Studying for Midterms: Strategies for Success

Studying for Midterms: Strategies for Success

Unfortunately, it’s that time of year again where we start to stress, feel a little overwhelmed, and underestimate how much we really know. Don’t worry; you’re not the only one. In this time of craziness, there are many ways that you can become prepared to tackle these midterms!

Become Organized

Start to figure out what you have to accomplish. I like to write a to-do list of all the midterms that I have to prepare for, and then gather my notes for each course. Once, I have all my resources, I start with one course and work my way through all the course notes and readings, highlighting all the information that I think is important and might show up on the midterm. After you have completed this step with all of your courses, the fun begins and it is time to test yourself on how much you really know!

To Do List

Flashcards

Flashcards are a popular way of studying for midterms. Most students will generally write down key terms on a flashcard and their definition on the back. Try only writing terms/concepts that you do not fully understand to save yourself time and to get the most out of studying. Test yourself daily with the terms until you fully understand them.

Flash Cards

Bloom’s Taxonomy

Bloom’s taxonomy is a ranking of learning goals that I learned in my Concurrent Education classes and also something I use when I study. Most of the time when students study they generally use their “lower order thinking skills (LOTS).” These LOTS include: Knowledge, Comprehension and Application. However, if you want to be VERY prepared for your midterms, you want to use your “higher order thinking skills (HOTS).” These HOTS include: Analysis, Synthesis and Evaluation. Rather than trying to memorize “facts,” try to test your knowledge on the material with HOTS.

  • Analysis: Try to separate your notes into component parts by distinguishing important facts the professor would probably test you on; debate certain concepts that have different perspectives; construct diagrams to organize your information; find the significance of certain concepts and relate the concepts to the world and your own life.
  • Synthesis: Try to put the information of the course together by comparing concepts, proposing new ideas on the information, and organizing the information into different categories of similarities and differences.
  • Evaluation: Try to consider the purpose of the material you have learned, predict the reality or future of the concepts, or evaluate the worth of an idea.

Bloom's Taxonomy

Breaking down Concepts

With this activity you will need a stack of sticky notes. You will look at an individual topic and identify and generate ideas about the concept and write them on sticky notes. Afterwards, organize the sticky notes into categories within the concept to find common themes.

Summarize the Professor’s Lectures

Look through all the lectures given by the professor that will be covered on the midterm. Try to examine the lecture notes and summarize the lecture in a couple of sentences. Ask yourself, “What did I learn from this lecture?” “Why did the professor give this lecture (what was the purpose)?” “What course objectives did the professor accomplish in this lecture?”

Predict Possible Test Questions

Look through your lectures, course notes, and readings to determine certain questions the professor might ask on the midterm. This strategy will allow you to be prepared by looking at the midterm from the professor’s perspective and allow you to identify the most important information.

Peer Lessons

If you like studying in groups, this strategy is for you! Divide your study group into pairs and assign each group a problem/concept that the group needs more clarification on. Once the concept is assigned, use your textbooks and lecture notes, to brainstorm as much detail as possible on a piece of chart paper. Afterwards, show your thought process by sharing your work with the whole group and join in a discussion to make sense of the concept together as a group.

I hope these tips will help you succeed in your midterms! Remember that time management, organization, and critically analyzing your notes will help you become very prepared for your midterms!

Emily

Peer Mentor

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Active and Passive Voice

passive voice_avoid3Recently, I took part in a workshop in the Learning Services Centre called “Enhancing Your Writing Style.” In the workshop we discussed different elements of effective writing which can be used to enhance academic writing. The part of the session that I got the most out of was the discussion about active and passive voice. I don’t know about you, but the only thing I had ever been told about passive and active voice, prior to the workshop, was a single instruction in a syllabus. The instruction provided was “do not write in passive voice.” There was no explanation of what passive voice was, nor what active voice was, or how to change from passive to the correct form of writing. I managed to complete the assignment without using too much passive voice, but I still did not know what the difference between the two was!

Fast-forward to the workshop and I finally got an explanation of what the two are, and how to write them as well! Since I had no idea what the different voices were, I decided to write a post explaining the differences between the two voices for others who are unsure.

Active Voice

When writing in active voice, the subject in your sentence does/did or will do the action that is expressed in the verb. In some cases, there is an object in the sentence as well. For active voice, the subject is the doer of the action and the object is the receiver of the action. To structure a sentence in active voice:

Doer of the action (Subject) + Action (Verb) + Receiver of the action (Object; if there is one)

hhhhhhhhhhhhharrowtoright
Example: The lack of rain seriously affected the water levels in Alberta.
                        (Subject)                (Verb/Action) (Object)

Example: The children decided to play hide and seek.
                          (Subject)  (Verb/Action) (Object)

Passive Voice

When writing in passive voice, the subject does not do the action expressed by the verb. Instead, the subject receives the action. For passive voice, the subject has the action done to them. The structure of a sentence in passive voice is:

Form of “to be” + Past participle OR   Subject + Action + Doer of the action

arrowtoleftExample: The water levels of the lakes in Alberta were seriously affected by the lack of rain.
hhhhhhhhhhh(Subject)                                       (Verb/Action) (prepositional phrase)

Example: The water levels of the lakes in Alberta were seriously affected by the lack of rain.
 hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh(Form of “to be”) (Past Participle)

There are many forms of “to be” (e.g. is, are, am, was, were, has been, have been, being, etc.) and while oftentimes sentences with forms of “to be” are passive, it does not necessarily indicate they are. An example would be “is” describing a state of being: John is an intelligent student. Keep an eye out for these trickier sentences which may or may not be passive voice!

