COUNSELLING BLOG

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Effective Exam Writing Tips

1. Make sure you read and understand the Instructions: This is absolutely crucial. A lot of students are keen to rush ahead and so they quickly skim over the exam instructions. Then, later, they discover that they did it wrong! For example, do you have to do every question on the paper, or do you only have to select a certain number? Is there a penalty for guessing – so is it better not to guess? (For example, because you lose an extra point for each answer you get wrong).
2. Read through the exam and divide up your time accordingly: For example, make a note of the number of questions there are, and notice what the different questions are worth. This isn’t wasted time as reading through the questions will actually start to activate your memory. Then decide which questions will be easy, and which will take more time, and mentally allocate your time accordingly. Also, allow some time at the end to review what you have written, and do some corrections if you think you’ve made an error.
3. Work through each question systematically: Slowly read through the questions, and underline key words. Make sure you check to see if there’s more than one part. Make sure you’ve fully understood what you’re being asked to do then plan what you will do before you start to write things down.
4. Attempt every question: It’s better to do something than nothing at all. You might get a few marks for thinking along the right lines. If you’re running out of time, then resort to bullets points. You’ll cover more by doing that than writing complete sentences.
5. What if your mind goes blank? Take a few, slow deep breaths and try your best not to panic. It’s important not to let your anxiety take over. Take control of your thinking by reassuring yourself that will pass in a moment – and is natural in exams. Repeat true, positive thoughts like “you’ve worked hard and are ready” and listen for your breathing – as it starts to slow.
6. Review what you’ve written and make corrections if they’re needed: Leave some time to go over your answers at the end – but don’t change what you’ve written unless you’re sure it’s wrong. Also, look out for blank spaces, for question you have missed, and turn over the last page – in case there’s something at the end!

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How To Make Yourself Do What You Don’t Want to Do

1. Rather than listening to the voice in your head that is screaming “I hate this; I don’t want to do this” think about why it is a GOOD thing to do.
2. Instead of trying to pretend that you don’t feel this way, accept that you are feeling very blah and negative.
3. Don’t think about results and how well you think you’ll do, as this could raise your feelings of anxiety and fear, just think about “right now” and the first thing you can do.
4. Accept that life is tough, and is full of things that suck – but recognise that doing hard stuff is better in the end. You’ll likely have more choices and freedom, if you do.
5. Just do a little bit for now – then give yourself a proper break – then go back and do some more – and soon you’ll find you’re in the flow.
6. Don’t allow your mind to wander and think of other things. Stay focused for that short time – and then stop, and have fun.

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Stress and Exams

Students who manage best in exams:

- Maintain positive relationships with family and friends

- Continue to allow some time for exercise and leisure

- Get plenty of sleep

- Eat sensibly

- Have planned time for study

- Are organised

- Learn and practice simple techniques for relaxation (see the school counsellor for ideas)

Warning signs that stress may be exceeding a helpful level include:

- Irritability

- Tiredness

- Poor concentration

- Poor short term memory

- Recurring worrying thoughts

- Lack of tolerance for others (you may not detect that in yourself)

- Anxious about little things

- Listlessness

- Prone to bursts of anger and tears

- Indications of feeling ‘down’, alone or misunderstood

- Disturbed sleep

- Indigestion, poor appetite.

No one sign necessarily is cause for worry and these signs need to be considered in the context of your life. However, it is better to seek help than to struggle with worries by yourself. Signs of depression or anxiety in particular should not be ignored.

Source: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/highschool/stressexams.php

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Quick Tips for Good Time Management

1. Create a daily ‘to do’ list.

2. List goals and set priorities.

3. Do ‘A’s’ first (Most important things).

4. Do them now.

5. Ask yourself “What is the best use of my time right now?”

6. Be realistic: New habits take time to develop.

7. Reward yourself for small steps of progress towards your goals each week.

Source: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/highschool/priorities.php

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10 Tips for Studying

Make studying a part of your everyday school routine and don’t be limited to ‘cramming’ for exams and tests.

1. Establish a routine: Set aside a particular time each day for study and revision and stick to it.

2. Create a study environment
This should be away from interruptions and household noise, such as the television. Ensure there is adequate lighting and ventilation, a comfortable chair and appropriate desk.

3. Set a timetable: With a timetable you can plan to cover all your subjects in an organised way, allotting the appropriate time for each without becoming overwhelmed.

4. Look after yourself: Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and eat healthy foods. Keep sugary foods to a minimum. Make sure you get enough sleep each night. Regular physical exercise makes you feel great, boosts your energy and helps you relax. So try to keep up regular sporting activities or at least fit in some regular exercise as often as you can.

5. Reward yourself for studying: Watch your favourite television program, spend time with your friends, walk to the park and play sport throughout the week.

6. Have variety in your study program: Study different subjects each day and do different types of work and revision in each study session.

7. Avoid interrupting your concentration: Have all the appropriate materials with you before you start a session of study to minimise distractions.

8. Test yourself on what you have studied: Ask your parents or family members to quiz you on what you have learnt, use draft questions from books, past assessments or major exam papers.

9. Don’t panic at exam time: If you have followed a study routine and have been revising your class work, there should be no need to worry. Try to keep yourself calm, positive and confident.

10. Ask your teachers for guidance: Especially if you’re having trouble - whether it’s grasping a new concept or understanding something you learnt earlier in the year. They will be happy to help.

