Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Barriers to Achievement

Wow, I haven't posted in quite sometime. I'm really sorry. I've been getting bogged down in MCAT preparation, Victoria Weekend goodness and a bunch of other silliness I won't get into.

Frankly, this isn't even a super-real update, as I will be linking to one of my favourite articles - rather than actually writing my own content. I will try to think of one soon. I have a feeling my next MCAT (Kaplan) Class will provide me with some inspiration.

Ramit Sethi of IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com wrote an article about overcoming mental and physical barriers in order to accomplish what we want. I still read this article every once in a while (I printed it out) in order to keep me going. I think we all need a shot of motivation and inspiration at times. I find that surrounding yourself with positive energy/people/content, is the only way to do this.

So go for it and read that article!

If you enjoyed these learning tips and motivational strategies, maybe you'll enjoy the other posts. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend! (Click the envelope below this.)

Labels: ,

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Take advantage of all available resources

In studying or test-preparation you should see what options you have to get an upper hand in performing better. Most of these choices are little shortcuts that will make your studying go a lot more smoothly.

Old tests
At a higher level of education, the format of the test and phrasing of questions becomes increasingly difficult and can be a barrier to performing . I don’t mean that the content is not important, it always is; however, if you aren’t used to a particular way a professor phrases questions or a radically different testing format, then it can throw you off.

Furthermore, as I have mentioned earlier, I love the idea of testing yourself in order to perform better. The idea of using old tests in order to quiz yourself seems perfect.

As a word of caution though, there are two things to be aware of: 1) The material taught from year to year can change, so the focus of the test can change. This means that you might not be tested on the proper material for some sections. 2) The idea of obtaining previous years’ exams may seem like cheating to some – if they aren’t already offered by the university. Frankly, I see no problem with obtaining previous years exams if you can, it is just another method of studying. However, if you’d like to discuss it, comment below or email me (the address is on the right sidebar).

Discussion Boards
Many universities offer course websites with associated discussion boards where students can exchange information, questions and answers regarding the course content. Take full advantage of this service. You can read other people’s questions, because maybe you haven’t thought of a problem in a certain way. If you have a question that you don’t want to ask the professor directly, try this – sometimes the professor or teacher’s assistants will reply. This reminds me that you should try asking your professor some questions after a lecture or during their office hours. I will say that most of them in my experience are willing to help out any student as along as they are eager to learn and have tried to answer the question beforehand.

Once again, another word of caution: With peer responses, take them with a grain of salt. Sometimes people like saying answers that sound good, but aren’t correct – not necessarily through any ill will, they just don’t know better.

Internet searches
Maybe you were wondering why I chose that picture to start this entry off. It’s from . I am very big on independent learning. I have found that the internet has a wealth of knowledge for anyone who wants it. And by the picture you can see that Google is my search engine of choice.

If you want to learn to play the guitar: Search for "guitar lessons".
If you want to know about Fermat’s Last Theorem, just search for "Fermat’s Last Theorem".

Wikipedia deserves a mention, simply because it is so amazing. There are entries on very widely varying topics. May I recommend a look at the entry for Snowclone, because I think it’s interesting (it doesn’t relate to this at all though).

Hopefully, your friends will be willing to help you out occasionally if you need some help with academics and you should be willing to do the same. Don’t be too shy about it, just ask. You’ll be able to judge by their reaction whether you will be asking again. :P

I’d like you guys to remember something though: If someone helps you out, you should try to repay them. Teaching/helping someone can take a lot of effort or time – as many of you, and myself, know. Anything is fine, coconut cream pies, drinks, etc. Taking without giving doesn’t really work out in the end.

Textbooks and associated learning tools
Queerly enough, people are willing to shell out 50-200 dollars for a textbook and be perfectly content using it as a paperweight. There is probably a reason that it is required reading for your course. Try using it once in a while. It will help further clarify lessons and usually the diagrams really make things easier to grasp.

These days, many textbooks come with CDs or additional books, etc. You should see what help these supplements can provide, you may be surprised.

