Stupendous Study Tips for a Blissful Brain, Part I

Fortunately for college students, researchers in cognitive psychology have discovered ways to get the biggest bang for your buck when you study.

For part one of this series, study tips include the following:

  • Study only a modest amount of material at any given time
  • In that short study time, study groups of concepts are related
  • Review that material more than once

When you study in this fashion, you will reduce the amount of interference from other information so you can encode what you are studying more successfully. Additionally, this will make the material more distinctive.

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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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Your Syllabus, Your Salvation

If this is your first time to college, you may be mystified by the strange, multi-paged document that professors pass out on the first day of class: the syllabus.

While it may be tempting to turn it into a paper airplane and launch it into the nearest recycling bin—think again. The syllabus can actually save you. Remember in high school how teachers reminded you about due dates? The cruel reality is that in college, you have to remind yourself. That’s where the syllabus comes in.

It is packed with information to help you take charge of your studies and usually includes:

  • A schedule of when certain topics will be covered
  • Due dates for projects
  • Rubric on how you will be graded
  • A List of required reading materials
  • Professor contact information
  • Policies on absenteeism or lateness
  • Course objectives
  • Tips on how to succeed in the course

In sum, the syllabus is like a how-to manual for succeeding in your class. Reading it will give you a preview of what to expect. Keep a printed copy in your notebook, even if it is available online. If you refer to it regularly throughout the semester, it will help you keep on top of assignments.




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So Long, Summer Sun. Hello, Getting Work Done.

As September sets in, summer memories of mountains and marinas slowly begin to recede…

But coming back to campus is not all bad, especially if you take control during the first few weeks of your return. Here are some tips to help you get back into the swing of things so you can have a successful semester:

  1. Baby your syllabus. When you get your hands on it, don’t let it go. This little document holds the key to your success. Once you have all of your syllabi, enter all the due dates in a master calendar. Analyze your calendar and look for the crunch times. This will help you figure out when to start on assignments—write those times into your calendar as well.
  2. Start studying ASAP. It’s not always the most fun approach, but studying early on in the semester will reap big rewards when it comes time for exams. While your friends will be drooling and cursing themselves during all-night cram sessions, you’ll be relaxed and refreshed for test day.
  3. Make connections right away. Meeting new people in class isn’t always easy. But it’s far easier to meet people before cliques start. The best way to get to know your classmates is to simply lean over and introduce yourself. Hopefully, you can make some new friends. At minimum, you can get a few email addresses to contact people if you miss a class and need to copy someone’s notes.
  4. Get to know your professor. If you are lost in class, don’t hesitate to see your professor during office hours (see your syllabus for this information!). Professors are more receptive to struggling students who take the initiative to contact them. They will try to help you themselves, or provide you with resources that can. Even if you are not struggling, it’s great to try to get to know your professors. You’ll need to get recommendations from someone, so have them get to know you as well.


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Don’t Heave. Breathe.

One of the best things you can do to combat text anxiety is to simply breathe. When we’re anxious, we tend to take shallow breaths, which increase the stress response.

Right before the exam (or during it), try an easy deep breathing technique. Inhale deeply so your belly rises. Hold for three counts. Exhale slowly and repeat until you feel calmer.

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Make Short Work of Your Long Term Projects

Long term assignments can challenge even the most poised project planners. The trick is to take control early.

Here is a plan to show you how:

  1. Break down your behemoth undertaking into three to four major tasks.
  2. Each of these tasks should then be broken down into clearly-defined small steps.
  3. Once you’ve identified these small steps, determine how long it will take to complete each one.
  4. Look at the project deadline, and working back from there, figure out the deadline for each small step.
  5. In your daily planner (You do have a daily planner, don’t you?), write down the details of what you need to do next for the deadline (What books do you have to read by then? How many pages need to be written by then?).
  6. Relish the feeling as you check off each completed deadline.
  7. Ideally, budget your time so you finish the project at least two days before the deadline. This way, you can make edits or address any unforeseen issues.
  8. Sleep restfully, knowing that you have a plan and it’s all under control!



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Adios, Anxiety!

You are in the middle of your Spanish exam. Instead of remembering how to conjugate estar, worries are rattling around your head like maracas gone wild. Thoughts like, “I’ll never pass”, ”Why didn’t I study harder?” and “I’ll never graduate” all clamor for your attention. How on earth are you going to conjugate estar with all of this nervous chatter in your head? Fortunately, there are techniques that can help qualm such runaway thoughts.

One method is the thought-stopping technique. Imagine a red and white stop sign with eight sides. Picture the word STOP in the middle of the octagon. Now imagine hearing the word “stop” out loud, either by you or someone else. This will draw your attention away from your racing thoughts, even if just for a second. This is a way of training your brain to regain control. If you return to your racing thoughts (which you likely will), that’s okay. Simply remember the word “stop” again. With practice, you will be able to regain control of your mind. And practice makes…perfecto!

Need more tips to help beat anxiety?

Take a workshop on Avoiding Test Stress and Anxiety at The Study!



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Retiring from the Racetrack

For graduating Greyhounds, the next six weeks is the final lap.

The lure is almost within reach. You can almost hear the crowds cheering you on as you come down the final stretch. Everyone is telling you that this should be a happy time, but you don’t feel that way. For many college graduates, the joy of leaving school is often mixed with sadness, anxiety, and a host of other emotions. For some graduates, there is anxiety about not knowing what comes next. For others, there is anxiety about starting graduate school when they feel so academically burnt out. Other students experience grief over leaving the place they have called home for four years.

No matter what category you fall into, the most important thing to understand is that it is okay to feel what you’re feeling, no matter what that feeling is. One way of overcoming transition anxiety is to try to relax and congratulate yourself on your accomplishment. Once you have thoroughly allowed yourself to experience all of your emotions, the next step is to set up new goals and try to attain them. While this race may be ending, there will be more to come!


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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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Don’t Get Tripped up on the True-False Waltz

True-false questions can seem like a deceptively simple two-option answer. Here are a few tricks to make sure you don’t misstep:

  • As long as there is no guessing penalty, try to make an educated guess. Leaving a blank would be criminal. After all, you have a 50% chance of being right!
  • Words such as “always,” “never” and “every” indicate that a statement must be true all of the time. These types of words usually lead to an answer of “false.”
  • Words such as “sometimes,” “generally,” and “usually” mean that, depending on the situation, the statement can be true or false. Such words frequently result in an answer of “true.”
  • Most true-false tests have more true answers than false answers. So if you’re at the end of the true-false section and you feel like you bombed it, go back and count. What’s your true to false ratio? If you have more false than true answers, you may want to go back and revise the answers about which you are unsure.
  • If there is any part of a statement that is false, then the whole statement is false. HOWEVER, just because a portion of the statement is true, does not mean that the whole statement is true. Got it?

Want more helpful Test-taking Tips? Take a workshop at The Study!

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