All Posts Tagged With: "studying"
Dr. Donna’s advice for stressed out students
‘Tis the season to be harried! Realizing that not all of you will celebrate Christmas, I still thought we’d poke a little fun at the holiday season. In doing so, I’m going to give you the gift of a superpower, possibly the most powerful tool you can possess to keep healthy and sane during the upcoming exam session, but, like many presents, it will come with “some assembly required”.
What better inspiration for university students as they finish term work and study for exams than that red hooded hero superhero, Santa Claus. Santa Claus? A role model? True, he has the BMI of the Goodyear blimp and an atrocious fashion sense that not even a cross-dressing elf would copy. Agreed, he has a serious eating disorder and a drug habit from smoking who knows what in those pipes that he and Frosty share.
However, despite being an unpaid chimney sweep and no matter how many spiked eggnogs he has consumed the night before, Santa gets the job done on time every year.
Hippocrates offers students seven timeless truths
Recently I was reading a very old book, John Cotta’s Short Discovery (1612), and I came across a list, attributed to the ancient physician Hippocrates, of the things necessary for serious, advanced learning. I was particularly struck by the fact that though Hippocrates lived nearly two and a half millenia ago, his list still constitutes good advice for anyone who wants to make the most of a university education today. Hippocrates’ list is as follows: nature, precept, fit place for study, study, institution, industry, and time.
Nature, in this case, refers to the nature of the student. Before investing all the time and money and effort that university education requires, you should ask yourself if you are cut out for it. Do you really want to go? Are you really prepared for the long hours of work? Would you rather be doing something else? I often hear people lament that “people think everyone should go to university.” I don’t know what people they’re talking about. Not anyone who teaches at a university, that’s for sure. We know that lots of people should have thought twice.
Including some tips you’ve never heard
7. Pet a puppy
Pets reduce stress and there may be a furry friend closer than you think. Therapeutic Paws of Canada brings therapy dogs to stressed out students at the University of Ottawa and McGill. BC Pets and Friends comes to the rescue of students at the University of British Columbia.
6. Don’t worry about getting it all done
Chances are good that you won’t have time to catch up on all those textbook chapters. If it looks like you’re going to run out of time, it’s often best to focus on what’s in the lecture notes and the lab reports. The textbook may be the last thing your professor has in mind when designing the test.
Sleep matters. Here’s why.
If you’re a student, that means you’ll soon be juggling exams, essays and final projects—and you may find yourself asking questions like this: Should I spend tonight studying for tomorrow’s psychology exam or should I bang out a few pages of this English essay before bed and move my psych study session to tomorrow before the test?
New research from PLoS One may provide the answer. The study shows that you’re probably better off studying for the exam tonight.
What Scott Dobson-Mitchell would tell his Freshman Self
Assuming I couldn’t accidentally cause some sort of butterfly effect that would prevent me being born, I wish I could travel back in time and tell my Freshman Self a few things about university. Considering I’ve already forgotten the answers to every exam, this is what I’d tell the younger me.
1) Plan ahead. WAY ahead.
It happens to every semester. Searching through the course calendar, I find the perfect class. It sounds interesting, it fits perfectly into my schedule and it fulfills my upper-year science requirement. The prof has checks out on RateMyProfessors and the course has a high score on Bird Courses. But I don’t have one of the prerequisites! If I’d been smart enough to plan, I would have that first year zoology credit that’s mandatory for nearly everything. Instead, I’m stuck with Phytochemical Biosystems.
2) You’re richer than you think.
Or at least, you’re less broke than you think. There are plenty of ways to get money beyond student loans—scholarships, bursaries, and work study programs that not only get you some cash, but also valuable work experience. The Ontario Work Study Program is one example. If you’re receiving student loans, then you’re probably eligible. Also be sure to check out the Maclean’s Scholarship finder.
Don’t end up like the angry library girl at California State
We all know exams cause stress. That explains the reaction of this student in a noisy library at California State University, Northridge.
Personally, I’m with the angry girl.
But that level of stress is better avoided. Last week, we offered readers 10 ways to study stay sane while studying. It was a pretty traditional list. But students across Canada have found a few more creative ways to procrastinate, ahem, study. I thought I’d share them with you.
