Dealing with pre-exam nerves

Exam season can be a pretty nerve wracking time. It doesn’t help by the fact you’re probably spending late nights in the library, only having an energy drink to keep you awake. Last year, I got so worked up about my exams I ended up having a panic attack in one of them. I’ve since then learned from my mistakes and I am writing this blog to give you tips on how to deal with pre-exam nerves and anxiety.

Have a good mindset: exams are important but not more important than you

Stress in small amounts is good for you. It shows you that you may need to be working harder or that you need to change your revision plan. But a lot of stress…that can really affect your mental health, as I found out last year. If you can’t control something and you are doing the best that you can, then accept it and just do your best!

Last year I had 7 exams in 12 days. I was so stressed about it all and felt so anxious. I was working 9am till 9pm, only taking breaks to eat because I really wanted that 2:1! This isn’t healthy. In my 4th exam I had a panic attack with an exam the next morning too. It was a horrible feeling. But I realise now that I shouldn’t have put so much pressure on myself. I was doing the best I could and that was what mattered. I couldn’t change the situation, so should have not got so anxious about achieving the grades I wanted. Keep a good mindset and just try your best!

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Take breaks

Everyone has there preferred time of day that they work better. I like to get up early and revise until tea time then have the evening off to chill and have a break from revision.  You might rather sleep in and get up and start doing work about 2 and then do work till later in the evening. You might prefer to do a couple of hours, have a couple hours break, then do some more. But it is important to fit in breaks. You will be far less productive if you don’t! And it is also not good for your mind set if all you’re thinking of all day everyday is revision.

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Make a plan

The more organised and prepared you are, the the less nervous you are going to feel about your exams. Make a revision plan. Plan each day with what revision you are going to do. Spread time wisely across each exam. Don’t leave the exam you hate till the week before.. you’ll feel worse and more stressed for it!

Eat healthily and exercise regularly

I find that exercise is a nice break from studying. Not only does it help me think I’m staying in shape (with all the extra stress food I’m eating), but it also is good for studying because of the hormones it releases. There are certain foods that are meant to help with stress. The one that I always rely on is dark chocolate. I’ll have a couple of squares a day as a treat. Unfortunately, some of the other foods don’t sound so appealing, but they include leafy vegetables, salmon, blueberries, avocados and seeds.

Try relaxation techniques such as meditation

It is important during exam season to relax. Meditation is a great way to do this. It has many benefits such as reducing stress, improves concentration, increases self-awareness and practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health. There are apps you can download that can help you and Youtube videos too.

Over the Easter break I went to a yoga retreat in Portugal. It was my friends idea and after my panic attack last year I thought it would be a great way to de-stress. Here is a picture before a mediation, me standing closest to the camera.

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Exam season can be a scary time, even if you prefer exams over coursework (like me). Remember they will come to a end and the horrible exam zombie you have become will go away. And once they are over, you have a 3 month summer to look forward to! Good luck with your exams 🙂

 

Brain Snacks: the best food and drinks to have when you’re revising

When revising it is important to keep your brain active and yourself motivated to work. This blog is going to give you some ideas of food and drink that you can have either as a snack or as part of a meal to get you through those tough days.

  • Fruit and Vegetables

There are many vitamins, minerals, and ions in fruit and vegetables; therefore they will give you an energy boost. The fructose and healthy sugar in them coverts into energy. Some of the best fruits to have are apples, bananas, berries and avocados.

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• Peanut butter

Peanut butter is not necessarily unhealthy in small portions. It contains healthy fats, similar to avocados, and it has lots of protein. Peanut butter can be put on toast, crackers or even in porridge and it also can store for a long time in your cupboard before expiring. An essential student food!

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• Eggs

These are very filling and a great food for breakfast to start off your day. There are many different ways to cook them; such as boiled, scrambled, poached and fried, therefore they are hard to get bored of! Start your day right with a filling breakfast and you’ll find yourself being more productive!

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• Pumpkin seeds and Walnuts

These have omega-3 and zinc in them, which helps to stimulate your memory. They are a great snack, or something you can add to your main meal, such as a salad.

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• Coffee

This is a great drink to keep you awake! This is sometimes a necessity to get through your studying. Just make sure you don’t over do it!

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• Squash

We all know that water is the best drink to drink to stay hydrated and studies have shown that it can actually help you to perform better in tests. However, it can sometimes get boring, so why not change it up a bit by adding some squash!

