Tag Archives | studying

Image by Victoria Nevland, Flickr

Image by Victoria Nevland, Flickr

Starting college is both an exciting and challenging experience. As a freshman, for the first time, you’ll be making all the decisions regarding your life. If you want, you could party all night without worrying about your parents’ reaction when you get home. You can eat anything you want and go anywhere you want. However, you will have the responsibility of attending class and setting aside time for studying. It can become difficult to maintain a balance between your studies and your desire to socialize and enjoy the best years of your life. Here are some tips to help you maintain that balance.

Create a Schedule

A strict schedule that you hold yourself to can mean the difference between your success and failure as a student. In addition to your class schedule, you have to manage your time in a responsible manner. For example, just because your classes may start in the afternoon does not mean you can party all night and sleep all morning. Make sure you get enough sleep and save the partying for non-school nights or the weekends. Furthermore, you should set aside at least 15 hours each week for studying.

Keep Extra Activities to a Minimum

You may be excited to join every club and organization on campus. However, you’ll want to be careful not to wear yourself thin. Until you get comfortable with your course-load and new environment, limit extracurricular activities to just a few.

Diet and Exercise

While it may not seem so, your diet and exercise habits will have a huge effect on your ability to do well in school. How well you diet and exercise in college will translate to your ability to deal with stress, concentrate, have energy, and keep a good mood.

Stay Connected with Home

The combination of sudden freedom, your hormones, your desire to experiment, and your course-load can make college a little hectic, so call home every now and then to gain perspective. Remember that there are people who love you and who have your best interests at heart. Don’t let the demands from your instructors and drama from those around you stress you out.

Online Degree Program

The traditional classroom education isn’t for everyone. You may benefit from the flexibility of an online degree program. Obtaining your degree online will give you the freedom to work at your own pace without the typical distractions and setbacks of a campus. Many schools offer online degrees you can earn. An example could be the online Masters of Science in Nursing program that the University of San Francisco offers.

In college, you will undoubtedly have to work hard. However, there is still room to have fun. You just need to find a manageable balance between work and play. Remember that college is just one step in your life that will soon be over. Maintain a balance, stay focused, and enjoy yourself!

This article was contributed by guest author Rachelle Wilber.

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.

Image by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr

Image by Walt Stoneburner, Flickr

You are either a regular or an occasional victim. Either way, that uncomfortable jittery feeling is not foreign to any one of us. I am by nature a quite nervous individual and exam time for me is, well…I’ll let you visualize that on your own. In brief, we can conclude that “cool, calm, and collected” are non-existent words in my dictionary come exam time.

With that being said, below are a few tips I would like to share. They are for fellow students who generally feel nervous no matter how much they’ve studied. Their anxiety does not depend upon how well-prepared they are for the exam; just the idea of an exam is enough to cause stress. I have become a champion of this feeling; all I need is to show up in the exam room and it’s as if a “nerves” switch has been turned on.

These tips have been life savers for me when managing my exam anxiety, and in my experience, have resulted in better grades. They have really given me a confidence boost, and a corresponding significant drop in my anxiety levels.

Talking to Myself

A method which I have found to be extremely useful is what I call the “talking to myself” method. We all know anxiety is a mental state, so this is what I tell myself to bring my thoughts back down to earth:

  • What is the point of feeling anxious? The only thing that it will cause is a bad grade. Is that my goal?
  • If I don’t take this exam, I’ll get a zero, and I won’t be able to get my grade back. Any mark is better than a zero.
  • I have studied the material and am ready for this exam and will receive a good grade as payoff for my time spent studying.

For those feeling nervous due to lack of studying (which shouldn’t happen!):

  • I don’t know how I’m going to do on this exam, but I have an hour (or several hours), and I’m only going to hurt my grade more if I feel anxious because I didn’t study enough. I should use this time to soak in all the content I can.
  • If I feel good about the exam, I will end up doing well on the exam.
  • This is just one exam, there is no need panic. If I don’t do well here, I will make sure to do well on my upcoming exams by studying more.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I cannot stress how important and beneficial it is to review and revise your study notes more than once. Every time I enter an exam after only reviewing study notes once, that unwanted friend of mine shows up right behind me: anxiety. He makes me feel like I don’t understand many (or any!) of the questions on the exam. Let’s just say those exams are never exactly what you would call “flawless” – and it shows in those marks.

I’ve found that whenever I make a proper routine of studying, with enough time to go over the material three times (even twice can be fine depending on your understanding of the material), I have managed to receive grades that I’m happy with.

