Saint Catharine College Clock Tower photo

 Academic Support Resourcesstudents in Anatomy class

For many students, the study requirements of college compared to high school can be shocking and overwhelming.  Make sure you utilize resources that can help you cope with challenges and put you on the road to academic success. The Center for Student Support Services is an office where you can get assistance with areas such as:

      Time Management  Students gathered to study                           Note-Taking students taking notes

     How to study for a test  students studying together                          Test Anxiety male listening in class

     What is your Learning Style?  sonography students in lab               How to Write a Paper   student in library              

 

GETTING STARTED:   HOW WELL DO I STUDY????? TAKE THIS QUICK STUDY SKILLS QUIZ  

 

7 ACADEMIC TIPS TO LIVE AND DIE BY!

1).  ATTEND CLASS AND BE ON TIME

  • easiest thing you can do to make an impact on your grades and forge relationships with faculty
  • should have good excuse and CONTACT faculty member before or after.

2).   MANAGE YOUR TIME WELL

  • use your syllabi and personal planner to make monthly/weekly schedules and USE THEM.
  • don’t overextend yourself and stick to your priorities (i.e. is it more important to study for a test tomorrow or go to the movies).  Learn to say NO.

3).   STUDY SMART

  • don’t wait until the last minute and cram for tests/papers – review notes regularly
  • find your optimal study place (library, lobby of classroom bldgs., dorm room, etc.)
  • study in 90 minute intervals
  • study a minimum of 1 hour for every hour spent in class (i.e. if you register for

15 hours=study 15 hours a week)

  • make flash cards – outlines, etc.
  • utilize campus Tutoring Center and Peer Tutoring

4.   BE ORGANIZED

  • get notebook/binder with pockets
  • get phone #’s for classmates
  • keep all tests/quizzes/papers

5).  BE PREPARED FOR CLASS

  • be ON TIME
  • do readings before class and go over notes from previous class.  “Rule of thumb” - 15 minutes a day per class debriefing from notes.
  • participate in class discussion
  • communicate with your instructors – make eye contact – talk outside class 

6).  TAKE GOOD NOTES

  • take notes that are easy to read
  • go over notes after class and before next class
  • get lecture notes if you have to miss a class

7).  KNOW HOW TO READ A TEXTBOOK

  • scan subtitles, words in bold and italic print, summaries, charts and review ?’s.
  • read with a purpose and stay focused

Adapted from “How to Get Good Grades in College”, Woodburn Press, 2008

TIME MANAGEMENT:

Gone are the high school days of sitting in a classroom M-F, 8:30-3:30, taking the same classes every day.  In college, depending on the number of credit hours you are taking, you may only have two classes on Monday/Wednesdays starting at 10:00 am; and three classes on Tuesdays/Thursdays starting at 11:00 am.  This flexibility in scheduling, coupled with the increased demands for study time makes managing your time very important.  Additionally, some students participate in college athletics, have a job, or have children to care for – all demanding time of one’s schedule.   

 “Study time” refers to activities such as: 

  • reviewing notes daily
  • studying for tests and quizzes
  • keeping up with required textbook readings, and
  • working along on research papers.

 When you look at these above activities for each of your classes, it becomes clear that time management is critical.  There is a “rule of thumb” widely used in higher education to assist students in knowing how many hours a week you should dedicate to studying in order to plan your schedule.   

 Take the # of hours a week you’re in class (same as the credit hours you’re taking ex:12 or 15) and multiply by 2 to equal the # of hours to study per week.  NOW, that may seem pretty overwhelming; however, a student needs to AT LEAST multiply it by 1. So, for example:

 Jane takes 15 credit hours this semester, she should count on at least studying 15 x 1 = 15 hours/week.

 If Jane can’t keep up with all her course requirements in 15 hours, then she will need to increase her study hours, but it’s a good place to start.

 We recommend a student go through two exercises at the beginning of each semester to assist with time management. 

