April 24, 2017

Last minute studying: what should you do?

Have you ever forgotten to study a chapter, or left studying until the last minute? Even with little time left, you can still study strategically. Mebbie Bell with the U of A Student Success Centre shares her secrets for last minute studying. 

It’s the night before your exam. You've been studying for the past week or two, making sure you are prepared for this final. After covering the last section of your textbook, you review to ensure you have gone through everything that could be on the exam. Except! …you forgot to cover the last chapter and have only a few hours to study before bed.

We've all been there, whether we forget to study a section of the textbook or leave our studying until the day before the exam. Even with limited time to work through material, you can strategically study and commit some information to memory. You may not understand the information as well as you could, but you need to accept that any knowledge you do gain is better than none. Here are my strategies for last-minute studying that will help you get the most out of those few hours. 

Taking care of you: handling test anxiety

Handling anxiety can often be a daunting task. Keanna Krawiec, dean of students web content coordinator and recent alumni, shares U of A Counselling and Clinical Services strategies for dealing with test anxiety.

For anyone who has ever written a test or exam, the feeling of stress and anxiety can be all too familiar. For many, it can enhance our motivation to study and our test taking ability, but what happens when that anxiety reaches a level that is actually detrimental to performance? This sense of panic, despite being well-prepared for the exam, is often called test anxiety.

There are a number of strategies for reducing test anxiety — and stress in general — to help you perform better on your exams. 

April 20, 2017

Understanding procrastination and kick-starting your productivity

Feeling the effects of procrastination? The Student Success Centre shares advice for identifying your procrastination habits and working through them to increase productivity. 

It’s the middle of semester and Fall Reading Week still feels far away. You are studying for midterms, you have a term paper due in a week, two lab reports the week after — and lots of readings yet to complete. No one would blame you for curling up on the sofa for a binge session of your favourite Netflix show.

Procrastination affects all of us at some point in our academic careers. Whether we battle with competing deadlines and demands, all-too-inviting distractions, worry about failure, or fear our own success, we struggle to accomplish what we set out to do despite our best intentions. We become overwhelmed, paralyzed, stressed, or even bored, and getting “unstuck” is a challenge.

While procrastination is a complex issue, you can figure out your patterns of procrastination and get back to work. Here are some ways to get started:

April 12, 2017

What You Can Do Now to Prepare for Finals

With final exams around the corner, Mebbie Bell, director of learning resources at the Student Success Centre, shares the best ways to plan your time now to make the exam season go smoothly.

Even though you may still be in the midst of term assignments and midterms, you can take productive steps to get prepared and focused for finals. The following tips will help make your final exam period as stress free — and academically successful — as possible.

Confirm your exam schedule. Double check the date, time, length, and location of each of your exams on the Office of the Registrar's 'final' version of the final exam scheduleIt’s unusual that an exam date would change, but sometimes the exam locations do. Then, check these against your course outline, eClass postings, and in-class information. If the information does not match, contact your instructor immediately. Double checking these details in advance will help you avoid unnecessary stress on exam day.

Know what to expect. For each exam, you should know what material will be tested, the type and number of questions, and what you need to bring. This checklist will help you fine-tune what you need to know. Then, review your course outlines, eClass postings, and class materials.  Even if the exam is still a week or two away, ask your instructor about anything that is unclear. And, be specific with these details so that you can be strategic about how you study. 

Make a plan. Set aside some time now to plan how you want to spend the rest of the term. Grab a monthly calendar and your course outlines to plan, one class at a time:
  • List all upcoming due dates for assignments and your final exam.
  • Make a list of the themes/topics you need to cover for the final.
  • Estimate how much time you need spend on each topic (e.g., 3 hours for unit 2 in Psyco 105). Focus on individual, smaller topics within course sections or units to make planning this time easier. While you may ideally want 50 hours to review that really tough class unit, remember that you may realistically have less time — especially when you need to balance your overall study time between courses while maintaining your well-being.
  • Then, schedule these blocks of time on your calendar between now and when you write your final exam. Break up larger topics into multiple study sessions, and aim to complete your review at least a day or two in advance, so you have time for extra review.
Make every day count! Even if your final exams seem far away or you feel you have so many things to do before you start studying for finals, aim do something each day to help you prepare. For instance:
  • Think about what you are already doing in your courses that is helping you prepare for your final examination. Whether you are working on a lab report, prepping for a quiz, or submitting a paper, ask yourself what you are learning that you can carry forward to the final exam.
  • Work strategically with your class notes. Review them each day after class, add information from the textbook, or identify questions that could show up on the exam.
  • Do practice questions from the textbook, exam registry, or instructor.
  • If the exam is cumulative, review old midterms or quizzes.
  • Note questions you have about course materials, then meet with your instructor or TA to discuss them.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but each small step helps you get set for successful exams!

Interested in more strategies? Check out our exam strategies workshops or meet with a learning strategist.

Moving past “the moment”: avoiding cheating during exams

Ever have your mind go completely blank while writing a test? You are not alone. Unfortunately, this is often when panic hits and cheating becomes very tempting. Deb Eerkes with Student Conduct and Accountability shares advice for moving beyond that moment as she discusses cheating during exams. 

You've read all the tips on this blog about smart studying, time management, and exam strategies (if not, take a look!), and you still might experience “the moment”. You know the moment I’m talking about. You have your exam paper and pencil ready, name and ID number dutifully printed on the front, opened to the first page and your mind has gone completely blank. It is one of the more terrifying moments of your university career — especially when you know you studied and there’s no good reason not to remember the material. You watch the clock ticking away what precious time you have left, and you start to panic.