Archive for April, 2013

Finals are next week, and the activity around my office has increased quite a bit. Some students are panicking because they have realized that the final will make or break the possibility of them passing the class. Others are doing well enough in the class, but lack confidence or suffer from test anxiety. We even have some students dissolving into tears during these last two weeks of school because of the stress. The most important thing these students can do, no matter which category they are in, is to begin preparing early in a systematic and thorough way.frustrated female student

Here is a good way to make sure you cover the material in a thorough way:

Begin by seeing how many days you have available to study before your final. Now subtract one from that total, and that gives you the number of days you will work on your finals preparation. So, let’s say you have 7 days before your first final. So begin by subtracting 1, which leaves 6 days. Now divide your test material into 6 parts. Over the next 6 days you will prepare and study the material. On the first day, prepare study material for Part 1.  This might mean making flash cards, organizing charts, creating a self-test, etc. On day 2, you will prepare study materials for Part 2 and study the materials you created for Part 1. One day 3, you will prepare Part 3 and study Parts 1 and 2. Continue on until you have completed all 6 days. On the 7th day, you will review ALL 6 PARTS! Each day, this should only take you an hour or two, depending on how much material you have to cover. Once you have completed this study method, you will be well prepared for your exam and can go into the classroom with confidence.

If you have several exams for the week, you will create this type of schedule for each exam you will be taking. Just adjust the number of days according to the time you have left to study.  

Let me know how your finals go and good luck!


When I was in college, the term, “freshman fifteen,” referred to the fifteen pounds or more that most students gained during their first year of college. It was a true phenomenon, and I suppose we could chalk it up to a number of things. Perhaps metabolism slows down a little after 18. Or, it could be the high fat and starch diets found in many college cafeterias. Or perhaps, we should point a finger at the frat parties with plentiful booze. To top it off, it could also be the sedentary lifestyle of students who study for hours on a daily basis (is that true?). Whatever the reason, you don’t have to go to the gym every day to fight off the pounds. Making a conscious effort to stay physically active can make a big difference, not only in your body, but also in your mind. It is a well-established fact that exercise strengthens the structure and function of the brain. Many animal and human studies have “shown that a few months of moderate exercise can create new neurons, lift mood and hone memory and thinking”.

Here are some easy ways to do it:

  • Walk. Walk a lot. If you drive to school, don’t go for the closest parking lot. Park further away, and then take a brisk walk to your class.
  • Always, always choose the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you live close enough to campus to ride a bike to school, then do it!
  • When you walk to classes, do so at a brisk pace. Who cares if it doesn’t look cool?
  • Your campus probably has a gym. Go there and use the tread mill, elliptical, or stationery bike, and you can even use your study flash cards while you do it (see the previous post on this topic).

When you are studying, take breaks ever 45-50 minutes. This is good for your mind, but it is also good for your body if you use the break to move. Take a walk around the dorm, go up and down the stairs a few times, or change your study area. For example, if you have been studying in the library for the last hour, pack up your bag and walk to the café. Study for an hour while you sip your latte, and then pack up your bag and move to yet another area. The breaks and movement are great for your concentration and study power.

To sum it up…. Get moving!


Posted: April 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

Most of us struggle with procrastination, but we don’t recognize it until our time has disappeared. Busyness can be a great disguiser of procrastination, so it is important to figure out what kinds of things we tend to do when we are procrastinating. Some people are cleaners or organizers, and it only takes a glimpse of Spanish verb conjugation charts to cause them to dive into cleaning out a backpack, emptying the trash or sharpening the pencils. These things are a diversion for us; we hide the fact that we are not doing what we set out to do by being busy. This video is sooo spot on. Watch it and then, in the comments, share something you now recognize as procrastination in your own behavior.


ipodWhile I was in college full-time, I was working about 30 hours a week, and I was also a single mother.  It was busy, but I tried to work out every day to stay fit and to relieve stress! Last week, I ran across a list of ideas on the web for combining exercise with studying, and I thought I’d share the gist of each idea from the list and agument it with my own experiences.
1) Be prepared: Always have a notebook, textbook, or flashcards with you. I just take my school bag with me everywhere I go, so that I’m prepared to study when I have time. Many different types of exercise equipment have a book stand, so you can read or study while feeling the burn!
2) Become a multi-tasker: Audio books can be a painless way to do this. My degree is in English, and there was a semester when I had to read about 3 novels a week. I didn’t want to give up my exercise routine, so I started to download audio books to my iPod, and then listen while driving, walking, jogging, or working out. I did have to monitor myself carefully, because I would occasionally tune out. I fixed that by rewinding periodically. I also found it helpful to read a summary of the chapter before I started listening, which made it easier me to follow the audio.
3) Team Up: Do you have a study partner you can take to the gym? If so, quiz each other while working out, and let there be consequences for wrong answers. (Really? 20 Crunches for not knowing the definition of hypothalamus?)
4) Sound Off! You might also be able to memorize material while running, using the cadence of your steps to help you memorize. I can testify that this works well. When I was taking Spanish class, I probably memorized 90% of my vocabulary and verb conjugation charts this way. I used the myndology flash cards so that I didn’t have to worry about losing or dropping the cards. This of course, can also be done while working out on a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationery bike.myndology pink
5) Suffer the Consequences: Quiz yourself while on a stationary bike or treadmill and every time you get something wrong, do a 30-second sprint.
Exercise improves your fitness and well-being; college can be stressful, and exercise has some powerful stress-busting benefits, and the suggestions above are incredibly healthy for you both mentally and physically.
If you have any experience with combining exercise and study, please comment below. I’d love to hear what you have tried and how it worked for you.