At McGill University last week, hundreds of students showed up for pet therapy with animals from Therapeutic Paws of Canada. This may sound bizarre to the uninitiated, but there’s reason to believe it works. Petting dogs releases oxytocin in humans. Oxytocin, the so-called “love drug,” reduces anxiety and engenders calm.
At the University of Windsor, Bernarda “Bernie” Doctor, the 78-year-old director of the Organization of Part-Time University Students, offered peers surprise “cookie therapy,” handing out 360 sugar rushes. It’s not the healthiest snack, but Bernie knows how to study: she’s been doing it 50 years.
Leave it to Canada’s computer science mecca, the University of Waterloo, to offer a virtual snowman building game as a study tool. Students can build and share their own Mr. or Mrs. Frosty while snowflakes fall gently down their computer screens. By the way, try typing “let it snow” into Google.
Finally, the award for the weirdest—and smartest—way to cope with exam stress goes to Uytae Lee, a first-year student at Dalhousie University. Lee turned his boredom while studying for a Sustainability 1000 exam into a stop-motion music video with a soothing soundtrack based on his study notes. That’s more fun than traditional studying—and I bet he did well on the exam too.
10 ways to study effectively without falling apart
Exams, assignments and anxiety: for university students, the end of classes in December is just the beginning. Fortunately, there are ways to make it through without sacrificing your well-being. Here, in no particular order, are 10 tips for surviving and thriving during exam season.
1. Embrace list making. Jot down your exam schedule, assignment due dates and important reminders on a calendar. Make a study schedule and stick to it, but don’t forget to pencil in breaks.
2. Find the right study space. Whether you prefer a bustling coffee shop or the library’s silent floor, find a proper chair and pick a well-lit space. Steer clear of the ultimate temptations: television and chatty roommates.
3. Triage. Let’s face it: you can’t properly analyze an entire Shakespeare anthology in three days. Time is limited, so study the hard subjects first (when you’re most alert) and prioritize material based on urgency and relevance.
Some activities may lead to lower marks
It’s common to use Facebook as a scapegoat for poor academic performance. That’s because a few small studies have shown that grades are lower among students who spend more time on the social media site. The assumption has always been that more time spent on Facebook translates to less time spent studying, which leads to lower grades.
But a newer, bigger U.S. study has found that Facebook time and study time are only weakly related. It takes many extra hours of posting and chatting before grades start to slip. What’s more, although the new study found negative relationships between grades and certain types of Facebook activities, other types of activities appear to be a associated with higher grades.
The art of slacking off during exams
A few weeks ago, when my anatomy and physiology exams were looming on the horizon, I wasn’t able to procrastinate properly. With several more chapters of my textbook to review, I felt too guilty to do anything fun. Like reading anything other than my textbooks, or playing a videogame, or going out with friends.
So instead, I would check my email ten times in a row. Or rearrange the icons on my desktop. Or delete old Word documents.
Now that final exams are over, my methods of procrastination have drastically changed. I can do whatever I want guilt-free. All of my old, ineffective methods of procrastination have been left behind.
Researchers say moving around while studying improves retention
Every semester I tell myself that I’ll study more. And every semester I don’t.
Somewhere between vowing to study every single day and the act of actually doing it, there’s an interruption. All the planning is in place. But study schedules, lists of course readings and practice problems, somehow aren’t leading to extra studying.
Part of the problem is how midterms always seem to come from nowhere. In that way they’re even worse than final exams, which might be worth more marks, but at least they’re always looming in the distance.
According to an article in the New York Times, cognitive scientists claim a few simple techniques can actually improve how much a student actually learns from studying. Of course, that only helps those students who actually, well, study.
One surprise from the research is the claim that in order to be the most effective, you should actually move around and study in different locations each time you hit the books. And no, the research wasn’t suggesting moving to Hawaii to study for your biochem final, and then moving back for your French final.
The other studying tips were obvious. Like making sure you space your studying apart so you aren’t forced to try and cram everything at the last second. And if all else fails, praying to the snow gods for the mother of all storms to force the school to shut down on the day of your finals.
The Times’ article pointed out that some of the theories about the best way to study are the result of “sketchy education research that doesn’t offer much clear guidance.”
