Archive | Tests

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Exams can be major sources of stress for even the best and brightest college student. Nailing an exam isn’t about being the smartest geek in class. No matter what level your natural intelligence, good preparation is usually the deciding factor in your grade. There are many things you can do ahead of time to give yourself an edge.

Give Yourself the Study Time

Time management and keeping a planned study schedule are some of the best things you can do to ease the stress of studying and increase retention. This means studying in relatively short intervals and making plenty of opportunities to study ahead. Studying in 20-30 minute sessions with short breaks in between is more beneficial than a single long cramming session. Your brain needs time to organize and connect with the information, and this is best done through short periods of intense focus followed by rest.

Avoiding long cramming sessions right before the test is an important part of this, too. The infamous all-night cram session before finals is notorious among college students. It is also one of the worst possible things you could do. It is better to space out your studying in short intervals as far in advance as possible, studying a little bit each day. You could do a few short sessions the night before the exam, but you shouldn’t have to. There are more important things to do the night before.

Don’t Forget Eating and Sleeping

Sometimes the difference in your grade comes down to things you may not even think are important, like eating and sleeping. In fact, these basic factors can have a tremendous effect on your ability to focus and remember during the test and during your study sessions.

Low carb diets may be the fad, but they aren’t good news for your study habits or academic success. One study of college students showed that a week of a diet high in protein and fat and low in carbs had decreased testing performance, compared to those who ate a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Small amounts of carbs taken at the right time may actually improve your mental performance. This is because the brain consumes a great deal of energy. This isn’t an excuse to gorge on donuts and soda, but a granola bar or similar snack can go a long way. Make sure to eat something the morning of the test and keep a healthy diet for the entire week before.

Proper sleep is also important. Your grade will benefit more from a full eight hours of sleep than from an all-nighter. Getting the proper amount of REM sleep has been linked to better memory and retention. Skipping this important step may put all your other hard studying work to waste.

Exercise the Body for the Mind

There is a strong link between physical exercise, mental health and cognitive ability. When you work out, you aren’t just improving your physical health. You are doing many things to improve your mental health as well.

Exercise improves oxygenation in the blood and circulation. This means more nutrients and oxygen are flowing to your brain and more waste material is being removed. These are excellent for cognitive function because your working brain consumes a great deal of oxygen. Exercise is also more likely to help you feel better and improve your mood and alertness.

A proper exercise routine is important, and this includes recovery after your workout, like a post-workout recovery drink. As ASEA demonstrates in their YouTube video, such drinks can benefit you by providing your body with a boost of needed nutrients and vital compounds.

Alternate Your Study Spots

One interesting way to improve your studying and boost retention is to find novel places to conduct said business. Instead of spending every afternoon for a week at the same table in the library, visit a coffee shop or park where you’ve never studied before. Research has shown a link between studying in new places or varying places and the level of retention. It’s a little mental trick you play on your brain that increases its attention to details. Sometimes small things really can give you that extra boost.

Preparation is the key to performance on any major college exam. Before your next big test, put in the time and effort to excel and skip the infamous habits that will only hurt your success.

This article was contributed by Hannah Whittenly.

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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.

Even the most dedicated students will go through periods when they’re struggling to focus on studying. For students who want to achieve their goals, it is imperative that they have a dedicated study plan.

Studying isn’t about how long you do it, but how much you learn. When you’re studying, it’s important to try and avoid any distractions, and focus on the task at hand. Effective studying isn’t about sitting at your desk and staring at a book all day. In fact, research has shown that studying is more effective in short blocks. Do some work and take a break – you will find that you learn more overall.

Have a look at this infographic from Study Medicine Europe for more detail on how you can make the most of your study time. Work smarter, not harder!

This article was contributed by guest author Aris Grigoriou.

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Have you ever been studying for hours and all you could remember was one sentence? Did those hours ever turn into days and days into weeks? There are probably numerous factors affecting your productivity while studying, including stress, time of day, and motivation, but one that you might have overlooked is your physical environment. In fact, a study done with primary school pupils proved that physical surroundings can impact children’s performance and well-being in general by as much as 16 percent. College students are not immune to this influence either. When studying at home, in a rented apartment or in a dorm, you are the only one in charge of your focus, and one thing that can help you (or sabotage you) is the environment. Here is everything you need to know about your physical surroundings and productivity.

Background Noise
Do you have trouble keeping your attention focused or get easily distracted? Can even a quiet sound pull you out of the book to your surroundings? Sometimes it isn’t just about the volume. Many students get distracted by the most ordinary and inconspicuous “noise”, like a leaking faucet. Others can’t seem to focus when it’s too quiet. The trick is getting to know yourself. Do you perform better in silence or perhaps you need background music to be able to focus? Try to study at the library, park, and coffee shop and see which level of noise keeps your brain sharp.

