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How to Cope with Exam Pressure

Just over a month ago, I had… an episode… at school. It was the Friday before exam week, and I was feeling the pressure. Because my school is super organised, exam week also happens to be the last week of semester, so, as usual, we were also busy complying with our “super organised” teachers. I’m sure you’ve had the same sort of time, where every teacher decides they have an assignment that absolutely has to go towards your grade, and it’s very important, and oh yeah, it’s due in a week. For the first time, I was stressing about exams and about assignments. Not good. I learnt some things from my episode, so I thought I’d share them. Read More…


5 Ways to Improve Your Sleeping Quality

It’s a common dilemma that students face — not enough sleep. Between homework, extra-curricular activities, and the all-encompassing social network Facebook, a student has little time for sleep, and it often shows in the morning.

Unfortunately for us, a lack of sleep can lead to numerous short and long-term health and or psychological problems, affecting every aspect of your life. Fortunately, there are ways to ensure you get the most restful night of sleep possible in whatever amount of time you have.

Read More…

Choosing the Right Extra Curriculas

I’m not going to rant and rave about how you need extra curricular activities, because we all know they’re important, and why. But because a lot of people just talk about their extra curricular activities, they do either two things: 1) try to fit in as many as they can, and become floaters in the group, or 2) they are so concerned about finding the right pick, they end up without any at all. Neither are ideal, so it’s important you understand what you need to look for in an extra curricular, and what sort of variety you should have.

I tend to split the extra-curricular activities in the following ways:

  • Academic
  • Community
  • Recreational / Creative
  • Leadership

With each item as important as the next.


You don’t have to be a top student to be involved in academic activities. For those that are, there are probably things like Science, Mathematics, Technology, and Gifted clubs that you could be involved in, or competitions that you can enter. By the way, just because competitions are a one-off thing, they are still extra curriculars, and if you do well, they can look great on college applications. If you don’t want to spend your lunchtimes learning more things, you could join a homework group, or study group, which shows you have the initiative to seek help when necessary, and can even give you a boost to that B or A grade you’ve been looking for.


Giving back to the community serves to purposes: it makes you feel great, and colleges love it. You might want to focus on your school, your local area, your state, your country, or, if you’re feeling really ambitious, the world. Some examples are volunteering for a charity, raising awareness and funds for an issue the area is facing, helping the disadvantaged or just organising a fundraiser every so often. You’d be surprised at how addicting helping others can be.

Recreational / Creative

Some people are sports people. Some people are creative. If you’re neither, now’s a great time to try. Having a little down time in your life is great, and recreational activities are the way to go. You might say that playing a game of soccer isn’t relaxing, but it sure is a great stress reliever. And who knows, you might be an undiscovered superstar! Being able to step back from school, while not the most obvious choice for impressing people, shows that you are willing to try new things, particularly if you’re extra curriculars list is plastered with Science awards and charity hours.


The great thing about this is that you can probably combine it with one of your groups. Leadership doesn’t always mean having the title of President or Captain. Often, it’s the unnoticed leadership that is the most important. However, if you’re a great leader, you’ll be elected anyway. You could try taking a more active role in your charity, or taking on the leadership of a younger group of students in an area you’re interested in, or becoming your school’s newspaper editor.

There you have it. I hope this will help you when you’re signing up to extra curriculars. Just bear in mind two things. Don’t do stuff you know you’re going to hate, but at the same time, keep trying new stuff. How does meditation sound? Or pottery?

Do It Right the First Time with Cornell Notes

Today, we’re starting a new series, about note taking methods. And which better to start off with than the Cornell system?

Image copyright Lifehacker

If you haven’t heard of Cornell before, then you’re probably wondering why we should start with it. It’s because the Cornell system has a do-it-right-the-first-time attitude. Very fitting for the first post in the series, don’t you think? This is a very short series, so in the following weeks, we’re going to talk about mind mapping, and outlining for note taking. We’ve already discussed these in terms of brainstorming, but I think that they are slightly different when the content’s being spouted at you like a sprinkler: you don’t know where it’s all going.

I just told you that it works with a do-it-right-the-first-time mindset, but what does this really mean? Well, a lot of other methods require you to rewrite your notes afterwards, because they’re messy, unorganised, or hard to study with. The Cornell system thinks this is wrong, and offers you a way to fix it.

Setting up your page to take Cornell-style notes is as simple as one-two-three.

