One thing that’s become particularly evident to me this semester has been the drastic changes needed to my time management methods. I’ve heard from other first years that they too have had to adjust to new work habits, regardless of the discipline. Relating to my own experience, my time budgeting skills in high school were pretty sub-par, which led to me attempting some serious adjustments on the fly in first-year.
October is a month of horrors in more ways than one. Yes, we have the typical ghost stories circulating around, where we masochistically devour them and subsequently jump at every single porcelain doll in sight, but we also have . . . EXAMS (cue screams of horrified university students). More specifically, some of us have exams that include long answer responses. Having done many of these, yielding to both disasters and successes, I’ve found that a few tips to consider while flipping through my exam booklet have never let me down; hopefully you might find guidance in some of them, too.
1. Plan out your time.
It helps to write out the amount of time you plan on taking for each section, regardless of whether or not you prefer to write the long answer portion of a test before or after doing the rest of the questions, in case you end up working too long on one part and end up with only a sliver of time to hastily finish the other one.
2. Read the long answer prompt carefully and follow instructions.
The last thing you want to happen after writing a response is to realize you never actually answered the prompt. To avoid getting stuck in situations like this, where you end up sweating buckets and praying for the magical appearance of a nearby TARDIS, make sure you understand what your prompt is asking for, and follow any other instructions it includes, such as word count minimum/maximum, to avoid losing points unnecessarily.
Though it takes time to outline, it will be worth it. Having your thesis statement and your points in front of you before you start writing ensures you have a direction for your response. Without an outline, you might end up digressing from the prompt or even run out of ideas due to a weak thesis.
4. Skip the pretty intro and get to the point.
I get it. I really do. If you’re asked to write a dry 1000-word analysis about the significance of a character’s name, you might just be tempted to write an introduction involving your profound love for pearl milk bubble tea. Unfortunately, that might not be the brightest idea to do during a timed response. Though your profs might find creative openings amusing, they’re ultimately searching for whether or not you provided a good response to the prompt and penned your ideas clearly. So refrain from writing poetic openings with similes linking your favourite drinks to 19th century novels and instead spend the time developing your response points, inputting relevant evidence, and writing well.
5. Proofread and revise.
As humans, we make careless mistakes when we write. I, myself, have caught myself almost handing in a short story with the sentence, “The geek’s honks take me back to lonely evening walks under bruised skies,” when I meant to write ‘geese.’ Needless to say, in a setting where you’re writing under pressure, you’re much more likely to make silly (and sometimes horribly embarrassing) mistakes. Leave about 15 minutes for every 500 words to proofread and revise your work to ensure your response doesn’t have glaring spelling or grammatical errors.
All in all, when you deal with long answer reponses, keep a cool head. Don’t dive into writing without planning because you risk creating a disorganized composition. You’ve studied for this, and you know your stuff; all you have to do is make sure you transfer the right knowledge onto paper and make it readable.
And so, to all of you who still have to brave some October Horrors, may the odds be ever in your favour the odds will be in your favour if you believe in yourself and study because studying kind of helps.
What do you consider when writing long answer responses? Let me know in the comments below or through @lifeatuoft on Twitter!
Exams are upon us again, which means that a flood of emails is almost certainly bound to be upon us as well.
Our classmates, many of whom we have never met, will use the email system on Blackboard to request notes and lecture audio. Sometimes they’ll be a desperate plea for someone who’s missed most of the term; other times they’ll be someone who’s noticed their notes aren’t as complete as they thought they were.
These notes will range from a two-sentence request to a lengthy explanation. And every time we receive these notes we are faced with an ethical dilemma.
Do we share notes, altruistically or because we hope the person requesting our notes has notes from another lecture we need, or do we keep our notes to ourselves, because we did the work for them and should therefore not be obliged to assist those who didn’t?
As someone who’s been on both sides of the request, I understand the desperation sometimes required in requesting notes. A volunteer note taker may not have posted their notes for the same lecture in which my note taking device died. Or it’s the end of term and I not only don’t know where the 13 weeks have gone, but how I’ve fallen so behind. Or illness has kept me out of class.
Or any number of things. I don’t know my classmates’ life stories and I certainly have it easier than many with long commutes, more courses, and generally more responsibilities.