Lots of studying advice has to do with emphasizing different learning styles- the whole “left brain versus right brain,” and “visual learner versus auditory learner” thing. Some people learn best by reading through their professor’s lecture slides, while others retain more information by listening to podcast lectures. But according to a review of the relevant research published in Psychological Science, that’s all pretty much bogus, stating that “there is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning-styles assessments into general educational practice.”
I think the biggest improvement to my studying habits would be constant reminders. Like changing the background of my computer to a message that says “ANATOMY MIDTERM FEBRUARY 14th.” Because midterms are stealth tests- one second I’m happily unaware of their presence, wasting precious study time with things like sleeping and eating.
And the next second a bunch of tests, lab reports, and essays have materialized.
Reasons why aren’t entirely understood
Taking a test actually helps people learn, more so than several studying techniques, according to new research in the journal Science and reported in the New York Times. Researchers found that students who read a passage and then took a test asking them to recall what they read retained about 50 per cent more information a week later than did students who used two other methods. One of them was to repeatedly study the material, and the other was to have students draw detailed diagrams of what they were learning. Both those other methods are very popular, and seem to give students the illusion they know the material better than they actually do. By remembering information, we organize it and create connections that our brains later recognize, it seems, although the exact reason retrieval testing works still isn’t known.
Regrets from last semester
Right now is the time of year when I look back and think about all the stupid mistakes I made during first semester. Like not keeping up with the textbook readings in Developmental Biology and falling behind by a whole chapter. And then another. And another. And then one more, to make it a nice even number.
While some people look forward and plan ahead for the next semester, I can’t help but look back. So instead of a “New Year’s Resolution” list of the stuff I plan to do next semester, this is a list of the stuff I plan to never do again.
5) Falling behind on the readings, even by a single page. It’s a slippery slope. One reading quickly becomes two, and then three. You know those harmless domesticated bunny rabbits that a couple of pet owners released into the wild? It’s kind of like that.
4) Underestimating the class with a 100 per cent final is a deadly error. There aren’t any assignments, quizzes or midterms to worry about. But even if I’m completely caught up with my other four courses, procrastination is like an infectious disease: it starts with that one class but spreads quickly, devastating my carefully-planned study schedule for all my other classes and labs.
3) Telling my older sister that she needs to relax and close the textbook every once in a while. And then watching her make the Dean’s list every single semester since she started at Waterloo, from my relaxed-but-non-Dean’s-list chair.
2) Although I still haven’t had the opportunity to test my theory that nobody ever shows up, including the professor, I won’t register for any more early morning classes. The temptation to skip them is much too strong, and oddly enough, professors don’t give any sort of “You actually showed up at 7:00 in the morning” bonus marks.
1) Make a curfew for myself and this time, really stick to it. Operating on less than five hours of sleep actually really is counterproductive. Considering the fact that sleep deprivation is an interrogation strategy, right alongside bright lights and sharp objects, it shouldn’t be part of my study repertoire.
Everything seems unfamiliar and un-memorizable
Normally, the more I study for an upcoming exam, the better I feel. As I read over my notes and review the textbook, the material seems familiar and my impending sense of doom diminishes a little.
But for my Embryology exam, the more I studied, the more I realized I didn’t know anything.
Christmas vacation isn’t a vacation yet.
When I found out that all five of my exams were in a row, right at the beginning of exam period, I couldn’t decide if I was happy, or on the verge of developing a nervous tic.
On the one hand, writing exams sooner means less time to study. Not to mention, when your exams are literally back-to-back, one day after another, it’s harder to divide up your study time properly. How can you study for Biochemistry when Embryology is the day before? And how can you study for Embryology when Molecular biology is the day before that? And how can you study for Molecular biology when… well, you get the point.
On the other hand, all my exams were over in one shot. And my Christmas vacation started a bit earlier than usual.
Except it didn’t. Until my final marks are released tomorrow, I can’t sit back and enjoy my vacation.
I’m stuck in post-exam purgatory.
-Photo courtesy of alancleaver_2000
Apparently, by mating with multiple partners in a short period of time, they increase the chances of pregnancy. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that’s been in the making for millions of years.
The word “promiscuous” just seems like a weird way to describe the behavior. It’s just such a loaded word. Like the textbook is calling these prairie dogs skanks, or something.
