Testing: One, Two, Three, Breathe

Ever since you can remember, you knew you wanted to be a teacher. You simply can’t envision yourself in any other career. But before you can start teaching, you have to pass PRAXIS I and II, and you hate standardized tests. Although you were a strong student in high school, your SAT scores were on the lower end of mediocre. You just don’t test well: you freeze and forget everything you know about grammar and geometry. People keep telling you not to worry, but so much depends on this test: your career, your livelihood, and your happiness.

Like it or not, standardized tests are a fact of American life. To enter graduate school or certain professions, you may have to take one: the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, PRAXIS, or a licensing exam. Many students find these timed exams intimidating. They dislike working under pressure, and they believe their entire future hangs upon their performance on the test.

Fortunately, you can improve your performance on standardized tests – even if you suffer from test anxiety. Follow this formula for success and peace of mind:

1.) Start Early. By early, we mean weeks, even months, in advance. The sooner you begin studying, the more prepared and more confident you’ll be on test day. This might mean scheduling your test months in advance. (Usually, you can do this online.)

2.) Practice, Practice, Practice. No, practice doesn’t always make a perfect score, but it can help you achieve a higher one. Take an up-to-date practice test long before your testing date. (You should be able to find one at Academic Support, Career Services, the library, your academic department, or on the test’s website.) Find a quiet place to work, and give yourself the same amount of time you would have on test day. Afterward, when you score your practice test, you’ll have a better idea of the concepts and skills you’ll need to review before the real exam.

3.) Focus Your Study Sessions. Concentrate on the content that’s most challenging to you. For example, if writing is your strong suit, you may not need to review grammar and vocabulary before you take the GRE or PRAXIS. However, if you’ve forgotten all the algebra you’ve ever learned, you might want to spend some time brushing up on it before the test.

4.) Get Help. Don’t suffer in silence. If you are having trouble preparing for a test, stop by Academic Support in Babcock. Whether you need help with math, want to practice writing timed essays, or simply get some study tips, we can help. Your professors may also be able to give you test-specific advice.

5.) Take Care of Yourself. That means pacing yourself in study sessions, getting enough sleep the night before the exam, and eating balanced meals on test day. If you’re sleep deprived or your blood sugar is low, you won’t do your best work.

6.) Take a Deep Breath. Yes, the test looms large, and yes, you want to do as well as possible. But the worst case scenario isn’t the end of your dreams: if you don’t do as well as you’d like on the test, you can take it again. Graduate schools only pay attention to your highest score.

7.) Reward Yourself. Give yourself something to look forward to after the test: a nice lunch, a favorite movie, an outing with a friend or family member. You’ve worked hard to get where you are, and you deserve a treat. This strategy can also help reduce anxiety about the test as it reminds you that life goes on – even after the dreaded exam!

Although you may not enjoy standardized tests, following these steps can make them much less daunting. The same skills that help you succeed in the classroom – time management, planning, self-care – can also boost your scores. The test looming in your future is just one step on the path to the life you want.

-Dorothy A. Dahm

5 Tips to Beat the Winter Blues & Make the Spring Semester a Little Easier.

Winter in Vermont is so beautiful. The mountains are covered in snow, and the trees bend beautifully with its heavy weight. It’s a season we look forward to. We break out the cozy sweaters, sip hot chocolate, and listen to Christmas music. But once the holidays are over, we feel winter will never end.

In most states, winter will last an average of three months. Then spring arrives, and everything is fresh and new again. However, here in Vermont, we tend to skip spring altogether and get bombarded with six months of winter. During these long and dark months, we tend to fall into a rut. Our grades being to slip, we put minimal effort into our appearance, all we want to do is sleep, and we fear we won’t make it to spring. As someone who has lived in Vermont for over ten years, I fully understand winter’s gloomy affects. So I have compiled a few tips and tricks that have helped me beat the winter blues and stay on top of my homework during the spring semester.

Exercise

Your health is your wealth, so take care of your body by moving a little every day. Whether that’s going for a walk, hiking, doing a mini workout in your dorm, or having a full-on sweat session at the gym, make sure to move your body for at least thirty minutes each day. If you can, do some of your workouts outside. I know it’s cold, but try going for a run. Anything involving fresh air and movement will help tremendously, and getting the blood flowing will help you de-stress, focus, and sleep better.

Sleep!

This is probably one of the most important tips out there, but making sure you get enough sleep every night will do wonders for your overall well-being. Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this a million times before, but getting enough sleep is so important for your physical and mental health. A study done by experts at Stanford University suggests that college students need at least 8 of sleep every night. I understand that this can be difficult when trying to balance school, sports, homework, work and a social life, but at least try to squeeze in an hour nap here and there. Your body, mind, and grades will thank you.

Take Your Vitamins

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is important to add to your daily routine. Vitamin D is produced by the body as a response to sun exposure; however, during these winter months, we don’t typically see much sun so adding in the vitamin D will definitely increase your mood. It is also known to help reduce the risk of the flu, which has been running rampant as of late. So to avoid getting sick and stressing your body, definitely throw this into your daily routine, and you will be ready to get that assignment done that has been staring at you for three weeks.

 Try Not to Procrastinate

I’m laughing as I type this because I am the Princess of Procrastination. I will put things off until the very last minute and then stress, get mad at myself, and then put it off some more. Moral of the story, don’t be like me. School can wear you out. I get wanting to come home, sit on the couch for 6 hours, and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy, but putting off your schoolwork is going to cut into that precious snooze time we all need. Set up a schedule for yourself, laying out everything you need to get done and the dates your assignments are due. This will help you stay on top of your work and also allow you time to sit around and watch Netflix in your PJs all day.

Do Something for Yourself and Make Time for Friends

Despite our busy schedules, it is so important to take the time to do something with your friends or even just by yourself. After a long week, I know all I want to do is sit on the couch and do nothing, which is totally okay! But make sure you make time for friends, too, because they will encourage you to have a little fun and forget about the stresses from the week before. Also, plan something fun for the week, whether it’s promising a lunch date to yourself, a trip to Target (because everyone loves Target), or a coffee with a friend. This will give you something to look forward to and will keep you going until that special day arrives.

The winter can be a drag, and unfortunately we can’t completely escape the winter blues. But adding any of these tips to your daily life should help. Let’s face it: there won’t be that “one thing” that solves all of our winter problems, but adding in some of these tips regularly should help make those cold, dark days a little better.

Jessica Penwarden is a senior majoring in multidisciplinary studies at Castleton University.