On the other hand, I’ve seen tens of these requests, and some of those with whom I’ve shared notes haven’t reciprocated in the way they claimed they could. The notes they promised seldom arrived or sometimes I never received even a “thank you”. I know it’s shallow to want even a little acknowledgement for my efforts, but a “thanks! Want to review the course over email so we can both prepare?” would go a long way.
This has meant my heart has hardened somewhat to these requests. I know what it feels like to be in their position, but I don’t want to feel taken advantage of either. I also know I’ve done the
Which doesn’t do much for my self-image as a giving person.
On the contrary again, I’ve had fantastic study groups and study buddies in classes who have been more than willing to discuss material and share notes if need be. And with these folks I’ve been more than willing to go the extra mile. And, for the record, my default position is to share notes with my “unknown” classmates too, just perhaps not as readily as I once did.
In short, I’d suggest sharing one’s notes is a decent thing to do, but if you’re asking for notes, be willing to give a little as well. Even if it’s not in the moment (stress can make a mockery of one’s non-exam brain function), a quick thanks weeks afterwards will never go unappreciated. Academia can be a team sport, and we’re all better if we help each other out.
I cannot believe we are at the end of the semester already. Last week I had my last classes as a third year (!!!) and now I’m finishing up my last essay and prepping for exams. This past weekend has been very stressful and busy for me (and probably a lot of you too) so I decided to take some time out on Monday to visit U of T’s Exam Jam in Sid Smith. I’ve always known of this event but somehow in the last three years I’ve never actually gone, but I’m glad I did this year. There were adorable dogs, and food, and stations where you could make friendship bracelets, plant seeds, draw, and take pictures at a photobooth. Definitely worth taking a break from my marathon essay writing to visit. Check out some pictures below!
Api’s bracelet, just look at that mastery, true craftswoman here.
Tips on writing essays and studying!
We made it! April has finally arrived! I just survived three essays and four exams all in the last two weeks and I don’t even want to know what percentage of my final grade all those tests and assignments were worth.
“Good thing I just had three final exams in the last three days, now my final exams can actually begin.” Unfortunately, this is not an April Fools joke.
Seeing as how April has arrived, this will be the last First Nations House blog for the 2014-2015 school year! Can you believe it? This has been the fastest, craziest, most exciting and ridiculous year of my life and I’m honored to have been able to share my experiences with you.
Last week, I attended a Ulead workshop which focused on legacy and transition in leadership. I had a great time and I really enjoyed all the people who attended and who facilitated the workshop. The topic of legacy was very intriguing and makes me think of what legacy I hope to leave with the First Nations House blog this year.
First, I’ll take some time to reflect on where I was when I started last September, and where I am now. Or rather, who I am now.
In September 2014, I had never written a blog before. I was also still new to the WordPress program. In September, I had never been to 98% of the events I went to this year either. I had only barely started learning Cree, and had never spoken or written a word in Anishnaabemowin. I had never been a co-chair in an Indigenous student association before either.
In September 2014, I had never given an on-air interview at a radio station before, and I had never had an Indian Taco from the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto. I never made a snow-Zach on campus before, and I had never shared my secret rye biscuit recipe.
I had never mentored a Toronto Catholic high school class from an Indigenous perspective, and I had never really publicly talked or written about much of my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual journey. I had never made so many friends and spent so much time in one place like First Nations House. I had never felt so comfortable with who I am and I had never felt like I had a home away from home on this campus.
I also had never told the story of my cactus, Jose!
Now, because of First Nations House, the people I met there and the balance I have found within, all of this has changed. I can honestly say I am a better student and a better man because of First Nations House and this blog. For that I am grateful.
The primary message I wished to send this year is the importance of balance in university life. Take care of your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual self and I guarantee you will find a pathway through U of T into your life beyond.
I have also learned from my time in First Nations House this year what community and leadership truly means. Community means inclusivity. People from all backgrounds and walks of life have important experiences and talents to share, and should always be welcomed into the circle.
Leadership means respecting that circle and everyone in it. Leadership means taking all perspectives into account, and recognizing the effects of the group’s actions on others. Leadership means responsibility, accountability, transparency, and building balanced relationships which are mutually beneficial to all those who are involved.
Leaders cannot be followers and have the right and responsibility to protect their circle even from imbalances within the circle. When the circle is broken, true leaders stand up to defend the circle and the pursuit of balance. Sometimes, standing up for the sake of a balanced circle means leaving a broken circle behind and moving forward towards a better future.