Now that we know what passive and active voice are we should consider why we are told to write in active voice. There are many reasons for writing in active voice: writing is more direct, concise, action oriented and engaging. As well, a paper heavily peppered with passive voice can be seen as “wordy.” By writing in active voice your papers will have more clarity, less wordiness, be more concise and less vague or abstract. Now you know what passive voice and active voice are, and how to write in either. I hope this helps with your future writing assignments!

Hannah E.
Peer Mentor

 

Works Cited
“Passive Voice.” The Writing Centre. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d. Web. 2 July 2014.
“Active vs. Passive Voice.” Language Portal of Canada. Government of Canada, 17 April 2014. Web. 2 July 2014.

 

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Sunshine and Studying

SunshineA year round challenge for students can be managing time effectively. In the spring and summer it is just as difficult, with jobs, sunshine and warm weather calling your name! Quizzes, essays, exams and readings all take up a significant portion of your day, alongside social life and employment. The list of what needs to be done can be overwhelming, which is why planning your time early in the semester can ease the pressure when “crunch time” arrives. To plan out your schedule for the summer, try using a term schedule, a daily schedule, and/or come in and have a personalized study schedule created for you. But, before we jump into planning your schedule, let’s consider some different steps to improve your time management.

According to Fleet, Goodchild and Zajchowski (2006) there are a number of steps that can help to improve your time management:

1) Identify your difficulties with time management

    • Ask yourself if your present time management techniques are working or not. Consider what it is about the different techniques that you are struggling with; is there a better technique you could try in place of what is not working?

2) Assess your current activities

      • What are you choosing to do with your time now? Are there activities that you would like to start or stop doing?
      • By examining your current activities you can learn what activities can be removed or lessened.

3) Plan ahead and keep a schedule

    • Use a term schedule, a weekly schedule and daily schedule (all will be expanded upon below)

4) Make the most of each studying session

    • Identify a list of goals that needs to be completed at the beginning of each study session and work through everything on the list. When writing your goals of what needs to be completed, remember the best goals are SMART—Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic and Time-Bound.

Now that you’ve taken the time to assess your difficulties and current activities, let’s work on the schedules!
By planning a term schedule you will be able to see the big picture. In the term schedule include all assignment due dates. Also include what the assignment is worth. The weight of the assignment should dictate how much time needs to be set aside to complete it.

In your personal study schedule you should include all the different activities you need to complete during the week:

      • classes
      • study time
      • leisure time
      • chores
      • meals

Prioritize to be sure you are using time effectively and the most important activities are being completed first, such as class and study time. Work other activities around the most important items, as these are not able to be missed while other activities can be.

Weekly Schedule

When planning a daily schedule; organize the items from most to least important. If one reading is due at 4pm for class, and another three days from now, complete the 4pm reading first and then move on. Begin at number one and work your way through the list until you have completed it.

Daily Task List for Blog

Some study tips:

      •Study the items you find most difficult or boring first
      • If you want to be in the sun, study outside (as long as you are able to focus)
      • If you prefer studying at night, work that into your schedule and spend your earlier hours doing other activities
      • Be realistic—are you able to sit for hours and study, or will you get distracted? Do you really need that much leisure time?
      • When you have times of lower concentration, work on activities that require less concentration
      • Be sure to include short breaks so you give your mind a rest
      • Work hard so you can enjoy your leisure time!

Work hard at school, but be sure you are able to get some sunshine in too! Go for walks, go to the beach, plan a picnic, and have lots of fun while you’re at it.

Hannah E.
Peer Mentor

Hay, Iain., Dianne Bochner, Carol Dungey, Nellie Perret. Making the Grade: A Guide to Study and Success. Canadian Edition. Canada: Oxford University Press. 2012. Print.

Learning Services Centre. “SMART Goal Setting.” Handout. Wilfrid Laurier University. 2014. Print.

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Stress Buster: How to Avoid Stress when Studying

Congratulations! You have reached the final stretch of the term! This accomplishment often comes with the burdensome papers, assignments, and the dreaded exams. This is the time when students generally feel pressured, so much so that “exam stress“ has become an official condition[i] (subset of test anxiety). However, the amount of stress students experience can be managed if not reduced if they are prepared and make effective choices. Here is how to be a STRESSBUSTER!