Reading in dim lighting strains your eyes, while harsh artificial lighting can give you a headache, but this factor goes way beyond eye problems. Lighting affects alertness, concentration and cognitive performance in general. Too much artificial light can make you stressed and sleepy. The temperature and direction of lighting are significant factors that can hurt or enhance your studying results. Cool white sources with a temperature of 6,500 Kelvin or higher and warm white light sources like halogen lamps are the most suitable. Planar light sources are the best when it comes to direction, since they mimic natural light.

You may be able to stay focused in a too hot or too cold room, but only for a little while. These circumstances are bound to become unbearable. The temperature will quickly become everything you can think about, which will distract you from studying. Find the most comfortable temperature for you, set the thermostat (if you don’t have one – get one) and make sure it is constant, because changes in temperature can also mess with your concentration.

Air Quality
Poor air quality, which is most frequently caused by problems with heating, air-conditioning, ventilation systems, and insufficient cleaning, can play a major role in studying performance. Polluted air makes learning uncomfortable by causing problems like coughing, watery eyes, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Some of the steps that are useful for improving air quality in a studying space are opening the windows several times a day, switching to organic cleaning products, cleaning your air-conditioner filters, introducing indoor plants, and using HEPA air purifiers which don’t make a lot of noise, but still purify the air efficiently.

“Oh look, my smartphone. I should probably check Facebook for important updates.” Sound familiar? Of course, studying can be interesting if you are learning about a subject you like, but most of the time it is boring or difficult, so everything around you seems like a better way to spend your time. Try to turn off your phone (and computer if you are not using it for studying) or leave it in some other room. Reward yourself with breaks when you will be allowed to check your e-mail, complain about the hardships of studying on Facebook, etc. Also, too much comfort can be a distraction – a cozy blanket and soft pillows simply call for an afternoon nap.

You should take all these factors into account and try to create the perfect environment that will boost your productivity.

This article was contributed by guest author Chloe Taylor.

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When it comes to studying, so much depends on your organization – where you study separates a straight-A student from an average one. You have to be organized, systematic and methodic in order to achieve success. And you have to repeat it day after day, from enrolment into college to graduation. The best way to get fully organized is to organize your study room – in your dorm or at home – and achieve a certain level of comfort in this area so you won’t mind spending countless hours there. Here’s how.

No Distractions
This may be the biggest problem for students across the USA – there are just too many distractions around them! Smartphones, TVs, computers, fridges, beds and other people constantly distract them from their studying, so they’d rather catch up with the revival of Gilmore Girls than do some actual work.

The best way to limit distractions is to remove them from your immediate surroundings. Leave the phone in the kitchen, unplug the TV, switch your Wi-Fi router off and forget about sleeping or eating for a few hours. Even if you are the most disciplined student ever, don’t try your luck around these interruptions and just leave them behind. Or, learn how to use them so that it’ll be beneficial for you.

Organize Your Literature
Exemplary students own tons of books, textbooks and other studying material that assist them. However, unless organized adequately, these will occupy your entire room in an instant. That’s why you need to come up with a good system. The most important thing is a proper shelf – regardless of how big it is, you must have one if you want to organize your books. If you have a problem with the space as all students do, think outside the box and, instead of purchasing a huge shelf, make one on your own or create a unique piece that doubles as a headboard for your bed.

Declutter, Declutter, Declutter
Students possess too many things and bring too much stuff into their dorm rooms – and that’s only natural with the abundance of books, magazines, foods and drinks that go through their hands every single day. But, if this mess overtakes you, you’ll be frustrated and unable to hit the books.

Find time to clean your room once a week and figure out what you do and don’t need in your study area. That way, you’ll leave enough time for studying and won’t have to waste precious minutes cleaning day after day.

Investigate Alternative Spaces
You don’t have to study behind the desk all the time, you know. When in college, you can do basically whatever suits you, as long as it brings results. So, stop forcing habits you don’t enjoy.

For example, numerous students take their books to bed. While many think this is a bad idea and that your mind associates the bed only with sleeping, others think this is the best thing ever. Additionally, explore other spaces – relocating to the floor, the window seat or the kitchen can do wonders for your productivity.

Find a Suitable Desk
The problem with US dormitories is their what-you-see-is-what-you-get philosophy. While some don’t mind adaptations and redecorations, others frown upon any changes. This could be a problem for a number of students because their default beds or desks aren’t suitable.

That’s why you should find a way to bring in your own desk. See if your old high school desk is still functional, or make a new one. Both of these options are fine, as long as they allow you to study.

Organize the Desk
Now that you’ve found the perfect desk, it’s time to organize all your writing utensils and studying material. Purchase some pencil cups, desk organizers, vertical shelves, folders, file carriers, boxes and plastic containers.