Source: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/highschool/studyingtips.php

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How to Cope with Public Speaking Nerves

1. Remember that people can’t real see how you feel. Act as if you’re feeling calm and no-one will know how nervous you really feel inside.

2. Before speaking, visualise yourself giving a great talk and capturing the audience’s full attention. Often we create what we imagine in life.

3. Use positive self-talk. You need to be there for yourself at this time, and to affirm that “you can do it”, and that you’re going to do well. Don’t undermine your confidence or be self-critical.  

4. Recognize that a degree of anxiety in normal, and is experienced by all the best speakers, actors and performers. In fact, that extra dose of adrenalin can actually enable you to do your very best.

5.  “To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.” Make sure “you know your stuff” and have prepared well in advance. Rehearse and practice well as that will give you confidence.

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Tips for Enhancing your Ability to Learn and Remember

  • Pay attention. You can’t remember something if you never learned it, and you can’t learn something—that is, encode it into your brain—if you don’t pay enough attention to it. It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a piece of information into your memory. If you’re easily distracted, pick a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  • Involve as many senses as possible. Try to relate information to colors, textures, smells, and tastes. The physical act of rewriting information can help imprint it onto your brain. Even if you’re a visual learner, read out loud what you want to remember. If you can recite it rhythmically, even better.
  • Relate information to what you already know. Connect new data to information you already remember, whether it’s new material that builds on previous knowledge, or something as simple as an address of someone who lives on a street where you already know someone.
  • For more complex material, focus on understanding basic ideas rather than memorizing isolated details. Practice explaining the ideas to someone else in your own words.
  • Rehearse information you’ve already learned. Review what you’ve learned the same day you learn it, and at intervals thereafter. This “spaced rehearsal” is more effective than cramming, especially for retaining what you’ve learned.

Source: http://www.helpguide.org/life/improving_memory.htm

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How to Work Smart

1. Make the most of those little slots of time – a free fifteen minutes here and there. You can accomplish a lot in those extra lost minutes.

2. Make your work place comfortable and inviting. For example, have an inspiring bookshelf, light a scented candle, put up a few crazy, fun photographs.

3. Make every effort to enjoy the journey – and remind yourself of the arrival fallacy (arriving at your goal is usually a letdown, and doesn’t bring the joy we thought it would bring.)    

4. Don’t be afraid of criticism as it can help you to learn and grow. Dreading it too much creates anxiety which them prevents you from producing your best.

5. Recognise that we rarely feel happy when we’re working as we’re bound to struggle with incompetence, failure, frustration and feeling that we don’t know what to do. However, they are only a part of the total picture, and completing a project leads to pride and confidence.  

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Good Habits to Develop

1. Set yourself some daily goals. Keep them realistic and achievable. That will give direction – so you don’t fritter your time.

2. Read inspirational books and blogs; hang around people who are positive.

3. Stay in touch with what’s happening in the world. We’re not just islands – we are part of one another.

4. Make the effort to stay in touch. Just a “like” on facebook, or a brief text message, conveys to that person that they matter to you.

5. Invest some time in your appearance and health. We’re more confident when we look and feel our best.  

6. Pay attention to your priorities. Do what’s most important, and not most urgent, first. (Note: If you never learn to prioritise then everything seems urgent – and that’s what runs your life!)

7.  Smile. It makes people feel more positive towards you – and it tends to lift our mood, and enhance our feelings, too.

8. Tidy as you go. It’s easier to work, and you’ll feel a lot less stressed, if you’re working somewhere that’s devoid of clutter. Also, if you tidy as you go then it feels less overwhelming.

9. Include some margin in your life so you don’t feel so stressed, as unexpected things always eat away our time. Expect that to happen – and leave some extra time.

10. Take time for yourself as you need to relax, unwind, recover, and recharge your batteries. 

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How to Maintain your Motivation

1. Set realistic and achievable goals. These should be something that appeal to you as it’s hard to go after another person’s goals.

2. Think of meaningful ways to reward your progress.

3.  Expect to have set-backs and encounter obstacles. When that happens, focus your mind and renew your determination. Refuse to give up.

4. Decide to remain a positive thinker. Refuse to ever stop believing in yourself. When you feel discouraged, decide that you’ll fight on.

5. Share your goals with others, and seek encouragement when you’re finding it hard to keep going on your own.

6. Practice saying no to other options and distractions that may seem appealing – but distract you from your goal.

7. Post inspirational quotes in places you can see to encourage you to work to achieve your goal.

8. Practice self care so you don’t burn out. You need to pace yourself if you are going to reach your goal.

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How to Increase your Motivation to Study

  1. Reward yourself for studying and working on assignments. However, you need to do this after you’ve done everything you planned to do!
  2. Study with others (But make sure you work and don’t just socialise.)
  3. Keep your long-term goals in sight. They’ll slip through your fingers if you don’t do the work.
  4. Cut out distractions. If you’re surrounded by things that you’d rather do than work, you’ll probably abandon your boring studying.
  5. Develop an interest in the subjects you’re studying. That way, the work won’t be such a drag.
  6. Take regular breaks. These should be at logical points in your work. That makes it easier to resume your studying, and to remember what you were working on before.
  7. Work somewhere bright, warm and comfortable.
  8. Set reasonable study goals for each session.
  9. Start early in the day at weekends, and early in the evenings on week days. The longer you put it off your studying, the harder and more onerous it seems.
  10. Just do it. It’s surprisingly rewarding to do something that’s tough!

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