  1. Always Be Prepared!

The Boy Scouts seem to know something important about facing big challenges. Whether you are camping in the forest or writing a final exam, being prepared is key for success. Planning your studying schedule early and creating an outline of how you are going to approach studying for the course(s) is important. For example, if your exam is covering the entire course, plan out which day you are going to study each topic. This makes studying manageable and ensures that you have enough time to learn the material instead of cramming the night before.

  1. Just Do it!

Even Nike knows that excuses are useless. As a student myself, I know how easy it is to get distracted by laptops, television,  family, and friends; however, following the plan you’ve created when studying will help you reduce stress and will ensure that you are prepared for your exams.  With that being said, if you are beginning to feel stressed out, take a break and talk with someone to help you put everything back into perspective. Studying with high levels of stress helps no one! 

  1. I am what I am!

This elusive Reebox slogan helps to remind us to focus on our needs, not our friends. Every student studies and learns material differently. Your friend may need to read a textbook 14 times to retain and understand the information and you may need to write the material out. Determining an approach that works best for you is important. If you are not sure, feel free to book an appointment at Learning Services Centre and we would be happy to help you explore different options.

  1. Because You`re Worth it!

Even though exams seem to be all-encompassing, remember that you are MORE important! Take time to eat well, exercise, and sleep for 8 hours, because L`Oreal knows, too, that taking this time for yourself is well deserved. 

  1. Beauty Outside. Beast Inside.

While I have never heard of this MacBook Pro slogan, the slogan reminds us that some stress can help us harness our inner beast to achieve success. A little bit of stress can help us focus on studying and accomplish the task at hand. When stress impacts your ability to perform at your best, you need to address it and get it back under control. This can be done by taking a break, getting a reality check, or visiting professionals such as the counselors at our Wellness Centre (https://www.lbstudentaffairs.ca/student-support/healthservices.htm) to get support.  

  1. Outwit! Outplay! Outlast!

Exams are just like the show Survivor. You may feel overwhelmed and unable to ever escape from the world of exams, but remember the exam period only lasts one month! Remind yourself that the end is in sight and that you can outlast this period. The self-affirmation “I can do it” has been proven to help people actually accomplish the task. 

So take deep breaths, plan things out, and be confident that you can survive this exam period. If at any point you feel that you would benefit from some extra support, please remember to contact the Wellness Centre or visit us at the Learning Services Centre.

 

Good Luck!

Marshal

Senior FSG Leader

 

[i] http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/advice/factfile_az/exams_stress

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Setting Goals

“Without clear academic goals, you may drift along until suddenly you realize that tests are looming and assignments are due, and you have to scramble” (Fleet, Goodchild and Zajchowski).

With the term quickly coming to an end, it can become a time of stress and anxiety for students. Forgotten assignments and exams come creeping up on the best of us. Instead of letting the term get the best of you and your nerves, take some time to organize the rest of the semester by making some goals for your academic success.

A goal is simply what you are trying to accomplish. Your goal may be to complete an assignment by the assigned due date. However, you can create mini-goals, or subtasks, for each assignment to make that huge looming goal of completing an assignment seem much more manageable.

It is important to make SMART goals for yourself to ensure success this term. This means making your goals specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound.

Specific
What exactly do you want to achieve?

Measureable
What evidence will you have when completed?

Action-Oriented
What actions or task words will set you in motion for working on your goal?

Realistic
Is your goal attainable?

Time-Bound
When is your deadline?

By picking a goal that clearly states what you need to do, that can be measured to indicate you have completed it, that has action words so that you actively have to do something, that is not too ambitious, and that has clear timelines, you will be setting yourself up for academic success.

Below is an example of breaking down a long term goal (completing an assignment) into smaller, more manageable tasks. By creating these mini goals for yourself you have motivation to stay on task and be successful in completing this term.

EXAMPLE:

Assignment Instruction: Write a 5-6 page paper examining a topic of your choice that relates to course content. Include a minimum of 5 academic sources, a properly cited reference page and a title page. Due Friday April 4th.

Mini Deadlines

  • Pick a topic – February 28th
  • Find academic sources – March 5th
  • Read through sources –March 8th
  • Formulate a thesis – March 9th
  • Create an outline – March 12th
  • Write first draft – March 19th
  • Complete additional research if necessary – March 22nd
  • Edit first draft – March 24th
  • Create a reference page – March 25th
  • Create a title page – March 26th
  • Final revision – March 28th

This gives one week before the final due date as contingency. If you get behind on a deadline or want to do multiple revisions, this additional week will help to ensure you can hand in your best work on time.

 

Works Cited

Fleet, Joan, Fiona Goodchild, and Richard Zajchowski. Learning for Success: Effective Strategies for Students. 3rd ed. Toronto: Nelson Thomson Learning, 1999. Print.

Learning Services Centre. “SMART Goal Setting.” Handout. Wilfrid Laurier University. 2014. Print.

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