  1. Utilize a monthly planner – get out all your class syllabi and record due date for every test, quiz, paper, presentation so that you can see at a glance, what you have coming up over the next month/week.  You can use your own monthly planner or get an SCC one through the Spirit Shop.
  2. Utilize the weekly planning calendar (below): record a typical week’s schedule demands to see where you will find the 12-15 hours (or more) of required study time per week.

 Below is an example of weekly planner that a student fills out one time as a typical week.  Once you fill in all your weekly responsibilities, it becomes real clear where the blank time slots are to fill in study time.

 

WEEKLY PLANNING CALENDAR – ST. CATHARINE COLLEGE - EXAMPLE

 

 

 

MONDAY

 

TUESDAY

 

WEDNESDAY

 

THURSDAY

 

FRIDAY

 

SATURDAY

 

SUNDAY

 

  7:00 am

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

  8:00 am

 

SHOWER

 

SHOWER

 

SHOWER

 

SHOWER

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

  9:00 am

 

CLASS

 

BREAKFAST

 

CLASS

 

BREAKFAST

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

10:00 am

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

11:00 am

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

CLASS

 

SHOWER

 

SHOWER

 

SHOWER

 

12:00 pm

 

LUNCH

 

LUNCH

 

LUNCH

 

LUNCH

 

LUNCH

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  1:00 pm

 

STUDY

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  2:00 pm

 

STUDY

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  3:00 pm

 

NAP

 

NAP

 

NAP

 

NAP

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  4:00 pm

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  5:00 pm

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

PRACTICE

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  6:00 pm

 

DINNER

 

DINNER

 

DINNER

 

DINNER

 

FREE

 

WORK

 

WORK

 

  7:00 pm

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

GAME

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

  8:00 pm

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

GAME

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

  9:00 pm

 

STUDY

 

STUDY

 

GAME

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

10:00 pm

 

STUDY

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

STUDY

 

11:00 pm

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

FREE

 

12:00am

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

 

SLEEP

                        St. Catharine College, Center for Student Support Services 8/08           TOTAL STUDY HOURS/week = 15

Just remember, you will be successful with time management if academic success is a priority for you, and priorities are driven by short term and long term goals.  You can also utilize the additional resources below to help you.   Also, if you would like assistance with time management, please contact the Center for Student Support Services to set up a meeting. 

NOTE-TAKING:

Note-taking in college is a skill that students need to develop in whatever format or method that works best for them.  Organized note-taking is a key factor or indicator for academic success as notes taken from professor’s lectures are the biggest part of test preparation. 

Below are 5 common note-taking methods.  Just remember, in addition to taking notes, it is very beneficial that you review your notes each day or night after class , as well as the next day before you have that class again.  Not only does that help with retaining the information, but it prepares you for the next lecture. 

  • Edit for words and phrases that are illegible or don't make sense. Write out abbreviated words that might be unclear later.
  • Edit with a different colored pen to distinguish between what you wrote in class and what you filled in later. 
  • Fill in key words and questions in the left-hand column. 
  • Note anything you don't understand by underlining or highlighting to remind you to ask the instructor.
  • Compare your notes with the textbook reading and fill in important details in the blank spaces you left.
  • Consider rewriting or typing up your notes. (Ellis).

5 Note-taking Methods

  • The Cornell Method
  • The Outline Method
  • The Mapping Method
  • The Charting Method
  • The Sentence Method

 

The Cornell Method

The Cornell method provides a systematic format for condensing and organizing notes without laborious recopying. After writing the notes in the main space, use the left-hand space to label each idea and detail with a key word or "cue."

Method - Rule your paper with a 2 ½ inch margin on the left leaving a six-inch area on the right in which to make notes. During class, take down information in the six-inch area. When the instructor moves to a new point, skip a few lines. After class, complete phrases and sentences as much as possible. For every significant bit of information, write a cue in the left margin. To review, cover your notes with a card, leaving the cues exposed. Say the cue out loud, and then say as much as you can of the material underneath the card. When you have said as much as you can, move the card and see if what you said matches what is written. If you can say it, you know it.