-Photo courtesy of cliff1066™
Prescription-drug dependencies can have severe consequences later in life
Are the demands of medical school wearing some Quebec students out? Apparently so, and they’re using Ritalin to help them get through, according to a CBC story earlier this week.
The story quotes a few anonymous students from the University of Sherbrooke who say they take the drug without a prescription because exams are too tiring for them to concentrate on studying further. The practice is common, they say.
But school officials don’t seem to be all that concerned about the practice amongst their students.
“It’s not that dangerous to take Ritalin, and it’s not my concern. My concern would be if it proves that there is a real problem with Ritalin, which we’re not sure yet, because we don’t know how many [are taking it], if some are taking [it], the real concern is how to learn to deal with stress in a healthy way,” Pierre Cossette, Sherbrooke’s dean of medicine, told the CBC.
Okay, fair, dealing with stress in a healthy way is advisable, but what about the fact that a culture of drug dependency is developing at the University of Sherbrooke among people who don’t need to be taking Ritalin? The stress of being a doctor is not going to stop once the MD is in hand, so what’s the plan for educating responsible doctors?
Ritalin has documented effects that give people the ability to study longer, focus harder and more efficiently manipulate information in their minds. But this is a prescription drug. This is not like drinking a cup of coffee to help you stay up or popping an Advil to take away a headache. This is a regulated drug that also has documented long-term effects.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, as well as their respective Canadian regulatory bodies, have issued strong cautions in the past 10 years that long-term use of ADHD drugs can cause dopamine imbalances—resulting in depression issues—heart problems and even cancer.
If students become dependent on drugs like Ritalin for their grades or, later in life, job performance, there are serious risks that await them in the long term. Students that are willing to venture down this path are taking a short cut that will prevent them from learning to perform without the help of dangerous drugs. That is inadvisable.
Perhaps the university should be looking at proactively adding healthy stress management lessons to their curriculum so they’re not sending new doctors out into the world who don’t know how to handle life when things get rough.
Related content: To drug or not to drug and Brain candy: can ritalin turn you into an A student?
Why studying doesn’t have to be a lonely affair
November is about the time in the school year when students go from stressed out to burnt-out, and only the thought of December holidays keeps many from dropping out entirely. While our professors would like to think we have devoted our entire schedules to their classes, most of us have to work, sometimes two or three jobs, go to extracurricular meetings, and would like to maintain some sort of social life on top of acing our final exams.
With all this on our plates, it can get tough to stay on top of our readings and assignments, and keep that GPA from slipping. This is where the good old-fashioned group study session, or “study party” as my friends and I like to call our weekly get together, comes in handy.
While your friends may not be the best aid to your concentration, it can be just as easy to get distracted when studying alone by either some Facebook photos of your friends’ trip to Cancun while by yourself in your room, or the hot guy or girl reading Voltaire sitting across from you in a crowded library. Soon, you’re two hours into another lonely study session, with only half a page of your essay to show for it.
Our weekly study parties may not be the best arrangement for cramming for a final exam or desperately trying to finish a term paper, but I’ve found them extremely helpful in keeping on top of all my readings and extra assignments. Knowing that I have that one night a week where I can concentrate on all the homework that may have slipped my mind has really taken a load off my shoulders this semester.
During our weekly study parties, my friends and I get to catch up on our homework while we catch up with each other, which is an added bonus to our arrangement. As busy students who all work as well, our gatherings are sometimes the only time we get to see each other.
None of us are in any classes together, so our arrangement doesn’t adhere to the typical definition of a study group where we compare lecture notes or work on assignments together. It’s just an informal get together that makes getting through our higher education just a tad less painful.
‘Long answer’ and ‘thought’ questions? I’m doomed.
When I woke up this morning, I realized to my horror that three weeks have somehow gone missing. Overnight.
Three of my midterms are scheduled for October 26, 27, and 28. At the end of September, before October had completely disappeared without any warning, they were all safely in the category of “meh, I’ll worry about these later.” I had almost a month to study and catch up with the readings. No problem.
Now it’s suddenly October 25 and my Molecular Biology midterm is tomorrow, and the next day I have a Developmental Biology midterm, and the day after that, a French midterm. And a Biochemistry lab report. And a quiz. And a French assignment.