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Also, as well as drinking and eating the right things, remember to stay hydrated with water and get enough sleep! These will keep your brain awake and more motivated, so you don’t fall asleep whilst studying!

Easter Revision Tips

As a Psychology student, I know that research has shown that the longer the period of time you try to remember a piece of information the more you will remember. So that means the earlier you start your revision the better! If you spread 20 hours of revision over 3 weeks it is a lot better for your memory than 2 days of cramming! So basically, if you’re reading this and haven’t started revising yet… open your first revision book and crack on!

Make a plan

Start to plan on what days you are going to get some revision done . There is no way you should be revising every single day.. I mean it is called a holiday for a reason! But you want to make sure on the days you are revising you are putting your time to use. If you wake up at 11 thinking “yeah might finally crack on with some revision today” spend another 2 hours lounging around and figuring out what revision you could do and you’ll probably just end up crying because you realise how much revision you have.  Stop the waterworks. It’s time to make a plan.

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Tips on how to make a good plan

Spread your time wisely

Think about how much each exam is worth. Full year modules will be worth 30 credits while half year will be worth 15 credits. You want to try and spread your time equally if each exam is worth the same amount or spend a bit more time on those full year module exams. Also each module’s exam may be worth different percentage of the module grade. So for example I have exams that are 75% of my module grade and 50% of module grade.

Look at past papers

Look at what type of exams it is. It could be essay based, short questions, multiple choice or a mix. You need a make a plan around what type of revision you need to do. For essay exams you may not need to learn every lecture but learn a few more in-depth. For example one of my exams is 1 essay out of 6. So if I learn 5 lectures 1 will defiantly come up. While if you have a multiple choice exam you will need to learn each lecture but not so in depth. So plan your revision according.

Plan what days you are going to revise

Plan a reasonable amount of time in your week to revise! Also make sure you are having days off too! Easter is also about chilling (and eating chocolate!).

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Try and stick to the plan but don’t pressure yourself!

When creating a plan you may have missed judged it. Realising actually you can’t get through as many lecture notes as you thought in a day. Don’t be dishearten just alter the plan to suit your own revision plan. That’s of course if you’re not having facebook breaks every 10 minutes!

Other revision advice: Try and find quiet and non distracting place to revise

If you have gone home for easter finding somewhere appropriate to revise may be hard. My dad likes to put his bass speakers up loud (yes my 50 year old dad!) so I know how hard it can be to get some peace at home. How tempting it can be to revise in bed.. that’s probably no good too! Find somewhere you can set up all your work and is quiet. Maybe a kitchen table if you don’t have a desk in your room! If the place you could revise is usually loud, you could always ask you family to be quiet for a couple hours. Or most places often have library you could go study in too!

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I hope your easter holidays are going well and you’re also having a well deserved break! Eat some chocolate and do some revision 🙂

Revision tips depending on your personality

Revision is a bore! Long and tedious. Boring and dull. Did I mention it was boring? It is hard to get motivated for revising and essay writing but your success in an exam or essay could rest on how well you revise.

a14cab5a3f5402daa8014fe1340f3cb0So depending on who you are a person I have prepared some tips which might help you:

improve-memory-1-1The Meticulous planner

  • Create a Revision Timetable: Start revising several weeks before your exams are due to start. Exam timetables are normally released well in advance. Be realistic with the time you have and remember to factor in a fair amount of rest time.
  • Identify key topics: For each course, identify what you need to revise. Look back at past papers and the course content in order to work out what you should revise. An old teacher of mine used to say “Revise the trees, not the forest”- basically don’t try and revise everything as you won’t have time and you’ll start to panic.

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The Memory reviser 

Ok, so you have a great memory. You make people jealous with how well and quick you remember things. Or perhaps you struggle to remember things?

  • Don’t leave things until the last minute! Never a good idea, give yourself plenty of time to look over things.
  • Good notes taken in classes mean you can spend more time revising and less time researching.
  • If you’re struggling to remember words or terms try to associate it with an image or song to see if it makes it easier to remember.

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The Procrastinator 

“I’ll do it later” but later never comes. Those texts need checking every 10 minutes and that new series isn’t going to watch itself!

Procrastinators what you need is time. Time to revise and time to relax.

  • Set yourself small, achievable targets each day. This could be a minimum number of words to write or even how long you work. Perhaps work for 20 minutes and have a 10 minute break (just be strict with yourself)
  • Remove distractions- yes that series is good but perhaps wait until the evening before you binge. Whilst trying to revise turn off your phone/ TV/ music if they are a distraction. Additionally while you can’t simply remove that one distracting flatmate, you can find a space that you can work easily in.
  • Reward yourself- need encouragement to write? Try: http://writtenkitten.net which rewards you every 100 words with a picture of a cute cat!