And if I know one thing about professors, it’s that they are a tricky bunch. If they don’t mention the textbook, there will still definitely be questions directly from the book on it. Unless they specifically say that you don’t need to read the textbook, there will be questions from it. A little sneaky, I know; that average isn’t pushing itself down though…

There are many other resources that I’m sure I’ve omitted – feel free to add them to the comments below – but I hope you get the point. Use all the resources you have around you to get a little more of an edge in learning – every little bit will help.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Carnival of Education

As an educational blogger, I've found there are many others out there who share a passion for teaching and education alike. So I'd like to link to the 66th Carnival of Education over at HUNBlog.

If you don't know what a carnival is in an internet sense, basically it is a collection of links all relating to one topic (education in this case). The host and links change weekly or monthly.

Specifically the HUNBlog from Professor Brad Hoge is an interesting read for me, as he speaks from the perspective of a science professor, and I am a student of the sciences.

I'd like to thank Professor Hoge for linking to this site, specifically to the How to Keep Mentally Active in the Summer post -- which is always good to check out... Hint hint.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Tips for Students from Steve Pavlina

A couple weeks ago I emailed Steve Pavlina about posting an article about tips for college students. I'd like to say he created one just because I emailed him, but he said that it was already on his "to write" list.

His 10 Tips for College Students post tackles general and specific techniques to improve your university/college experience. The most important and first mentioned one being purpose. This is the area that I believe most people struggle with -- myself included.

We would all perform better in finding our purpose for attaining a higher education. This summer I am tackling this problem head on, and I recommend the same for you as well.

His specific time-management and memory techniques are also very interesting and useful. I have actually created a post about pegging - a very useful memory technique that he mentions - and I really love the picture I included with it.

I will try to implement many of his techniques this summer as I am taking an MCAT course and I'll tell you how it goes.

So have at it: 10 Tips for College Students - it's worth the read.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, May 07, 2006

How to Keep Mentally Active in the Summer

I find that after the summer vacation starts, there’s always this high you get once you realize that you won’t be doing homework for a long time. However, after a little while you find that your thinking is starting to slowdown, you feel mentally and physically lazy. Maybe you aren’t like this, but sometimes I’ll find myself watching TV for way longer than I expected, and not even enjoying it.

This sort of wasted time makes me feel like garbage. Not only did I not move for 3 hours (don’t laugh), but I know I could have used that time to do something more fun and constructive. Now, now, don’t get me wrong. I think that the summer is the perfect time to relax, but this doesn’t mean that our brains and bodies have to go to mush.

With this update I hope to give you some ideas on how to keep your mind active during a generally lazy summer.

(All external links will open in a new window.)

Puzzles and Games
The idea that Alzheimer’s disease can be staved off through crossword puzzles was always interesting to me. While the studies are not yet conclusive, the implication is reasonable. Keeping your mind active, even through games can help sustain your brain. I’ve recently tried Sudoku, after much resistance, and I like it a lot. However, the fun doesn’t stop there: Chess and other such challenging board games are good too. Don’t fool yourself though, playing Solitaire on your computer probably isn’t stimulating your brain much.

I remember when I was a kid, I used to love reading. Back then, I always read what I wanted: fantasy, science, some really nerdy stuff that I’m too embarrassed to mention, etc. However, once I entered high school, being forced to read very dry, dense novels almost crushed my passion. Recently though, I have rediscovered that reading can be invigorating, interesting and even intense (there’s some alliteration for you!). So go read what you want, just makes some time for it. It will increase your vocabulary and expand your mind.

Be Creative
I know that you are a very creative person. However, some of us haven’t exercised this part of our brains for so long that we have almost forgotten what it is like. Try anything: Learn an instrument, start drawing/painting, build something, write a story. Anything creative is fine. Just try it, even if you think it won’t work out. I’m sure you will surprise yourself. Recently, I started learning how to draw realistically. Frankly, before I would have said I am a terrible drawer. However, even after a couple weeks (on and off), my drawing ability as improved drastically after some instruction - Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards.