Internalize the Content

I’ve been practicing this method recently. I wrote my exams with a lot of confidence due to the fact that not only did I memorize the material, I understood the concepts. This really helps with critical thinking questions. When you develop a concrete understanding of the content, you’re able to answer questions with knowledge – and knowledge means confidence.

Many students who attempt to merely memorize the material usually end up with bad grades because they miss something in their answers or do not answer the question properly because they didn’t understand it.

Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re studying. They have helped me with my anxiety – I hope they can help you with yours!

Image by Tulane Publications, Flickr

Image by Tulane Publications, Flickr

Many students can’t bear to head to class without their laptop in tow. Laptops have come so far – they’re fast and light, allow you to multitask (all lecture-related activities, of course), and your notes stay neat and organized. Not like your chicken-scratch writing that stops halfway through the lecture because your pen ran out of ink.

Hold on a second – there’s a lot to be said for taking notes by hand. You’ve heard before that it’s better for studying and digesting content. Let’s examine the differences between handwriting vs. typing.

Writing by Hand

  • Less distractions. There are no other open windows, no messaging icon bouncing to get your attention. You’re not tempted to open up games or Facebook or even that next class’s assignment that’s due in 20 minutes. You’re free to just focus on the lecture.
  • It takes thought. I don’t know about you, but my typing is way faster than my writing, and it’s almost mindless. A sentence runs through my head, and suddenly it’s on the screen. It’s not the same with writing by hand – you’re physically carving every letter into your paper, and that makes it stick (at least more so than typing it).
  • There’s no fluff. Since writing by hand is considerably slower than typing, you don’t have time to scribble out every word that escapes your fast-talking professor’s mouth. Yes, this is a good thing. You’re removing all the fluff and marking down the main points – which results in more brain activity since you need to understand the concepts before you can summarize them.

Typing with a Laptop

  • It’s faster and easier. Writing by hand can be stressful, and if you’re focused, typing out your notes can be much more relaxing. Your hands don’t usually cramp as fast and there’s less of a chance of you missing out on an important point. And if you did miss something, you can just slot it in later.
  • It’s organized. You don’t need to worry about figuring out what in the world that scribble was supposed to say, your bullet points are aligned, and everything is broken out into neat sections with a bold headline – maybe you’ve even thrown a table in there. It’s a beautiful thing! Even better is using the “Find” function when studying so you don’t have to waste time searching for that one time you used that one word in that one sentence.
  • Multitasking – if you’re disciplined. Stay signed out of any kind of social media – messaging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Close your internet browser and only keep open the Word document you’re using to take notes. If your professor asks for an example, that’s the time to Google an answer to show you’re keen and paying attention! Multitasking should only be lecture-related, to enhance your understanding of the topics.

Every student has their own preference and study habits. Maybe you prefer to ingest as much information as possible right from the start with handwriting and really pulling out the core concepts from the lecture. Or maybe you prefer to type out as much as you can mindlessly and go back later to analyze the content and type out summaries when studying. My advice: test out both methods and see which works better for you!

Image by Svein Halvor Halvorsen, Flickr

Image by Svein Halvor Halvorsen, Flickr

There may be more than five skills you need to become an excellent student, but the fact is that if you have not nailed the following 5 study skills, you will likely never become one. These skills can form the wall that blocks you from getting better, or the springboard that launches you into success.

1. Smart reading

You need to learn how to read quickly and how to skim read. Luckily, by using the Internet you have already become a proficient skim reader. When you use Google, you may open several tabs at once. You cannot honestly claim you have read every single page from top to bottom before clicking off it. What you tend to do is skim the page very quickly to get the main idea, and then decide whether to click off or remain and use the page. That is a form of skim reading and it comes in very handy when you are researching.

Learning how to read quickly is not as difficult as it sounds. The hardest part is convincing yourself that you can understand text if it is read faster. If you run your finger across each word as you read, you will notice that you read at a certain rate. If you speed up the rate at which your finger moves across the sentences, then you have increased your reading speed. If you still find it difficult to read the text at a faster rate, try speed-reading tools such as Spreeder or Readspeeder.

2. Writing

Upgrading your writing skills cannot only happen when completing essays to fulfill your homework tasks. You should explore additional ways to practise your writing as often as possible. Start writing anything you want – a blog or diary, a postcard, a letter, tips, a poem or even a novel. As soon as you start practising, you will feel the language flow, and in a very short time you will see how easy it has become for you to do your college writing tasks.

Get as much information from genuine academic resources or writers’ blogs as you can. Nowadays the Internet has made it possible to gain quick access to any resource you want; you need just to search for truly correct and helpful websites. Try some educational resources like Guide to Grammar and Writing by the Capital Community College Foundation, or Essaymama’s Essay Writing Guide with its own style and approach. If choosing among writers’ blogs, you can visit Positive Writer, Writer’s Digest or find any other helpful blog on your own.