Leadership means always striving to find and protect the circle though finding that circle can be a long journey. But once you find your circle and community, I can honestly say the long journey is worth every moment and every single step.
Finally, I can talk about legacy. It is my greatest hope that my blogging this year leaves a legacy which empowers you to engage with U of T and First Nations House and to balance your university life and a legacy which shines a light when there is only darkness on the path ahead. Be brave and be yourself. There is always hope and there is always a path worth exploring.
I’m not very good at goodbyes, I’ll admit. Writing this last sentence may or may not have made me a bit teary-eyed!
So for now I’ll just say niawen:gowa, mii-kwec, спасибо, and thanks!
Being prepared for tests is a complicated art. Exams are the most individual task you will do in university. It’s just you and the test, so don’t let your mind go rushing onto all your other responsibilities. Your soul must be centered. Physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance are key to preparing and working on all those areas in advance when you still have time and strength is the best failsafe.
Before and during tests, you have the opportunity to fight for every mark. One helpful trick I’ve found is to do practice tests, quizzes and review at the time of day when your exam will be. Exams can be held at strange times, so it’s good to get into the habit of working on the specific material on your test at those weird times.
Eat a healthy, large meal before your test so you don’t go hungry or have an upset stomach. Bring everything you need for the test and bring spares if you can. Pens, pencils, sharpener, eraser and your T-card are must-haves, and depending on your course, you may need a non-programmable calculator so bring one with batteries! Also, bring a watch! Most test rooms at U of T don’t have clocks. The worst feeling in the world is when your exam invigilator says you only have 20 minutes left and you’ve only done the first tenth of the test because you couldn’t keep track of time!
Be 100% sure of your test location because you don’t want to show up to the wrong room. If you’re not familiar with the location, check it out a few days in advance so you know where to go and what the room will be like. Exam rooms here can be very large, strange and intimidating at first so do yourself a favor and get used to it beforehand.
Leave early when you are going to the test because you never know what can happen along the way. Traffic, construction, and many emergencies can stop you from getting there on time and can cost many marks.
There’s also an art to the moments before tests begin. First, make sure you use the bathroom before you go into the test room!!! I’ve written too many tests where I couldn’t think straight because I had to go so badly!
Second, you have to keep centered when you’re waiting to get into test room with all your classmates. I’ve found that students can hugely destabilize each other outside test rooms. Some people are so stressed that they’re shaking, unclean and sleep-deprived and their behavior can rattle others.
The other thing you have to watch out for students who try to rattle you and your classmates. I’ve played plenty of games with such people. They may try to shake your confidence by asking you if you reviewed obscure topics just to make you worry, and suggesting that weird questions you’ve never heard of will be on the test. They also act overly confident and may try getting you to lend them pencils or erasers just to bother you and to eliminate your spares.
Avoid those people as best you can and remember that you only need to trust yourself and your instinct. I remind myself to expect that behavior so I can shrug off their nonsense. They are laughable so you might even be able to get a good chuckle from them if you need it!
When you finally begin the test, you’re near the finish line! Listen to your exam invigilators and follow their instructions carefully so you don’t break any rules. Monitor your use of time and leave yourself with enough time at the end to check your work. Stay for the whole duration of the test. You may wonder, “why am I the first one done?” or, “why am I the last one done? Why is everybody leaving already?” Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, only focus on your test. Use every minute, fight for every mark. If a question is about something you didn’t prepare for, you may feel a jolt of panic. Breathe, and keep centered if this happens. Skip to a different question if necessary and come back at the end.
Don’t give up on any questions! Finish all the questions you know the best and use the time you’ve left yourself at the end to squeeze as many marks from the difficult ones as possible! You will surprise yourself with how many marks you can earn yourself with this extra effort and you definitely deserve those marks! Leave all the energy you have in that test room, and your result will be the best reward you can give yourself.
Fighting for every mark is hard and takes lots of motivation. I attended a talk by Chantal Fiola–a Métis scholar of identity, politics, and spirituality–on March 16th. I was even given the honor of conducting the smudge for all attendees at the beginning of the presentation! Chantal shared many invaluable lessons and insights from her life’s journey and also shared key Anishinaabe teachings, including the Seven Fires prophecy.