I drew my left hand recently, and I think it is crazy good. Remember to push through those challenging times, the reward is well worth it. Every time you reach a roadblock, keep in mind that your goal is right after it. Even the feeling of a sense of accomplishment is enough, but that extra creativity can make you smarter and give you more sex appeal. What more could you want?

I know I already wrote about creativity; however, I wanted to mention a different aspect of it through music. Recently I have started reaching a new sense of awareness with many things. It started when I was listening to Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony (First Movement). Which has a profoundly sad back-story in my opinion.

There are a lot of subtleties to experience that we frequently miss or ignore. This applies to everything from music to just walking. However, I think music is readily accessible to everyone. So I’d like you to try playing a song that you really like and listen carefully. You may be surprised to see what you have been missing. Try it loudly, or by putting on some headphones. It will change the way you perceive that song.

Oh, this tip doesn’t work for the song "Check up on it" by Beyoncé. You just realize how stupid the song actually is – even though it’s so catchy.

Keep on Moving
Any sort of physical activity will do: basketball, soccer, swimming, going to the gym, shaking that groove thang, etc. Not only will this improve your health and get rid of that lazy feeling, I firmly believe that physical health is tied to mental health. I’m not exactly sure why; it could be that your body is no longer wasting its resources on the upkeep of an unhealthy system, it could be something else. The important thing to know is that when your body is feeling good, your mind will follow.

  • Play some stimulating games
  • Read an interesting book
  • Be Creative
  • Listen to music carefully
  • Keep moving
You can do as many of these items as you wish; one or all of them is fine. A general guideline that I think will help: Whatever you do, try to make it something divergent, something you don’t usually do. In that way, you’ll be using your brain in a different way, forming new connections. You’ll be amazed how such small things can change the way you think. So go for it! All those things you’ve been yearning to start: Now is the perfect time!

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!

Labels: ,

The Gravy Way Might Move

Right now I am entertaining the thought of moving The Gravy Way, from Blogger to WordPress. There seems to be less functionality here (certain technical features like TrackBacks are missing), but it sure is convenient.

I'm still deciding, but I thought I would just let you guys know. If there is protesting in the streets, I won't move. However, for some reason I don't think that's going to happen.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just go to sleep

Alright, sorry about the lack of posting. You know how exams are... and then I had to move. Try to move as little as possible, it's not fun.

I think I'm going to reduce the posting frequency to a weekly basis for a month or so. I'll be starting an MCAT course on the 19th of May so that should give me something to talk about. We'll see what happens.

On to the post:

I've been noticing more and more people attempting to pull all-nighters in an attempt to desperately cram more information in their heads the night before an exam. I've even seen some highschool students do this. That's just craziness.

There is a point when we should all probably just stop studying and just get some sleep. I say this for two big reasons:

1) When you are really tired, you are probably not learning very effectively - if at all. This means that you are just wasting your time, and losing sleep. Along with this, there's the fact that you will be tired during the exam which will slow your thinking and will cost you marks on the exam.

2) In the end, is it really worth it to kill yourself for school? If your answer is 'Yes', then maybe you should reassess your priorities. I will be the first to say that school and learning are very important things; however, it is not worth dying over.

I'm going to say this even though no one likes hearing it: You should probably work harder a bit earlier to avoid this sort of situation. I know, I know. The XBOX 360 is a sweet system, the summer is really beautiful, Scrubs is a really good show. But the summer and XBOX 360 will still be around after your tests, and you can just record those TV shows.

Oh and as a little sidenote: If you stay up until 4 and try to wake up for 7 to prepare for your exam. You should just stay up or get a friend to wake you up. Because you may just end up sleeping through your exam. I won't name names, but let's say I know a person who did this really recently. Let's say I know them really really well...

The point is: All-nighters aren't worth it.

If you disagree with me and find that all-nighters are awesome, feel free to comment or email me, I'd love to hear from you.

If you enjoyed this post, maybe you'll enjoy the others. Please bookmark this page (Ctrl-D) or check out the archive/categories to the right. Better yet, tell a friend!

Labels: , ,