Whatever your style, I hope this helps!

5 tips to help you study for your exams

We’ve all been there! Three days before a deadline and you need to use all your energy to focus on your coursework. More often than not, in my case, procrastination kicks in, which leads to me doing everything the night before. Now, I like to think I got better at this thing called “university” and maybe became a bit more responsible, so in the hopes that you will not go through the same struggles I did, I made a list of the things that worked for me and improved my productivity this academic year!

1. Avoid any distraction

I don’t know about you, but I get so easily distracted. Once when I was doing my reading, I stopped and messaged a friend for an hour,  then went to take shower and after that I decided I was too sleepy to do anything else and ended up going to bed. So, it should not come a surprise that my first tip for you is to just turn off your phone (or at least the wi-fi) when you study. It helps so much!

2. Make sure you eat healthily

I know we are all students and eating healthy is not very realistic over long periods of time, but it would help immensely if you do it at least during the exam period. Eating fruits and making sure you get all the right vitamins in your body helps a lot! Food like walnuts, apples, blueberries and bananas improve your ability to focus, help you to retain information and remain mentally alert.

3. Get enough sleep

I know this may seem like common knowledge, but not many people seem to do this. It is more important to sleep properly the night before an exam rather than try to cram as much information as possible. I tried the cramming a few times and, although it worked the first two times, on the third test I just crashed. I could not remember anything of what I studied the night before and I almost failed. So make sure you are well-rested!

4. Use colours to help you study

One of the techniques that I found to be very helpful was just marking every one of my subjects with a different colour whenever I took notes. That way I could memorise them much faster. Simple things life markers and post-it notes can make a big difference if you actually take the time to use them.

1. Treat yourself!

After taking an exam or just spending an entire night to finish a coursework, just take a breather! Meet one of your friends for coffee, go to the cinema, or just take a well-deserved break before studying for your next assignment. You deserve it 🙂

 

Why Essex was my first choice

If you’re familiar to the Harry Potter film series, then I liken finding the right University to finding the right wand for yourself. You may think that you know what you want but ultimately “the wand chooses the wizard”.

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I’ve got to be honest, Essex was not initially my first choice when I was looking at Universities. In fact, it was not even on my radar as somewhere where I wanted to study. It was too close to home and I was dead set on studying Drama somewhere like London, where there are countless theatres and loads of things to do.

However, I went on a day trip with my Sixth Form to the Colchester campus and it was surprisingly good. Me and my mates had a really cool day looking around the place, seeing what University life had to offer.

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So, when it came to organising Open Days, I just put Essex on the to visit list on a whim. It was quite a cool campus and I thought that it would be a decent benchmark to compare other universities to.

It ended up not only setting the benchmark for me but actually setting it so damn high that I couldn’t top it. No matter how hard I tried to find faults in the University….

However, despite my reluctance, my little brother always knew where I should go. He always loves coming to visit me at Uni because he got given a free bag of popcorn from the SU on the open day. I often remind him that it was only for the open day and we don’t get free popcorn all the time at Uni!

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Little by little, as I came for my interview for Essex, my dream of studying in London started to crumble as I fell in love with the idea of campus life at Essex. Suddenly, it’s distance from home and the fact that it was a train ride to London didn’t matter anymore.

Essex had the right course for me, good theatres on its doorstep and an irresistibly good feel to the place. In better words, it felt like somewhere where I could actually imagine spending the next few years of my life.

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While Essex may not be everybody’s first choice, there’s one thing which remains the same: choosing your first-choice University is always a big commitment and a big decision to make. It will most likely take a lot of time, thought and effort. But in the end, the choice will be obvious once you realise that your first choice is somewhere where you will be happy.

That’s when, like the wands, the “University chooses the student”.

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Essay writing tips from a uni student

Essay writing is a huge part of university life and no one enjoys doing them. This blog is going to give you tips on how to write a good essay and avoid more stress!

Make sure you keep your work organised

Throughout the year you should create a folder for each module, so that all of your work is in one place. Lecture notes are usually really useful for writing essays, as they sometimes give you hints and tips throughout the lectures. The lecturer is likely to give extra information that you can write down, instead of just reading the lecture slides.