Also, organize your wires and cords with a coated wire basket – this is especially useful with those excellent ergonomic standing desks that support your spine during longs hours of studying. Finally, if you need help keeping track of all your tasks, install a bulletin board.

The Results!
Once you organize your study room – whether it’s in your dormitory or at your home – you’re ready to go! You’ve got all your necessities close by, there are no distractions and you’re completely focused on your work. Soon you’ll realize that an organized study area will result in better grades.

This article was contributed by guest author Lana Hawkins.

Image by Samuel Zeller,

Image by Samuel Zeller,

Studying is hard. You have countless facts and ideas that must be memorized, then put into practice to show that you have mastered these concepts.

Students regularly “burn out” because they hit a wall when they study. They’re unable to progress because they lose the motivation to do so, which in turn leads to faltering grades and a harder time completing that often highly-priced education.

Let’s take a look at four study strategies that can help you overcome study burnout:

1. Take Breaks During the Day
Despite what seems sensible, continuing to push yourself in one direction without a break will lead to less progress than if you take proper breaks. This happens because, unlike a machine, your drive tends to wear out as you focus on one topic for a prolonged period.

To overcome this, ensure that you take regular breaks. Get up, stretch, walk around, or even take a small jog. A distraction can provide enough relaxation to give you the boost you need to avoid study burnout while efficiently learning your course material.

2. Take Care of Your Body
Your brain’s ability to think clearly is often a direct reflection of how well you maintain your body. Everything from the food you eat to the restfulness of your sleep will dictate how much energy you have to learn.

To ensure that you can study for longer periods of time and in more effective ways, you should:

• Eat well: Avoid the temptation that is fast food by opting for healthy, nutritious foods. Home-cooked meals including fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables will provide your body and mind with ample nutrients to stay strong.
• Exercise regularly: Exercise encourages blood circulation, which helps to bring oxygen and nutrients to the brain. It also helps to release hormones that can elevate your mood.
• Sleep well: Sleep is one of the processes your body uses to repair itself. Without adequate sleep, our brains become sluggish and unable to remember even the simplest of details.

3. Cater to Your Specialty
Many students try to balance every subject required for their degree. Medical students require a broad field of study, which ranges from English courses to non-medicine sciences.

This stretching is often what accounts for the 54.4 percent of burnout in medical specialties.

One way to avoid this is to engage in a medical program that focuses on your specialty in ways that make sense. Many Master of Science in Nursing programs, for example, focus on your needs as a prospective medical professional. Additional degree requirements are structured in ways that medical students can better understand.

If you’re a medical student who feels on the edge of burnout, another tactic is to spend a single day working on your weakest subject. By focusing solely on this study, you can empower yourself to feel more confident about all your studies, which in turn can reinvigorate your ability to learn.

4. Set Realistic Goals
One of the biggest causes of study burnout is the fact that students seldom set realistic goals. They try to, for example, cram an entire textbook worth of knowledge into their heads the night before a final exam.

When you’re setting your study goals, make sure they are:

• Specific: Reading one chapter a week is a specific goal.
• Attainable: Don’t set yourself up for failure by setting your goals too high. Keep your study goals realistic and attainable.
• Timed: Force your studying to stay within your time constraints. This will help you keep your progress steady without burning yourself out.

Studying is a Gradual Process
The one thing to realize about studying is that is a gradual process. You will need to continue learning and putting what you learn into use to keep it in your mind.

This is why shorter periods of study mixed with breaks will often yield better results than longer study marathons. If you keep your focus on your goal and take small steps, you will inevitably obtain your academic goals without burning out.

This article was contributed by guest author Anica Oaks.

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Image from

If you have a big test coming up, there is a strong chance that you are pulling all-nighters, eating unhealthy study snacks, and feeling completely anxious. You may even be found running all across campus searching for study groups or cramming all of the information you learned in class into your head. Most likely you are overwhelmed with other assignments like homework and projects.

Taking a test always promotes anxiety in students. It is completely normal to feel the pressure during a time like this. You want to do well in order to progress to the career of your dreams. However, you do not have to be one of few that crumbles under the pressure. Here are 7 proven ways to get the perfect score on any exam. Are you ready? Here it goes:

1. Power Off
The biggest mistake many students make is keeping their electronic devices on while studying. This is highly ineffective. Every time your ringtone goes off or you receive a text message, you will be distracted. For this reason, it is important that you shut off all devices — and yes that means your phone, tablet, television, and laptop. Make sure to turn everything off so that you can get the concentration that is needed to study effectively. You may be tempted to check your social media feeds or watch a YouTube video after, however studies have shown that these stimuli only keep the brain awake, therefore leading to sleepy mornings. Tell your friends that you are studying. Any great messages, Facebook status updates, or Instagram pictures can wait for another time.

