor may have spoken about during the review class, or throughout the term. See if any of them are applicable to the questions. Put yourself in the marker’s shoes and consider what they would be looking for. Avoid negative self-talk – focus on the task instead of yourself.

Exam Writing Tip #7: Always review your work
Take the time to go over the exam and check your answers. Don’t change anything unless you are 100% sure it is wrong. Check mathematical answers by performing reverse calculations, and look at the processes you used. Make sure you’ve answered everything that was asked for.

Exam Writing Tip #8: Done early? That’s what you think
Don’t leave until the exam proctors throw you out! Okay, maybe don’t be that stubborn. Sometimes, students are just too eager to leave the exam room; as soon as they’re done, they want to hand in the exam and dip. Give yourself ample time to proofread your exam properly a couple of times.

Exam Writing Tip #9: Multiple choice
MCQ’s can be a tricky business; the key is to really understand what the question is asking you. Most of the time, the real question is hidden somewhere in a complicated paragraph, or under a set of complicated-looking numbers. As my finance prof says – Don’t freak out. Focus.

Students usually think they can read the question and figure out the answer by memory. That is the wrong approach to take. Read the choices available to you… and don’t just stop when you come upon the one that seems likely.

  1. Don’t select the choice that is true; select the choice that is RIGHT for the question asked.
  2. Don’t skip a response if it seems too simple. So what? Not everything has to be rocket science.
  3. Don’t change your answers without good reason, especially if you’re saying, “Hmm…the last two choices were ‘d’, this one can’t be ‘d’ too.” Believe it or not, yes it can.
  4. One thing that always helps me is eliminating responses as I read them. No, No, Maybe, No. Well then, the answers pretty clear here, right?

Go out there and nail those exams. Remember, once you’ve aced them, you’ll be on break! Always look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.


Image by ImagineCup, Flickr

Image by ImagineCup, Flickr


For some of us, even if we don’t like to admit it, presentations are a task that we dread. For some people, the pressure of the moment and being the centre of attention is motivating, but for the others, it’s like having to walk through a spider’s web, or even worse, having to get out of bed on a Monday morning! Semester’s end is usually marked with loads of assignments, frantic exam prep and, like it or not, a couple of presentations here and there. Whether you’re a presentation pro or a nervous newbie, I’ve compiled some tips that should help you get through your next speech:


  1. Remember the 10-20-30 Rule
  2. This rule states that a PowerPoint presentation should have no more than 10 slides, last no longer than 20 minutes, and have no text smaller than 30 point font. The important thing is to get the message across, be clear and concise, and do not beat around the bush.

  3. Be Entertaining
  4. Speeches should be entertaining and informative. I’m not saying you should act like a dancing monkey when giving a serious presentation, but keep in mind that simply reciting dry facts without any passion or humour will make people less likely to pay attention.

  5. Slow Down
  6. It is common for people to be nervous when giving a presentation. Some speakers, whether nervous or inexperienced, tend to talk way too fast, so it’s a good idea to consciously slow your speech down and add pauses for emphasis.

  7. Make Eye Contact
  8. Match eye contact with everyone in the room. This not only makes you look more confident, but also holds the attention of your audience.

  9. Don’t Read
  10. This one seems like a no-brainer, but somehow PowerPoint makes people think they can get away with it. You need to show the professor and the class that you know what you’re talking about. The only way you can get your point across is by actually understanding it yourself.

  11. Speeches are About Stories
  12. Stories create the bond between you and the rest of the people in the room, which is necessary to hold their attention! Give a real-life example, or make up a fictional tale that will help your audience grasp your content in an interesting way.

  13. Project Your Voice
  14. Make sure you know the difference between projecting your voice and yelling. Do not attack your audience; rather, stand up straight and let your voice resonate with confidence and surety.

  15. Don’t Plan Gestures
  16. Any gestures you use need to be an extension of your message. Planned gestures look false because they often don’t match your other involuntary body cues. You are better off keeping your hands to your side, or holding a pen in your hand.

  17. “That’s a Good Question”
  18. Have you been asked a question you can’t think of an answer to right away? You can use statements like, “That’s a really good question,” or “I’m glad you asked me that,” to buy yourself a few moments to organize your response. Will the other people in the audience know you are using these filler sentences to reorder your thoughts? Probably not. And even if they do, it still makes the presentation smoother than “um”s and “ah”s littering your answer. Speaking of which…

  19. Avoid the Presentation Killers
  20. Feeling the urge to use killers like “um,” “ah,” or “you know”? Replace those with a pause and take a short breath in. The pause may seem a bit awkward, but the audience will barely notice it and it’ll give you a second to regroup.

  21. Arrive Early
  22. Don’t act like a technologically challenged person, fumbling with PowerPoint while people are waiting for you to speak. Arrive early, scope out the room, run through your slideshow, and make sure there won’t be any glitches.

  23. Practice, Practice, and then Practice Again
  24. Practice makes perfect! Have your buddies listen to your presentation, again and again if possible (sorry in advance to anyone who will need to listen to a presentation repeatedly). This will increase your familiarity with speaking in front of real people and allow you to gauge their reactions to certain sentences. It will make you more competent and confident when you approach the podium.

  25. Put Yourself in the Audience
  26. When writing a speech, see it from the audience’s perspective. What might they not understand? What might seem boring? Use WIIFM (What’s In It for Me) to guide you.

  27. Have Fun
  28. Sounds impossible? With a little practice, you can inject your passion for a subject into your presentations. Enthusiasm is contagious.

Image by Celestine Chua, Flickr

Image by Celestine Chua, Flickr

I bet all of you have started the Winter semester motivated and on the front foot. Typically, the first month of classes is when students actually keep up with readings, assignments, lectures and whatnot. Towards the tail end of the semester though, when the assignments and exams start to really pile up, all the motivation is gone. All you want to do is to get across that finish line somehow. So, I thought I’d compile a list of tips to help you stay motivated through the semester:

  1. Manage your time
  2. This is the most important tip. You’d be surprised how many issues can be minimized by just one step – proper time management. Don’t slack. I know it gets harder as the semester progresses, but you have to manage your time and get stuff done. Don’t get lazy and put off those readings till tomorrow; tomorrow never comes.

  3. Prioritize
  4. Do you really need to watch that YouTube video right now? Do you really need to go through 9gag? It’s prioritizing not just that fun stuff, but also going out and work. You are choosing something over the other at all times. Choose your priorities carefully, and keep in mind the opportunity cost (see what I did there?). Point is, the less you tire yourself out, the better for you.

  5. Take time to relax
  6. Most students have a schedule crazier than Barack Obama’s, with classes, club events, work, networking, and schoolwork crammed into a single day. After all that, you’ve got Facebook, YouTube, and your favourite TV series to keep you up until late into the night. Doing this on a regular basis will definitely result in a major burnout. Take time to relax. Listen to some music, go out for a walk, read a book (not a course book, obviously). Take some time off.

  7. Socialize
  8. Despite your schedule, make time to go out with some friends at least every other week. Studies show that just focusing on work and school and not having any frequent informal interaction outside of these leads to anxiety and potentially, a burnout. Aaaand, you don’t want that. So make time to go out; I’m sure you can find a couple of hours at least once a week. (That time for the YouTube videos? Use it here.)

  9. Keep your eyes on the goal
  10. There is a reason you are here. Every time you start feeling lazy or start procrastinating, remind yourself about what you want to achieve. Lazy people don’t get anywhere; you have to work hard to be successful. No one said it was going to be easy.

So that’s pretty much it! I hope we all can benefit from these tips, and have a wonderful semester!

This article was originally posted on the Schulich undergrad blog. See it here.