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Plan your essay

You can do this by first destructing the question. After this, read the recommended reading that is usually found on Moodle and pick out any key and information and quotes that are relevant to the essay question.

You can then write bullet point notes under headings. The essay should start with an introduction, outlining what the essay will be about and how it will be structured. This will be followed by the main part of the essay with your arguments. Finally, a conclusion should be made at the end, summarising your assignment and what your final answer is. However, this structure can change between departments, so make sure you double check with yours!

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Presentation

The presentation of your assignment can actually sometimes gain you marks. In your module outline it should mention how they expect you to format your essay. For example, this could include font, font size, line spacing and whether to include page numbers. Also make sure that your paragraphs make sense and always check your spelling and grammar.

References

The way you reference depends on your department, so you should check your module outline for this. Many students use Harvard referencing style, which involves in-text referencing, using the surname of the author/s, date it was published and sometimes the page number in brackets. There is also a reference list needed at the end, which includes all of your references in full. There are many website online that show you how to do this, or some even do it for you!

Time management

Many students cram writing an essay in the night before it’s due. However, this is not the best idea because if you need to find references in the library or you need to ask your lecturer or teacher a question, then it is too late! Also it is best to have time to plan your essay and have time to thoroughly look for good and valid references. By giving yourself time, you can still socialise without worrying about the 3000 word essay you have to write.

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I hope that this has helped you to understand a bit more about essay writing at Uni standard!

Making Big Life Choices: Getting Past the Fear

Leaving uni is another big step and new chapter of your life. It is moving out of your comfort zone and starting something new. Are you worried about getting a job after uni? Or wondering whether you want to do a Masters? There are many options out there for you to choose from, so it can be a bit daunting, but this blog is here to help you get over that!

Fear of losing fun.

University is possibly one of the most fun times of your life and you may feel that once you leave uni you will miss out and no longer have any fun. However, having a job means that you will have a regular income and you can save up to do fun things with your friends, such as go on exciting, exotic holidays which you may not be able to afford to do at uni!

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Fear of getting a job that you’re unhappy with.

This is why it is good to get an internship, frontrunner placement or part-time job whilst at uni. This way you can filter out what you like and dislike within a working environment. For example, you can find out if you hate working in an office environment, or you may love it!

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What if I don’t get a job at all?

You should start looking in to jobs at the beginning of your final year at uni. Many graduate schemes open around this time and the job usually starts in the September after you graduate. If you get a graduate scheme then this will take the pressure off you throughout the year, knowing that you have a job once you finish uni. It is also good to get an internship over the summer months. This way if employees like you they may offer you a job for when you graduate. You should sign up to job sites online and filter in your job preferences. This way they can email you any jobs that come up that they think will suit your job preferences.

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Should I do a masters?

This completely depends on what you want to do when you finish uni. For some jobs a Masters is needed, so you should look in to this. If you enjoy education and want to stay at uni longer then this could be for you. It is always worth looking in to, but you also have to consider the cost and another year or so where you won’t be in full-time work.

Your life after uni isn’t as scary as you think! Your friends around you are all in the same situation. It’s good to ask people on your course what they are thinking of doing to get some ideas on what’s out there and what might suit you.

Revision techinques

After 6 years of exams I think I have mastered revision now. I know what type of revision to do that makes it more interesting and helps me remember the most information. Often different types of exams suit different types of revision.

My biggest piece of advice for revision is to use more than one method. You could have up to 8 exams. Doing the same thing over and over will get tedious and that is no way to get the material into your brain! Switch it up and make it as fun as possible!

Lecture notes

Writing up a lecture is a great way to start your revision. It refreshes your memory about what you have learnt in your lectures and you can change it into your own words, making the notes catered to you. I like to use colour pens to make each section of information stand out. I will then use these lecture notes to revise from along with the lecture slides.

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Mind Map:

There are several ways you could use mind maps.

  1. You could write each topic in the middle and write around it the important sub headings. E.g for a mind map about Working Memory I explain the different parts such as visuospatial sketchpad, central executive etc.
  2. You could choose a sub heading and write all the information to do with that subheading e.g for a sub heading on Visuospatial sketchpad I would explain what it does and any research to do with it.
  3. You could get a bigger size paper e.g A3 and write out all the important information from one lecture.

 

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Listen Again

Listen again really is a god send. It has saved me sooo many times from when I have gaps in my notes or I didn’t understand something. It is a way of doing the lecture again in your own time! For one of my January exams I was constantly using listen again! A lot of the content was hard to get your head around, so listening to it again really helped me understand it. It also means you can sit at home with a cup of tea and feel relaxed.