Her explanation was an immensely helpful reminder for me of those teachings and of what our role is at U of T. We are the seventh generation. We are a new type of people with many precious gifts as well as an immensely difficult task. The path we must navigate is very hard but the hope and potential we can nourish by fighting for every single mark is worth every moment. What we do here every day at U of T, in every classroom and with every test, will cause change more positive and productive than anything that has yet been seen in the world.
I wish I could’ve thanked Chantal for reminding me to fight for every mark. The tests and assignments and endless workloads may drive us nuts, but we can always remember that we’re lucky to have the opportunity to be driven nuts by such important material and invaluable experience for the journey ahead.
As I write this post I have officially finished 4 out of my 5 exams! (Promptly after I have submitted it I plan on passing out for a nap and then spending the rest of my day watching Christmas movies) However today I also wrote my first exam for a credit-no-credit course.
At the University of Toronto, Arts & Science students have a unique opportunity to use the credit-no-credit option on up to 2 full credits in their undergrad. This option allows you to take a course in your undergrad without having the final mark appear on, or effect, your transcript. It can’t be used for any courses that are a program requirement, however you can use it to fulfill your breadth requirements! There are a lot of other conditions to take into consideration before you CR/NCR a course, so make sure to visit this page, or talk to your registrar first.
Now unfortunately, it’s too late to CR/NCR a course at this point in the semester (at least for 1/2 year courses) – but I wanted to share my experience CR/NCR-ing a course, in case it could help you make a decision next semester!
This year I decided to take an “elective” of sorts – basically a course that wasn’t in my department but that seemed really interesting to me. Come the first test I was loving the course! I felt that I really understood the content and it was actually interesting to me. So I was not very impressed with myself when I got back my first test with a very discouraging mark.
I was loving the course, but I knew that a mark like this one would bring my GPA way down. (Especially since the test was worth 30% of my final mark!)
I had heard of people credit-no-credit-ing a course, but I didn’t know exactly what it entailed, or if it was really a viable option for me. So I did some research, and on the day before the deadline, I chose to CR/NCR on ROSI.
The next week in class, I immediately noticed a difference. I wasn’t spending every minute trying to write down everything the professor was saying and I didn’t feel the need to scour through my readings for all exam-worthy information. I was actually enjoying the course content.
Who would have known, but as soon as the pressure of getting a good grade in the course was gone, I actually started to do better. My mark on my next assignment improved and walking out of my exam today I couldn’t help but smile thinking I had done pretty well.
I know that a lot of people utilize the credit-no-credit program for courses they’re worried they might not pass, but for me it was just a great opportunity to take a subject I was interested in without all the pressure of marks.
It encouraged me to branch out into more subjects that aren’t in my program and re-ignited my love of learning. It’s even made me look into options such as auditing a course, which Life@UofT blogger Elena wrote about in the summer.
So this was my first experience credit-no-crediting a course, and I really couldn’t be happier with the results. But how about you U of T? Have you ever CR/NCR a course? Do you prefer to save these for emergency cases, or utilize them for new learning experiences? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter at @Rachael_UofT.
In one of my favourite classes here at U of T, we learned about something called reflective practice. It’s essentially the process of looking back and learning from our experiences. Now that we’re smack in the middle of finals, I’ve been having those “when will we ever actually use this in real life” rants. To keep my morale up I’ve decided to actually apply what I learned in school (!!!!) and be reflective about 2014! How fitting considering this is my last blog post of 2014!
I’ve had the busiest but most rewarding summer of my life, working three jobs while doing summer school. I was a more active part of the extracurricular scene at U of T, joining the executive team of several clubs I was interested in during first and second year. I’ve also even managed to fulfill some of my 2014 New Year’s Resolutions by bringing my grades up, staying more organized and eating healthier.
But the point of reflective practice is to highlight what I learned and what I could do differently. So what have I learned this year?
- I’ve learned how to write a killer blog post (All credits go to Tricia!!)
- I’ve learned enough yoga to strike a perfect yoga pose for pictures
- I’ve learned how to get A’s on papers
- I’ve learned how to plan events to help people get more involved!