 Advantages - Organized and systematic for recording and reviewing notes. Easy format for pulling out major concept and ideas. Simple and efficient. Saves time and effort. "Do-it-right-in-the-first-place system." 

Disadvantages - None

When to Use - In any lecture situation.

 

The Outlining Method

Dash or indented outlining is usually best except for some science classes such as physics or math.

1.     The information which is most general begins at the left with each more specific group of facts indented with spaces to the right.

2.     The relationships between the different parts are carried out through indenting.

3.     No numbers, letters, or Roman numerals are needs.

Method – Listening and then write in points in an organized pattern based on space indention.  Place major points farthest to the left.  Indent each more specific point to the right.  Levels of importance will be indicated by distance away from the major point.  Indention can be as simple as or as complex as labeling the indentations with Roman numerals or decimals.  Markings are not necessary as space relationships will indicate the major/minor points.

Advantages – Well-organized system if done right.  Outlining records content as well as relationships.  It also reduces editing and is easy to review by turning main points into questions.

Disadvantages – Requires more thought in class for accurate organization.  This system may not show relationships by sequence when needed.  It doesn’t lend to diversity of a review attach for maximum learning and question application.  This system cannot be used if the lecture is too fast.

When to Use – The outline format can be used if the lecture is presented in outline organization.  This may be either deductive (regular outline) or inductive (reverse outline where minor points start building to a major point).  Use this format when there is enough time in the lecture to think about and make organization decisions when they are needed.  This format can be most effective when your note taking skills are super and sharp and you can handle the outlining regardless of the note taking situation. 

Example

Extrasensory perception

_ Definition: means of perceiving without use of sense organs.

_three kinds –

_telepathy: sending messages

_clairvoyance: forecasting the future

_psychokinesis: perceiving events external to situation

_current status –

_no current research to support or refute

_few psychologists say impossible

 

The Mapping Method

Mapping is a method that uses comprehension/concentration skills and evolves in a note taking form which relates each fact or idea to every other fact or idea.  Mapping is a graphic representation of the content of a lecture.  It is a method that maximizes active participation, affords immediate knowledge as to its understanding, and emphasizes critical thinking.

Advantages – This format helps you to visually track your lecture regardless of conditions.  Little thinking is needed and relationships can easily be seen.  It is also easy to edit your notes by adding numbers, marks, and color coding.  Review will call for you to restructure thought processes which will force you to check understanding.  Review by covering lines for memory drill and relationships.  Main points can be written on flash or note cards and pieced together into a table or larger structure at a later date.

Disadvantages – You may not hear changes in content from major points to facts.

When to Use – Use when the lecture content is heavy and well-organized.  May also be used effectively when you have a guest lecturer and have no idea how the lecture is going to be presented.

 

The Charting Method

If the lecture format is distinct (such as chronological), you may set up your paper by drawing columns and labeling appropriate headings in a table. 

Method – Determine the categories to be covered in lecture.  Set up your paper in advance by columns headed by these categories.  As you listen to the lecture, record information (words, phrases, main ideas, etc.) into the appropriate category.

Advantages – Helps you track conversation and dialogues where you would normally be confused and lose out on relevant content.  Reduces amount of writing necessary.  Provides easy review mechanism for both memorization of facts and study of comparisons and relationships.

Disadvantages – Few disadvantages except learning how to use the system and locating the appropriate categories.  You must be able to understand what’s happening in the lecture.

When to Use – Test will focus on both facts and relationships.  Content is heavy and presented fast.  You want to reduce the amount of time you spend editing and reviewing at test time.  You want to get an overview of the whole course on one big paper sequence.

Example – Chart format for a history class:

 

The Sentence Method

Method – Write every new thought, fact or topic on a separate line, numbering as you progress.

Advantages – Slightly more organized than the paragraph.  Gets more or all of the information.  Thinking to tract content is still limited.

Disadvantages – Can’t determine major/minor points from the numbered sequence.  Difficult to edit without having to rewrite by clustering points which are related.  Difficult to review unless editing cleans up relationship.