2. Eat Right
The days leading up to your exam could easily cause you to slip into bad ways. The stress of studying provokes emotional eating in some while it also serves as a distraction. If you find yourself practicing any of those habits, it is essential that you replace the donuts and pizza for water, fruits, and vegetables. By now you may be thinking “Ugh, who eats that?” but these foods actually do more than just gross you out. Water replenishes you and keeps your body hydrated. According to studies, this will not only cool you down, but will also promote excellent cognitive function and physical energy. In addition to this, fruits like apples and blueberries have been found to have toxin reducing agents that maintain your memory levels. So instead of grabbing that energy drink and extra cup of coffee, try good old fashioned fruits and veggies. They never disappoint.

3. Create Mental Associations
If you are studying a complex subject that includes large amounts of abbreviated terms, try breaking the letters down into acronyms. Connect the bridge between what you know and what you learn. Place fun catchy names on difficult phrases. If you find that an important term is not relatable, get creative and think of something. For example, if you are studying the word ‘blanco’ in Spanish, think of the color of a blank sheet of paper. This method is highly effective and wins every time. Try this for any and every subject.

4. Try Whiteboards
Everyone learns differently from others. While some individuals thrive in lecture class settings, others may do better academically in museums. There are numerous learning styles that allow each person to learn effectively. For those who are visual, whiteboards are an excellent tool to use. Instead of staring at textbooks filled with words, get an erasable marker and draw the words that you are studying. For example, if you are studying math, you may find it easier if you drew figures. If you are studying a complex piece of literature, try writing out the different names and terms that call for attention. You can even get creative and use different colored markers. This is excellent for those who think in pictures.

5. Laugh!
You might find this tip quite silly but it proves effective for the most stressed students. Sure we know that exams are serious and that your future is on the line. However, you should never allow tests to cause burn out. In fact, it is proven that laughter releases built-up tension. There are so many high emotions that revolve around midterms and finals. Consider how you can find balance in the midst of a stressful test period. Most of all, relax. You will do great.

Taking an exam does not have to have you stressed to the max. Consider studying the right way by powering off, nourishing your body the right way, creating mental associations with difficult terms, using whiteboards to boost memory, and do not forget to laugh. Before you pick up that donut, try these tried and true methods the next time you have an exam.

This article was contributed by guest author Sophia Clark.

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Image by StartupStockPhotos,

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.

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. 

Tutor the People MCAT Prep
Tutor the People creates an individualized approach to MCAT tutoring and offers both in-person and online sessions. The tutors have all written the MCAT themselves, and they offer the first hour free to see if it’s something you can benefit from.

Image by Alberto G, Flickr

Image by Alberto G, Flickr

Standardized testing plays a major role in every stage of education, and in some cases, standardized testing can make or break you. You need to score well on standardized tests to get into college and grad school, and after that, you need to score well on standardized tests to enter the workforce.  In many states, high stakes tests begin as early as the 5th grade, and they bring with them a lot of pressure. There are a few things that you can do before the big test to help calm your nerves before getting your brain focused on the task:


There is a wealth of testing practice available that can help you prepare for any high stakes tests, including tutoring agencies, online practice tests, and personal tutors.  Utilizing one of these programs will get you the repetition and practice you need for the big day. Just like anything in life, practice makes perfect, and if you want to perfect that score, you need consistent practice.


Reading to education is like weightlifting to football. The more you read, the stronger your brain becomes. High stakes standardized tests require complex thinking, and the brain needs to be exercised in order to carry out that task. Reading will give the brain the exercise it needs to think through challenging questions.

Pay Attention to Vocabulary

A strong vocabulary is crucial to passing high stakes test. Be it the need for domain specific vocabulary, jargon related to a field, or simply vocabulary to sound intelligent, you need to pay close attention to the words that those around you use.  One way to do this is to listen to the words used in pop culture or in the media.  News reports are chockfull of great words that act as grace notes — the exact right word.  Begin to ask yourself, “What connotation did the word carry to make it the right word?”  You will begin to see the nuances in language, and it will help you tremendously when it comes to taking those high stakes standardized tests.

Practice Reading Questions Carefully

One thing that many people struggle with when it comes to standardized tests is question reading.  Many people begin to read the question and then skim through the rest assuming they know what the question was asking.  If you catch yourself doing this, keep this in mind:  Test takers know you do this, so they write questions to catch people who do this.  Take your time, read the question fully, and then answer the question.  If you know you are a person who skims and then responds, practice reading test questions so that you can train your brain to slow down.

Pace Yourself

Do not spend too much time stressing over one question. Time is valuable when it comes to high stakes standardized tests, so if you have to move on, do so.  If you spend too much time stressing over one answer, you could run out of time and miss questions you could have easily answered.  Move on and come back.