3. Test preparation

It sounds like cheating, but the best way to prepare for a test is to practise at home. Most subjects and disciplines have test questions on the Internet that you can practise with. The aim is not to memorize the questions with the hope that they will appear on your test. The aim is to practise your exam technique and to learn what areas you are weak in. You can use the BrainCog resource, for example, to create online tests, exams or quizzes.

Set a time limit for home testing so you can find out how much time you need for different kinds of tasks, and how stressed you get when have limited time on testing.

4. Time management

Time management is a skill you learn through habit. The trouble is that to create a habit you have to do something repetitively for a long time. This is going to take discipline.

For each essay you write, start it with a brief plan on what you are going to do. This may be a rough draft of coming events, such as how many days you have before your deadline, how many days you have free to write, and roughly what you intend to do on those days.

Separate your plan into sections for things such as research, testing, writing and proofreading. Always create your own deadline for completion that is a few days before the actual deadline date. This gives you a little wiggle room if you are late in finishing your essay.

Now that you have your plan for coming events, you can start making your actual essay plan. Start with a structure that suits your type of essay, and add in notes about what resources you will use to research, how many words per section, and roughly how long each section should take.

Keep coming back to both your plans and adjust them as you go. For example, you may budget two days of research with roughly 6 hours of research in each. However, you may discover you need 4 days of research with 6 hours in each. Updating your plan as you go will ensure you still have a clear and “planned” date for completion.

Doing all of this may seem like adding extra work, but what you are doing is getting into the “habit” of managing your time. It forces you to become aware of how much time you are spending on your study and how much time you have left. Even more important is that you get to see how far ahead or behind you are. If you are days behind, you’ll know to start earlier in the future.

Follow this routine and you will become a better planner in general, which will help you manage your time more easily.

5. Learning Instead of Memorizing

Work towards learning concepts over memorizing textbooks. There is little you can learn in most cases from memorizing textbooks, but if you work to understand the principles and concepts of a subject, you give yourself an understanding and true learning as a result. In order to work on this skill, you will probably need to memorize at first to train your brain. Once you start relating the concepts to your own life, you will begin to understand (instead of memorize) the main valuable issues.

Smart devices have made their home in the classroom, and almost three quarters (73%) of students say that they cannot study without technology. As the notepad is replaced by the iPad students have become more reliant on technology, with 38% of college students saying they cannot go 10 minutes without checking their tablet, laptop, or Smartphone!

This article was contributed by guest author Richard Madison.

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.


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.


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.


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?

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Image by Tulane Public Relations, Flickr

Everyone wants to be a better student, and we’ve got five easy steps to make sure you’re doing your best!

Step 1: Go to class. This is the easy part, as most students do this regularly.

Step 2: This may sound a little crazy, but unless you absolutely need your laptop, leave it at home. Why? Because laptops are the gateway to distraction. The temptation to multi-task — also known as checking Facebook or Twitter, playing a game, or basically doing anything unrelated to the lecture at hand — is overwhelming, and at some point you will be sucked into doing it (I know from personal experience). A 2013 study published in the Computers & Education journal found that students who multi-task during lecture retain, on average, 11% less information than those students who are fully focused on the lecture. In other words, it can affect your mark by a whole letter grade! Additionally, not only does your laptop distract you, it can also be a distraction for students around you. The same study found that students seated near laptop users retained even less information from lectures than the laptop users themselves!

Step 3: Find a seat away from students with laptops and write out your notes with good old pen and paper. Doing this will keep you focused on what the professor is saying much more than typing on a computer screen.

Step 4: To go above and beyond, take those hastily scribbled notes and rewrite them neatly when you have spare time. Rewriting your notes should help preserve the information in your memory and it will be useful for future studying. Underline or highlight the most important points and keywords so that key concepts can be picked out quickly later on.

Step 5: Use your notes to study for an exam (obviously). However, simply reading them over won’t cut it. It is through writing and speaking that most people are best able to recall information. This is where cue cards come in. Cue cards are your friend – maybe your best friend. On one side of the card, write down questions that you have generated using your notes. Whether simple or complicated, create a question for anything you need to remember. On the other side of the card, write the answer. Next, ask yourself the questions and write out your answers on a different sheet of paper. Check if you were right (no cheating!). If not, do it again until you nail it. Rote memorization isn’t fun, but it will help you attain academic success. Doing this alone is helpful in improving your recall, but to mercilessly crush the exam you must speak the questions and answers from the cue cards out loud. This is what really improves your memorization of the material. Writing out answers is slow and your mind can get distracted, but by repeating the solutions to yourself out loud, you become able to recall the answer quickly and efficiently. Whichever technique you decide to use, studying is all about grinding out the material and the more time you put in, the better your results will be.

