From Procrastination to Proactive: Facing Finals

There are only a few weeks left in the semester, but it is not too late to prep for success when it comes to finals.

Here are a few tips to help get you started:

  • The best way to actually start studying is to change the way you think about taking tests. Keep in mind that an exam does not reflect your self-worth and does not determine your future. When perceived in this light, test taking is a lot less threatening. Remember that this is only a test, there will be others, and you will survive them all.
  • Instead of attempting to cram dozens of intricate details into your skull, try grouping items by main concepts first. Once you have the main concepts down, then you can add more details later—and they will seem a lot less overwhelming.
  • If you don’t have enough time to cover all the material for an exam, choose one portion of the lecture material, preferably the one that the professor has emphasized throughout the semester, and know it backwards and forwards.

Finals, Finals EVERYWHERE!. Don't you hate the last two weeks?. git f atr,. Feels batman.

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You’ll Be Ready for Showtime in No Time!

So you have a big exam in theater history. To get ready, you need to do a little rehearsal, but not the kind involving blocking or lighting. In order to best retain everything from Balzac to Beckett, you will need to do what is known as elaborative rehearsal. Such a strategy involves thinking about the meaning of what you study.

One of the best ways to do this is to write down the ideas in your own words. This is because when you generate information, you remember it far better than simply by recognizing it.  Try it—and when the curtain raises on exam day, your test performance will be drama-free!

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Presenting Like a Pro

So you have a PowerPoint presentation on Sir Isaac Newton. While during your talk you may be tempted to gravitate toward the door, certain tactics can help to make your performance anxiety decrease faster than the speed of light.

1. Brainstorm. One way to prepare is to create a list of major goals. What are the key points you want to convey to your audience? Another important factor is to know your audience. How sophisticated are they? Have they even heard of Newton?

2. Organize your slides.

a. Your intro slide should include the title of presentation, date, and your name.

b. That should be followed by an outline slide that describes the main points of what                you will talk about.  Start broad, finish specific.

3. Develop your content. Cover detailed information based on your outline, approximately 1-2 slides per minute. Keep it simple and visual.

a. Create a lasting message. The audience will likely take away the last thing you say,              so make your final statement important and meaningful.

b. Leave a slide to address questions and comments.

4. End on a light note. While you don’t have to go out with a big bang, the best presentations end with a forward looking message or relevant humor.


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Freaking about Public Speaking?

If public speaking sounds as appealing as getting bitten by a rabid rat, you’re not alone. However, there are a number of tips you can implement to make the seemingly torturous task somewhat sufferable.

Here are a few tips to prevent public squeaking (or shrieking, for that matter):

  1. Model from the masters. Who are your favorite speakers? What are their habits and styles? What kind of words and gestures to the use? Analyze what makes the speakers so attractive, and see if there are any of their traits that you can incorporate into your presentation.
  2. Go for a test drive. Try to check out the room, where you will be speaking in advance. If you are going to be using a microphone, see if you can test the sound system. The more accustomed you are to the room, the more comfortable you will be on the day of your speech.
  3. Know your material backwards and forwards. Knowing and understanding your material is critical for successful presentation. Winging it can oftentimes result in painfully embarrassing outcomes. The more familiar you are with your topic, the more comfortable you will be in your delivery.
  4. Practice until your roommate can’t take it anymore. Although it sounds kind of obvious, it’s so important and needs to be stated. Practice in front of anything. Practice in front of a mirror, practice in front of a cactus. Practice in front of people (maybe other than your roommate). And then do it again.
  5. Visualize yourself as victorious. When we get stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, our pessimistic thoughts usually result in a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, when you are prepared and positive, you’re likelihood for success is greatly enhanced. In your mind’s eye, see yourself speaking confidently, clearly, and with enthusiasm. See yourself being well received by an admiring audience…and it will likely be so.
  6. Managing eye contact. How many times have we been told by our mothers to make good eye contact when addressing people? If you want to actually make eye contact, scan the room smoothly and keep eye contact with individuals only for 3 to 5 seconds each. If you want to fake eye contact, look at the tops of audience members’ heads while you’re speaking. Whether the eye contact be real or fake, ultimately it will provide you with a better connection to your audience.
  7. G-O S-L-O-W. Nothing says nervous-speech-giver like a lightning speed delivery. Be deliberate in your pacing. The slower you speak, the more relaxed you will feel.
  8. B-R-E-A-T-H-E. There is no better way to tame your tension than to do some deep breathing exercises before your speech begins. Try breathing as deeply as you can into your abdominal area. Try not to raise your chest as you inhale. Then exhale completely. Repeat. This is known as diaphragmatic breathing and it ultimately short-circuits the stress response. Even during your speech, try to breathe diaphragmatically. Not only will it help control your nerves, it will also help your voice project better.



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Tackle Presentations Like a Titan

So your professor wants you to do a big presentation on Prometheus. Why is it that being bound to a rock and attacked by an eagle sounds infinitely more appealing than speaking in front of your class?

Many people find presentations daunting, but they don’t have to be. The truth is, your instructor is likely not trying to punish you eternally, but simply helping you develop a skill that you’ll need far beyond your college years.

Here are a few tips that will ensure a great delivery:

  1. Preparation. “Winging” a presentation usually invites disaster. One way to prepare is to create a list of major goals. What are the key points you want to convey to your audience? Another important factor is to know your audience. When you know your audience, you know how to tailor your delivery and content. Next, keep a simple outline and make it organized. This will ensure that you and your audience can follow your ideas from start to finish.
  2. Materials. Once you have figured out the content of your talk, decide what materials you want to accompany it. Do you want to present everything on PowerPoint? Do you want to give the audience handouts to follow along? Are there any exciting “show and tell” type items to pass around? You don’t want to make your audience too distracted, so if you have numerous handouts, wait until the end of the presentation to distribute them.
  3. Delivery. If you are truly prepared and have decent materials, your delivery will likely go smoothly. Preparation is the key to confidence. However, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of a stellar performance. Try to make eye contact when possible; it creates a connection with your audience. Try to remember to speak more slowly than you would in regular conversation, as your audience needs time to absorb all that you are saying. Additionally, try to vary the tone and volume of your speech— otherwise you could end up sounding monotonous. Only use hand gestures to emphasize important points; otherwise, it may be distracting.

After your presentation is over, take stock of how you did. What went well? What didn’t go so well? What might make it better next time? Remember, a flawless performance is hard to achieve. After all, Prometheus represents human striving, not perfection!

Need more study tips? Take a workshop at The Study!


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