I woke up with a horrible sore throat and low fever, so I decided I needed to stay home and take a sick day. I didn’t feel bad enough that I was going to get back in bed and sleep all day, so it seemed like a good opportunity to get some work done. I have an independent project due on Thursday, and I wanted to make some progress on it today. I also knew that I wanted to work on developing a few ideas and a schedule for this blog, and I needed to conduct some important work-related research. On top of that, laundry needed to be done! However, I found myself totally wasting the first hour of my “sick day” by random web surfing, unsystematic and pointless tasks, and generally “whittling away my time” with absolutely nothing to show for it. I caught myself and thought, “What would I tell a student to do?” And, with that thought, I refocused and developed a plan. This is what I did:

  1. Set up my work area. Since I was more-or-less planning to sit in bed and rest while accomplishing some things that needed to be done, I started by setting up a neat work area with the tools I would need for the day. This included:  Creating a neat work area by making my bed, setting up a TV tray for my work tools, and several bottles of water, medications, a few snacks.
  2. I got my planner, my blog planner, my timer (ESSENTIAL time management tool for me!), pens/pencils, and necessary books.
  3. I wrote out a to-do list and prioritized them with numbers.
  4. I made a rough schedule for the day.

sick day

Now, I got started with the items on my list and set a timer for each one. The timer is a irreplaceable tool for time management. It helps me stay on track and reminds me when I need to move on to something else. I should mention that if I were running a 102 degree fever and felt terribly sick, I would give myself permission to take the day off and handle these tasks later. But, I feel well enough that there is no reason I cannot do these things while I’m resting. I will give myself permission to take naps if I need them, and if I start feeling worse I won’t force myself to work. However, if I feel well enough to get some things done, taking a few minutes to set up a plan will pay off!

Have you learned the hard way that you can’t remember things if you haven’t dispersed your studying over several days? Students are often surprised to learn that 10 hours of studying the day before an exam is not equal to 10 hours of studying over 5 days! The formula I am regularly giving students is TIME + REPETITION = SUCCESS. Time is a vital part of the equation!

The Ebbinghaus Curve of Forgetting shows us that people forget things at a shocking pace if they don’t review the information at regular intervals. You may recall that Ebbinghaus discovered in his experiment on memory and retention, that a huge portion forgotten material is lost in the first 20 minutes! Even more shocking, without any review, the person has forgotten nearly half of what was originally learned after just one hour. 24 hours later, a whopping 2/3 of the learned information has been lost! You can combat this rapid memory decline by using your Cornell Notes in a very purposeful way. If you follow my suggestions for review, you will find that when it is time for a test, you will have already made tremendous progress towards being prepared. Just implement the 5-day study plan a week before the test to seal the deal!

In order to use Cornell notes to combat the forgetting curve, you will want to begin by setting your note taking paper up in the form of Cornell Notes by drawing a line about 1/3 of the way over from the left, and another line a couple of inches from the bottom. Then work your way through steps 1-5, as described in the graphic below. It is just that simple!

Use Cornell Notes to Change the Forgetting Curve!

Using the Cornell note taking method in this strategic way combats the dramatic drop in memory pinpointed in the Ebbinghaus curve. Since we know that most of the forgetting occurs in the first 20 minutes after a lecture, you will want to review your notes in those first 20 minutes. (However, this is not just glancing over your notes, this reading through them and processing them in a meaningful way.) According to the Curve of Forgetting data, that brief review bumps the curve to nearly an incredible 100% again. Your second review should occur within the first 24 hours, the third within the first week, and the fourth by 30 days. Periodic review during that 30 day time period is also recommended. Look at the graphic below to see an illustration of this concept. Each time review is conducted, the curve is boosted. You might also notice that the drop in the curve is less dramatic after each review, because the brain is beginning to move information to the long-term memory.

retention and review 

The regular reviews help make those new neuro-pathways smooth and easier to navigate. This means you have quicker and easier access to the memory, which also helps to combat test anxiety, blank mind syndrome, and other stress-related memory blocks.

Try it! It is an extremely effective way of studying and keeps you from having to use those grueling, stressful, and ineffective all-nighters before an exam.