When to Use – Use when the lecture is somewhat organized, but heavy with content which comes fast.  You can hear the different points, but you don’t know how they fit together.  The instructor tends to present in point fashion, but not in grouping such as “three related points.”

Example 1

A revolution is any occurrence that affects other aspects of life, such as economic life, social life, and so forth.  Therefore revolutions cause change.  (See page 29-30 in your text about this.)

  • Sample Notes – Revolution – occurrence that affects other aspects of life: e.g., econ., socl. Etc. C.f. text, pp. 29-30

Example 2

Melville did not try to represent life as it really was.  The language of Ahab, Starbuck, and Ishmael, for instance, was not that of real life.

  • Sample Notes – Mel didn’t repr. Life as was; e.g. lang. Of Ahab, etc. no of real life.

Example 3

At first, Freud tried conventional, physical methods of treatment such as giving baths, massages, rest cures, and similar aids.  But when these failed he tried techniques of hypnosis that he had seen used by Jean-Martin Charcot.  Finally, he borrowed an idea from Jean Breuer and used direct verbal communication to get an un-hypnotized patient to reveal unconscious thoughts.

  • Sample Notes – Freud 1st – used phys. trtment; e.g., baths, etc.  This fld. 2nd – used hypnosis (fr. Charcot) Finally – used vrb. commun. (fr. Breuer) – got unhpynop, patnt to reveal uncons. thoughts.

Bibliography

Deese, James and Ellin K. Deese. How to Study (3rd Ed). New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc., 1979.

Johnson, Sue. The 4 T’s: Teacher/You, Text, Talk, Test - A Systematic Approach to Learning Success. California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

Pauk, Walter. How to Study in College (2nd Ed). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1974.

Raygor, Alton L. and David Wark. Systems for Study. New York: McGraw- Hill, Inc, 1970.

Ellis, Dave. Becoming a Master Student. (1997). Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA.

Sources:

Student Academic Services, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, California

Dennis Jerz, Seton Hill College

 

HOW TO STUDY FOR A TEST

What Can I Do Before the Test?
Organization, planning, and time management are essential to becoming a successful student; so start studying as soon as classes begin. Read assignments, listen during lectures, and take good classroom notes. Then, reread assignments, highlighting important information to study. Regular reviews help you avoid cramming and reduce test anxiety. The biggest benefit is that it gives you time to absorb information.

Read difficult assignments twice. Sometimes a second reading will clarify concepts. If you are having difficulty with a subject, get help immediately. Meet with your instructor after class, use an alternate text to supplement required reading, or work with a tutor (ask faculty members and other students for referrals).

Review, Review, Review
•  Plan ahead . scheduling review periods well in advance. Set aside one hour per subject on a Saturday        or Sunday to review several subjects. Keep your reviews short and do them often.
•  Daily Reviews . Conduct short reviews of lecture notes before and after class. Begin reviewing after your first day of class.
•  Weekly Reviews. Dedicate about one hour per subject just to reviewing assigned reading and lecture notes.
•  Major Reviews . Start the week before an exam and study the most difficult subjects when you are the most alert. Study for two to five hours with sufficient breaks. When possible, review previous tests offered by the professor to learn what to do differently next time.
•  Create review tools , such as flashcards, chapter outlines, and summaries. This helps you organize and remember information as well as condense material to a manageable size. Use 3 x 5-inch index cards to review important information. Write ideas, formulas, concepts, and facts on cards to carry with you. Study whenever you have a few extra minutes.
•  Another useful tool is a study checklist . Make a list of everything you will need to know for the exam. The list should include a brief description of reading assignments, types of problems to solve, skills to master, major ideas, theories, definitions, and equations. When you begin your final study sessions, cross off items as you review them.

Should I Organize a Study Group?
For some subjects, study groups are an effective tool. Study groups allow students to combine resources; members share an academic goal and provide support and encouragement. Such groups meet regularly to study and learn a specific subject.