Flashcards/question cards

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Once you’re been over material the best way of learning is to test your knowledge! Create flash cards with a subject on one side and the answers on the other and get someone to test you! Or create question cards and test yourself after you’ve gone over a lecture.

Essay plans

If your exam involved writing essays then making essay plans is a good idea! You might go over your lectures 10 times but when you come to your exam you need to actually be able to write an essay. Most subjects will include past papers so that you can have a look at previous exam questions and plan an essay for that question!

Practice questions

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In exams that you have short answer questions or maths questions the only way you’re really going to know if you are doing it right is by practising! If your lecturer hasn’t provided you with practice questions then ask if you can have some… practice makes perfect!

Teaching someone else

Studies have shown that one of the most productive ways to revise is to teach it to someone else. If you have a willing friend/partner/parent then try and teach them some of the material you are learning. Telling someone else the information can help you to have a better understanding of it.

Study Group

A good resource is using your fellow students! Going over and discussing information together means you can help each other and you are more likely to retain the information. It is also a great way to test each other. Get your flash cards and question cards out and learn together! It makes revision more interesting instead of being stuck staring at the same 4 walls! If you are going to use a study group make sure you are actually going to work because study groups could be a negative to studying too!

There are areas in the student centre were you can form study groups or in the orangery zone too.

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Remember to take care of yourself during exam season. Take plenty of breaks and remember you can do this!

My Dyslexia Story

Like 1 in 10 people, I suffer from dyslexia. However, I have never let my dyslexia hold me back.

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My Dyslexia Story

I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 18 and started university. I’ve always been awful at spelling and my reading age was below average, but somehow I always managed to be in the top classes for English in high school. When I was 15 and in my last year of high school doing my GCSE my Grandad told me he was dyslexic. He suggested that I should get tested. So my high school gave me a test and it came back with moderate signs of dyslexia. However they decided since the waiting list to see an educational psychologist was 6 months and I was due to do my GCSE in a couple of months they’d give me extra time. My sixth form did the same.

After my A-levels were way better than I had ever expected, when I came to university I decided actually I probably wasn’t dyslexic since it had never actually been picked up by teachers. I did my first couple of pieces of coursework and failed one and got a 48 on the other. I was gutted because I’d really tried hard. This was when I decided to contact student services. They were great and got me an appointment with an Educational Psychologist. Within a couple of weeks I was diagnosed and had been given loads of help by the university with extra time in exams and a cover sheet to go with my coursework to explain my diagnosis.

What is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficultly which may affect a persons ability to spell, write and read. There are many different symptoms of dyslexia. I tend to suffer with poor spelling ( I am having to spell check dyslexia every time I type it), have a limited vocabulary and find it hard to understand long passages of instruction or text.

More Symptoms can be found here

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 How the university can help you

Any advice you would like about dyslexia or any learning disability is available at student services. Like they did for me, they can arrange for you to have an assessment.

If you already have a diagnosis then they can provide academic support, make arrangements for exams and provide you with a cover sheet for your coursework. If you feel you could benefit from their help, pop down to the Silberrad student centre and go to student support on the first floor for any advice.

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Not letting my learning difficulty hold me back

It is great the amount of support you can be offered from university, but what happens in the real world while applying for jobs?

Firstly, I think it helped me getting a job in a shop. The type of tasks you do while working in a shop aren’t demanding, but it helped me with skills such as problem solving which is something that is affected by my dyslexia. It also helped with my confidence.

During university I have completed a frontrunner position and I am online brand ambassador. I mean I never in a million years thought my writing was good enough to write blogs!  During my interview for frontrunner I had to do a timed assessment, something that really panics me. A symptom of dyslexia is that you generally work slower and need more time to understand instruction. But somehow I managed to complete the assessment and got the job!

I am now in the process of applying for graduate positions. The first one I didn’t mention I was dyslexic. I had to do a online timed assessment and panicked and didn’t finish it before the time ran out. I got an email back to say I had been rejected. Since then I have made sure I have put about my dyslexia on my applications. The latest job has arranged for me to have extra time so I have less pressure on my online assessment.

Understanding dyslexia

People will say “You can’t be dyslexic and do a degree” or “You won’t have dyslexia if you weren’t diagnosed in primary school”…well these just aren’t true. Morale of the blog is I don’t want people to let their learning difficulties hold them back. You can get a degree, just like I am and many other people at this university who suffer from learning difficulties!