I realize that all these lessons equate to one thing: I learned how to step out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone has always been with a small group of friends and a small range of activities, but 2014 was the year I made an effort to explore new places, try new activities and meet new people! If this whole process has been me breaking out of my shell, then 2014 was just the first crack! Here’s to 2015 being another year of great experiences! But there is one thing that was the most important thing I’ve learned this year:
Congratulate yourselves on the accomplishments and celebrate the victories! Let me know about your year, your holidays or even just how your day is going down in the comments! Happy holidays, and happy finals everyone! Remember, you might actually be able to use some of that knowledge in real life (lol).
T’was the week before finals, when all across U of T
Students were cramming, for the sake of their degrees
They read all night, unable to sleep in their beds
With visions of 4.0’s dancing in their heads
IT’S HERE FOLKS. It’s what you’ve been dreading/waiting/prepping for all semester: Winter finals 2014!
It’s been a long ride. There have been tears, cramming and horrible midterms. There have been successful essays and aced tutorials. And it’s all been leading up to these next few weeks.
Ok, I’ll stop with the melodramatic hyping-up of finals.
I’ve worked hard all semester, and I know I may be very close to losing all my motivation and drive, but I’m hanging in there. I know the reward of finishing finals will be much greater than the stress of actually writing them.
What lies in the promise land after finals, you might ask?
- All my old friends will be back in the city for the holidays.
- Peppermint candy cane flavored Hershey’s Kisses.
- Actual free time to spend time with my family
- N E T F L I X
- Other various peppermint flavoured sugary things
I’m convinced that the grass is greener on the other side. I know everyone studies their best in different ways, so I’m not really in a place to start giving out study tips. But I can request that we stay positive, and keep that morale up!
This my go-to final exams survival tip that I’ve been following for a while now. It’s been 2 years and counting since my last exam-related, stress-induced, panic ridden, night-before-the-exam break down and I owe it all to being positive. Common self-pep talks phrases include:
- My grades do not define me
- I am going to ace it. I got this.
- Yeah yeah, we in dis BRUH. (my inner gangsta likes to make an appearance during pep talks)
So there you have it folks! Hopefully someone makes use of my personal exam survival to make positivity their ally in the war against finals.
Just remember: We are fabulous. We are fierce. We are in the number 1 university in Canada for a reason. We got this. So happy finals to all!
*Disclaimer: Not studying at all and then being positive usually doesn’t work. Please study <3
So what are you looking forward to after finals, U of T?
It’s that time of the year again! Your favourite library starts to get a lot busier, your notice everyone you pass has bags under their eyes, and the line at your favourite coffee shop on campus is suddenly three times longer than normal. Welcome to Exam Season!
Whether you’re an Art-Sci in full-year courses writing mid-terms, or an Engineer trying to comprehend how you’ll be able to finish all these final assignments, exams are stressful for everyone. While I don’t have any secret tips to help you guarantee a hundred in all your courses, I do have some vital tools to making surviving exams a little bit easier!
1. Trail Mix – nothing is worse than mid-studying munchies. Don’t let your blood sugar drop, and keep this protein-packed snack in your bag! Eating something like trail mix can also help your concentration and focus by occupying your tactile senses.
2. Noisli App. – sometimes you just need to listen to something while studying – but Beyonce can be a bit too distracting. Try noisli.com, it lets you create the perfect custom ambient noise, or offers pre-made mixes for relaxation and productivity.
3. Backup Pens & Highlighters – this is a basic. Don’t let the convenient excuse of having a highlighter run-out justify your 3 hour study break. Pack some backups.
4. T-Card – you’ll need this to get into the stacks at Robarts, or to stay in a library after hours. It also has the double bonus of being able to be loaded up with flex dollars for those emergency Starbucks runs.
5. Earphones – this goes along with the ambient noise player. Earphones are the perfect way to shut out the world around you, or let you enjoy a study break by watching some youtube videos.
6. Water Bottle – hydration is key! All that extra caffeine and the dry library air can really dehydrate you and your skin. Drinking water keeps you stay hydrated, and more alert and awake.
7. Flashcard App. – this app is a gift to University students everywhere! You can create your flashcards online, then transfer them onto your smartphone and take them with you everywhere you go! It’s convenient and environmentally friendly!
8. Extra Chargers – finally, don’t forget your device chargers – after all, thats what all the outlets built into the tables are for!
Well U of T, did I miss anything? What are YOUR go-to exam essentials? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @Rachael_UofT – and happy studying!