To form a study group, you should look for dedicated students - those who ask and answer questions in class and who take notes. Suggest to two or three classmates that you meet to talk about group goals, meeting times, and other logistics. Effective study groups are limited to five or six people. Test the group first by planning a one-time-only session. If that works, plan another. After several successful sessions, schedule regular meetings.

Set an agenda for each meeting to avoid wasting time. List the material that will be reviewed so members can come prepared. Also, follow a format. For example, begin by comparing notes to make sure you all heard the same thing and recorded important information. Spend fifteen to twenty minutes conducting open-ended discussions on specific topics. Then, test each other by asking questions or take turns explaining concepts. Set aside five to ten minutes to brainstorm possible test questions.

What Should I Do on Exam Day?
On exam day, arrive early and get organized. Pay attention to verbal directions as tests are distributed. Read directions slowly. Scan the entire test, noticing how many points each part is worth, and estimate the time needed for individual questions.
•Essay. When answering an essay question, first decide precisely what the question is asking. If a question asks you to compare, do not explain. Verbs commonly used in essay questions include: analyze, compare, contrast, criticize, define, describe, discuss, enumerate, evaluate, examine, explain, illustrate, interpret, list, outline, prove, state, and summarize.
•Before you write your essay, make a quick outline. There are three reasons for doing this. First, your thoughts will be more organized (making it easier for your teacher to read), and you will be less likely to leave out important facts. Second, you will be able to write faster. Third, if you do not have time to finish your answer, you may earn some points with the outline. Don’t forget to leave plenty of space between answers. You can use the extra space to add information if there is time.
•When you write, get to the point. Start off by including part of the question in your answer. For example, if you are directed to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of universal health care coverage to both patients and medical professionals, your first sentence might read, Universal health care will benefit patients in the following ways. Expand your answer with supporting ideas and facts. If you have time, review your answers for grammatical errors, clarity, and legibility.

Test preparation is essential if you plan to do well consistently on exams throughout your postsecondary education. The most important thing to remember about studying for tests, however, is that by studying you are ensuring better learning of the material covered.

Editorial provided by Diane Loulou for the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Education. Information from a brochure based on the 1995 ERIC Digest, Making the A: How To Study for Tests.

 

HOW TO WRITE A PAPER

Papers – papers – and, more papers!!!  Writing papers is a regular assignment in most college classes.  Some are longer than others in length, but you will need to develop basic skills in research and writing.

Your English Composition classes will guide you through the writing process; however, the College’s Academic Resource Center (ARC) [link to 3.1.2.1] can help you with your writing as well.  The Resource Center can review your papers if you schedule a time before your paper is due.  

Also, below is a great website through Purdue University’s OWL Writing Center that has multiple resources on the writing process and grammar usage, etc.

OWL Writing Center at Purdue:    http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/1/1/

Another source:                              http://www.ccc.commnet.edu/library/mla.pdf

 

LEARNING STYLES

 How do you learn best? Have you ever thought that you might be more effective in your classes if you fully understood the methods for learning and studying that work best for your learning style? This section is designed to allow you to assess your learning style and provide some ideas for strategies that will help you to be more effective in the classroom. Remember, we all learn in different ways but everyone can learn effectively.

Assessing Your Learning Style

The first step in the process is to assess your learning style. Please take the following inventory. The inventory is meant to give you valuable feedback about your learning style but should not be considered diagnostic or predictive.

http://www.vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=questionnaire  

Learning Style Strategies

Once you have completed the inventory, you'll have an indication of your learning style preferences. Though most of us are able to learn in all of the modes, we tend to have preferences for certain styles. The following information may then be helpful as you work to modify how you study, prepare for exams, read your assignments or take notes during lectures in relation to your preferred learning style.