This sense of impending doom kind of gives me a feeling of deja-vu. Except last semester it was an organic chemistry exam.
The semester before that, it was a microbiology exam.
And the semester before that, it was a physics exam.
In the end, all three of them weren’t nearly as bad as I expected. The problem is, there are two crucial differences between those exams and my upcoming midterms:
1) I’ve already used up all my brownie points with the Exam Gods.
Last semester, three days before my Organic Chemistry final, I prayed to the Exam Gods to forgive my procrastinating ways and let me pass. I swore that for the rest of my life I would diligently study every single night. I even offered my younger brother as a sacrifice, if they would just show me some mercy and let me pass.
2) All of those other exams were multiple choice.
Whenever I was confronted with a question that was beyond the scope of my last-minute cramming, I could use the process of elimination or the process of closing my eyes and choosing whichever option my pencil lands on.
Both of the upcoming biology midterms, on the other hand, are made up of “long answer” and “thought” questions.
Personally, I think the professors are being unfair with this whole “thought question” business. In order to do well on that kind of test, you actually have to understand the material. You can’t just ingest the textbook and then regurgitate it on the exam.
What the heck are these professors trying to do? Teach us something?
-photo courtesy of purplepick
Get your priorities straight.
I did something really stupid this weekend: I made a study schedule. My biochemistry midterm is tomorrow. The following week I have three more midterms, a lab report and a test. So I made a mini-calendar of the next two weeks, circling the days when I have a midterm.
I used a colour code to distinguish between each subject and listed the remaining chapters I had to read for each class, along with the suggested practice questions from the textbook and the relevant sections in the notes.
Then I created a detailed agenda, assigning a certain number of hours to each textbook chapter.
Now I’m ready. To study.
A “take” is the opposite of a mistake. Did you get that OED people?
In my last post, I urged new undergraduates to avoid some of the mistakes I made in my own undergraduate career. This post relates some of the strategies that served me well — takes, if you will –and should serve you well, too.
1. Study what you love. It sounds a bit trite, I know, but I really was one of those people who followed a dream. I had trouble settling on a major until I happened upon the English and Drama program at the University of Western Ontario where I was studying. By happy circumstance, I got to know some of the senior drama students and that year’s director-in-residence and knew I wanted to be one of them. Many people, no doubt, worried about what was going to become of me with such an artsy major, and my grandfather was recruited to gently urge me on the path towards high school teaching, but I knew that I was learning a lot and when the time came I would somehow end up in a career that let me do what I loved. And here I am. And no, being a professor is not like being a high school teacher, thankfully.
2. Find new, smart friends. In a comment on my previous post, a reader urged me to not to neglect the social aspect of university life, and I certainly agree that social interactions are a key part of the experience. But by “social interactions” I do not mean getting drunk and falling down a flight of stairs every weekend. A university undergraduate is one of the few people for whom it is not unforgivably obnoxious to question everyone about everything. Find people who want to talk about big ideas. Talk about religion, talk about politics. Talk about all the things that you won’t feel comfortable talking about when you are at an office cocktail party ten years later. Many of my ideas about ethics, government, law, and art took shape during raucous, impromptu debates with classmates, roommates, friends — even strangers. For those of you attending your small, local universities, try to find some friends that you weren’t friends with in high school — you’ll be amazed at what other people think.
3. Never underestimate the value of thirty minutes. My roommate and I had a regular TV schedule that had us watching one show from 7:00 to 8:00 and something else at 8:30 (kids, “TV” was a kind of internet that you couldn’t control). In the interval, I would go upstairs and do homework for half an hour. My roommate marveled at this, partly in admiration at my discipline, and partly in incredulity that I thought I could get anything worthwhile done in half an hour. In fact, you can get a lot done in half an hour. You can read a chapter of a textbook, proofread the draft of a short paper, organize your schedule for the coming week. And, in practice, an undergraduate often has a half an hour here and there between classes, before the bus comes, and so on. But I think a lot of people assume that if you only have half an hour, there’s no point in getting to work. Wrong. Find something you can do, and do it. An extra half an hour a day is an extra 84 hours in an academic year, not counting exam periods. That’s more time than all the classes in a full-year course.