Image from pixabay.com

Image from pixabay.com

It was impossible. I had a huge assignment due in a few days, and there was no way I could have it done by then. The assignment involved a massive workload, which would take me a lot of time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that time. To save my grade, I decided to skip class to work on my assignment.

Skipping class meant missing out on a lot of knowledge I’d need for future tests; it’s amazing how much content can be covered in a 3-hour lecture. It also meant I was less informed about homework and assignments that were due. To stay up-to-date with class, I asked friends to send me their notes and to figure out what assignments and tests were upcoming. If I did not have a friend in a class, I was forced to ask a stranger when I got back.

Knowing I was on a short deadline, I made sure to manage my time wisely. I put away my phone, knowing that calls and texts would distract me. I listened to music, as it allowed me to focus better. I made sure to take breaks only when I needed them, as they could be time-consuming. When I did take breaks, I kept them to five minutes and watched YouTube videos, which were the perfect length for a short break.

I drank caffeine to stay awake and focused. Skipping class was exciting, even if it was to study. I got to miss class and be very productive in a limited time. However, I had to rely on someone else’s notes to be accurate, I couldn’t ask my professor questions on new material, and I was pressed for time. But I felt I had no choice. I normally got As on the assignments I skipped class to complete and I was relieved to have them done on time. If I had gone to class, I probably wouldn’t have finished them at all; but there was a significant tradeoff in the lessons I missed.

I do not recommend skipping class to study or finish assignments. Being on a tight deadline, I was very anxious, constantly looking at the clock with my stomach in knots. The stress of finding someone who would give me notes from the lecture I missed was not an easy task either; even once I had them, I couldn’t guarantee they would capture all the important information. I risked missing pop quizzes, and felt the effect through deductions in my attendance and participation marks. Skipping class to study saved my grade a few times, but be sure to weigh the pros and cons before you do it yourself. Attempt to manage your time instead throughout the semester to avoid last minute assignments.

Image by bibliothekarin, Creative Commons

Image by bibliothekarin, creativecommons.org

You get home from school and check all your syllabi, only to discover that you have a big project due the next day. You haven’t even started it yet. What is there left to do but pull an all-nighter?
All-nighters are common, with many people experiencing them throughout their university careers. They may not be your preferred mode of doing things, but sometimes they’re your only option. If you’ve never pulled an all-nighter before, you may be anxious about it. Never fear. All-nighters usually go swimmingly, if you keep a few things in mind.

Some tips to remember when pulling an all-nighter are:

  • Stock up on caffeine. You’ll be staying up all night, and you don’t know what time you’ll need a caffeine kick at – your nearest coffee shop may not be open. Remember not to overdo it on the coffee, as it can have side effects that may adversely affect your work (and your health).
  • Manage your time wisely. Plan how will you spend your time. Avoid taking breaks that are too long – remember, if you’re pulling an all-nighter, that means you have a very short amount of time to complete an assignment. Taking long breaks runs the risk of not completing everything by morning.
  • Avoid talking to friends. This may be too distracting for the short period of time you have to complete things.
  • Listen to music. This will make the whole process much more enjoyable for you. You may just find yourself being more productive, because you’re more focused on what you’re doing instead of thinking about how quiet and cozy your house seems.
  • Take a short nap once you’re done working. If you have time, why not take a nap? It will leave you refreshed in the morning and may even make the all-nighter process more bearable for you. On the same note:
  • Don’t take a nap if you’re not done the assignment. When you stay up all night, your body is extremely tired, and may not wake up when prompted. Don’t risk falling asleep for the whole night.
  • Set multiple alarms. It is very possible that you will be so tired the next morning that you miss the first alarm. How awful would it be to stay up all night finishing an assignment and not wake up in time to hand it in?
  • Proofread in the morning after you’ve taken a nap, had a shower, or downed a cup of coffee. You’ll be more alert, making it less likely for you to skim over errors.

You may be nervous about pulling an all-nighter if you’ve never done it before. Don’t fret. All-nighters can go well, if you plan them well. Of course there are drawbacks like losing out on sleep, lacking in the quality of work and the possibility of not being done on time, but unfortunately sometimes they’re your only choice. Remember: all-nighters don’t have to be a nightmare. They can be fun, if done right. Cheers and happy studying!