VISUAL LEARNERS

  • Organize work and living space to avoid distractions.
  • Sit in the front of the room to avoid distraction and away from doors or windows where action takes place.  Sit away from wall maps or bulletin boards.
  • Use neatly organized or typed material.
  • Use visual association, visual imagery, written repetition, flash cards, and clustering strategies for improved memory.
  • Reconstruct images in different ways - try different spatial arrangements and take advantage of blank spaces on the page.
  • Use note pads, Post-Its, to-do lists, and other forms of reminders.
  • Use organizational format outlining for recording notes. Use underlining, highlighting in different colors, symbols, flow charts, graphs or pictures in your notes.
  • Practice turning visual cues back into words as you prepare for exams.
  • Allow sufficient time for planning and recording thoughts when doing problem-solving tasks.
  • Use test preparation strategies that emphasize organization of information and visual encoding and recall.
  • Participate actively in class or group activities.
  • Develop written or pictorial outlines of responses before answering essay questions.

AUDITORY LEARNERS

  • Work in quiet areas to reduce distractions, avoiding areas with conversation, music, and television.
  • Sit away from doors or windows where noises may enter the classroom.
  • Rehearse information orally.
  • Attend lectures and tutorials regularly.
  • Discuss topics with other students, professors and GTAs. Ask others to hear your understanding of the material.
  • Use mnemonics, rhymes, jingles, and auditory repetition through tape recording to improve memory.
  • Practice verbal interaction to improve motivation and self-monitoring.
  • Use tape recorders to document lectures and for reading materials.
  • Remember to examine illustrations in textbooks and convert them into verbal descriptions.
  • Read the directions for tests or assignments aloud, or have someone read them to you, especially if the directions are long and complicated.
  • Remind yourself to review details.
  • Use time managers and translate written appointment reminders into verbal cues.
  • Use verbal brainstorming and tape recording writing and proofing.
  • Leave spaces in your lecture notes for later recall and 'filing'. Expand your notes by talking with others and collecting notes from the textbook.
  • Read your notes aloud.
  • Practice writing your answers using old exams and speak your answers.

READING/WRITING LEARNERS

  • Use a combination of handouts, textbook and lecture notes when studying.
  • Rewrite the ideas and principles into other words.
  • Make lists and organize them into categories and sections.
  • Turn charts and flows into words.
  • Seek to explain pictures and examples in words.
  • Seek out professors who use words well and provide lots of information in their lecture
  • Read and write your notes again and again.
  • Organize diagrams and graphs into statements.
  • Imagine your lists arranged as multiple choice questions and distinguish one from the other.
  • Make use of extra information recommended by instructors such as manuals, dictionaries, and glossaries

KINESTHETIC LEARNERS

  • Keep verbal discourse short and to the point.
  • Actively participate in discussions.
  • Use all of your senses - sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.
  • Use direct involvement, physical manipulation, imagery, and "hands on" activities to improve motivation, interest, and memory.
  • Organize information into the steps that were used to physically complete a task.
  • Seek out courses that have laboratories, field trips, etc. and lecturers who give real life examples.
  • Use case studies and applications (example) to help with principles and abstract concepts.
  • Allow for physical action in solving problems.
  • Read or summarize directions, especially if they are lengthy and complicated, to discourage starting a task without instructions.
  • Use taped reading materials.
  • Use practice, play acting, and modeling to prepare for tests.
  • Allow for physical movement and periodic breaks during tests, while reading, or while composing written assignments.
  • Role play the exam situation.
  • Teach the material to someone else.
  • Write practice answers, paragraphs or essays. 

Source:  Purdue University North Central, Student Success Center

 

Managing Test Anxiety  

Everyone experiences some level of nervousness or tension before tests or other important
events. A little anxiety or stress can actually help motivate us and make us more alert.
However, too much of it can interfere with our ability to prepare for and perform on tests.

Test anxiety can arise from many sources:

  • Lack of preparation/Lack of good study skills
  • Inadequate information (about the format of the test, material to be covered in the test)
  • Difficulty handling time pressure
  • Internal and external pressures to succeed
  • Fear of being evaluated
  • Fear of failure
  • Perfectionism
  • Competition
  • Catastrophic thinking ("I don't know the answer …I'll fail the test…I'll fail the
           course…I'll never graduate…I'll never get a job…")

 

Coping with Anxiety…

One of the most common ways that we cope with anxiety is to avoid the problem. However, avoidance often makes matters worse and creates more anxiety. What may be more helpful is to work on improving your coping strategies. Follow the tips below for reducing anxiety before your next test.

