Tag Archives | writing tips

Image by Barlas Sahinoglu, Flickr

Image by Barlas Sahinoglu, Flickr

Here you are, sitting at your desk with time to finally start (and finish) your writing assignment. A fresh cup of your favourite tea or coffee is steaming next to your desktop, standing as a source of refuel for when your energy fades and dips down to dangerously low levels later on. A notebook filled with your outline and ideas (peppered throughout with the occasional artsy doodle) lays open to your left. A fresh, blank page is stretched across the screen, the blinking cursor at the top flashing steadily at a hypnotizing tempo.

And you swear it’s mocking you because you’ve unfortunately contracted the most horrific and prevalent syndrome known to all mankind – the dreaded writer’s block.

Common symptoms include (but are not limited to): temporary paralysis of the fingers whenever in contact with keyboards, blank expressions of glazed eyes staring into digital screens, and/or strong urges to rip out hair and throw said computer device out the window.

But fear not, this enemy can be vanquished! Whether it’s an academic project or personal hobby piece, these following tricks should help in pushing through that seemingly indestructible wall that stands between you and your finished product.

1) Divide and conquer. Approximately an hour a day split over the course of a week, or even an hour or two a week (depending on how big the project is and how in-advance you’ve planned it out) is much more doable than trying to power through from start to finish in the course of one day. By portioning the work load into smaller sections and spreading it out, it alleviates the high-pressure of rushing to write quickly and effectively (which in turn can likely incentivize an onset of writer’s block instead).

2) Time-out. Sometimes the best way to regain and recharge your writing-mojo is to take a break and walk away for a bit. No matter how hard you stare, the document glaring back at you will not magically write itself. Get up, do a little stretch or wiggle to loosen up the tenseness and frustration that has seeped into your bones, and go do something else for a couple of minutes. The more unrelated to writing, the better. But make sure to set a time limit (or else you may find yourself lost in a vortex of continuous YouTube videos that started with celebrity talk show interviews and have now somehow ended up in “Beat-boxing Goats: Greatest Hits 2015”). Step away – but make sure to come back.

3) Your notebook is your secret weapon. That notebook you have sitting beside you? Use it, it will help. If you’re an organized individual, then you’ve already created an outline for your project. If not, then take a few minutes to quickly pin down some ideas and important concepts that you can use as reference and checkpoints. You can do this electronically on your phone or computer, but by hand with a good old fashioned pen and paper could produce even better results as it arguably provides a more organic and fundamental medium as a creative outlet. Don’t underestimate the power of notes, it serves as the proverbial compass that could likely guide you back to the shore of productivity from your lost position amidst what seems to be the endless sea of writer’s block.

It can (and often does) happen at the most inconvenient of times. But despite how fatal and insurmountable it may initially seem, you can overcome writer’s block as long as you keep focused and maintain that drive in completing your project. Though it may be a bit of a struggle in first conquering this familiar foe, keep in mind that you’ll likely come out on the other end with an unstoppable energy and momentum that will easily carry you throughout the rest of your writing process. After that, feel free to return to your beat-boxing goat videos (no judgement).

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.