Coping Strategies

1.      Psych yourself down before the test. Too much arousal before the test can make it hard to concentrate and focus. Try the techniques below to help control the physiological reactions to the stress of taking a test:

2.      Take a few deep breaths before the exam begins. Breathing becomes shallow and rapid during stressful situations. Slow deep breathing (extending your belly as you slowly inhale) enriches your supply of oxygen, which can help improve concentration and decrease muscle tension. Close your eyes if you’re comfortable, then bring your attention to the tip of your nose. As you breathe in, notice that air coming in tends to be cooler and air breathed out is warmer. Focusing four or five breaths on “cool air in, warm air out” can help calm anxious mental activity.

3.      Alternate tensing and relaxing large muscle groups. Start at your toes, raise and hold while tensing your legs and buttocks for a count of 4. Release the tension and relax your legs. Raise your shoulders and clench your fists for a count of 4, then release the tension and relax. Slowly twist to your right in your seat until you feel a stretch in your lower back. Hold it for a count of 4 and exhale as you twist back to center. Repeat to the left.

4.      Review the entire test first—read directions twice! Then go back and prioritize the questions according to your ability to answer them.

5.      Construct a short outline for essay questions. This will help you avoid “rambling” and repetition.

6.      Read all multiple choice options first and eliminate the most obvious incorrect responses. If you are unsure of the correct response, rely on your first impression and move on.

7.      Pace yourself. If it appears you will be unable to finish the entire test, concentrate on the portions you can answer well.

8.      Control anxious thoughts. Tell yourself “I can be anxious later, now is the time to take the test.”

9.      Counter negative thoughts. Judging your performance during the test can be self-defeating. Focus on the present moment (answering the question in front of you) not on worries about your potential grade, your performance, or any other distracting thoughts. Negativity wastes energy and is a useless distraction!

 

More good advice:

  • Avoid "cramming." Figure out how much time you will need to study for the exam,
    and plan your studying accordingly. Trying to master a semester's worth of material the
    day before the test is impossible and can easily produce anxiety.
  • Practice taking the test. Go to the room where it will be held and familiarize yourself
    with the surroundings.
  • Get a normal night's sleep the night before the exam. Pulling an “all-nighter” will
    intensify your anxiety because a brain lacking sleep cannot retain information recently
    learned.
  • Eat a healthy meal before the test. Avoid simple carbohydrates (sugar products),
    which can lower your blood sugar and produce symptoms such as: dizziness,
    headaches, lightheadedness, lack of concentration, and anxiety. Choose complex
    carbohydrates (whole grains) and proteins, which help stabilize your blood sugar.
    Avoid coffee if you are prone to "caffeine jitters."
  • Stop studying an hour before the test. Seeing something you don't know at the last
    minute could make you more anxious. Instead, spend the hour before the test relaxing;
    you might try techniques such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.
  • Avoid talking about the exam with peers upon arrival at the test site. Try sitting alone
    to avoid hearing other students’ conversations.
  • Take a few deep breaths before the exam begins. Breathing becomes shallow and
    rapid during stressful situations. Deep breathing enriches your supply of oxygen,
    which improves concentration and decreases muscle tension.
  • Read the entire test before starting. Then go back and prioritize the questions
    according to your ability to answer them.
  • Don't focus on the grade. Avoid setting unrealistic goals for your performance;
    instead, start with small goals, like getting 5 more points than you did on the previous
    exam. Remember that grades are not a reflection of your self-worth; they do not
    necessarily predict your future success.
  • Determine the origin of your anxiety. Anxiety is often caused or made worse due to
    your own negative internal dialogue. Negative thoughts are self-defeating and may
    even be irrational. For every frightening or negative thought you have, think of a
    rational counter-thought.

Source:  Washington University in St. Louis, Student Health Services website

 

If anxiety continues, please contact the Center for Student Support Services for further investigation into the problem. 

 

 

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