  1. Title. How are you going to know what the notes are about without a title? You might also want to put the date, in case your notes get scrambled.
  2. Cue Column. Set aside about 1/4 of your page, on either side, for your cues. I’ll explain these in a second.
  3. Summary Box. Mark out a couple of inches at the bottom of your page, and at the end of class, write a summary.

You should now have a blank section in the middle. This is for your actual notes. You didn’t think I’d miss that out did you? Just take notes like you normally would, using different coloured pens, sticky notes, diagrams, whatever you please.

After class, you can fill in the remaining two boxes.

In the cue column, write phrases, ask questions and draw pictures to help you remember the corresponding notes. When you come to study these later, just cover the notes section, and see if you can remember what was there by looking in the cue column.

The summary box does just what you think. It’s really just a simple way to find the notes you’re looking for, and study the right page. Make sure you’re concise, because there really isn’t a lot of room in there.

If you’re looking for more, be sure to check out LifeHacker’s in-depth article.

Ridiculous Competitions to Boost your Creativity/Time Management/Tiredness

First of all, I should start with an apology. Four weeks ago, I took a break from blogging. I then posted twice, and haven’t returned since. On the Wednesday night, after writing the Digital Flashcards post, I went and got myself knocked in the head at soccer. So Thursday I spent at home, and Friday, I was drugged up on painkillers at my school’s swimming carnival. The weekend went towards recuperation, and sometime between Wednesday night, and Monday morning, I attracted the wrath of a flu/virus/cold combination. So, I apologise profusely for my illness, and then laziness in the previous weeks.

Onto today’s post!

If you’ve ever read any of my other blogs (I beg you, don’t look them up), you’ll know that I participate in NaNoWriMo, in which you write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days, typically November. The idea for NaNoWriMo was conceived by Chris Baty, in 1999, and 21 of his friends. Each year, their success increases in epic proportions. Last year 200,530 participants wrote 2,872,682,109 words, with 37,479 winners. Isn’t that amazing?

Thanks to the success of NaNoWriMo, there are many copy-cat events, not just in the writing field, but I won’t let too much away, as we’ll be looking at these in a few minutes.

Why on earth would you consider do this though? It’s crazy, it really is, take it from me. Despite all the obvious side-effects, like tiredness, mood swings, periods of craziness and caffeine or sugar addictions, doing one of these events can really turn your world upside down, in a good way. For starters, you’re doing something absolutely unbelievable, and there are going to be plenty of people who will tell you that you’ll fail. Won’t it be awesome when you prove them wrong? Then, there are all the friends you’ll make, who are also competing. And not only internet friends. Many of the events out there have catch-up events. Hopefully there’s one in your area. And finally, the sense of accomplishment at the end of the day, week, month, whatever, when you reach your goal, far outweighs any A grade, decent night’s sleep, or social life you would normally have in that month.

So what does the world have to offer you.

First of all, there’s the mother of all month-long challenges, NaNoWriMo. Run by the Office of Letters and Lights, it is undeniably the most successful of all those listed here. The aim is to write 50k words in November. There is a huge community, all over the net of NaNoWriMos, so you’re sure to find someone to be your writing buddy. There’s a great crew there as well, pushing everyone through.

Script Frenzy
NaNoWriMo’s younger sister, Script Frenzy, also run by OLL, involves writing a 100 page script in the month of April. What type of script, you ask? Screenplays, TV shows, stage plays, short films and graphic novels, or anything else you want. As long as its a script. Just like Script Frenzy, the aim is quantity over quality. Shut that inner-editor away, before it hurts someone. If you’re interested, SF 2011 starts in 19 days.

This has to be one of the most open challenges you will see in this list. They’re a lot more relaxed about what does and doesn’t count, and you can target for upwards of 50k for the year. Be warned though, this website, and it’s forums, is difficult to navigate, and poorly designed. Other than that, it’s a pretty good idea.

February Album Writing Month
Write 14 songs in 28 days. Sounds simple doesn’t it. From the outside anyway. If song writing is your scene, try out FAWM, and be mildly surprised by what you pull out during the month.

National Picture Book Writing Week
The goal? Write seven picture books in seven days. Easy, right? Wrong. It’s tough, it’s gruelling, it’s writing seven books for muddy, screaming, hungry little terrors of doom. It’s NaPiBoWriWee. It’s definitely not as organised as most, but if you don’t mind shifting through photos of the organiser and her cat, this is for you.

National Epic Poetry Month
No, epic poetry is not for just for ancient history. This is your chance to write your own Odyssey. The goal is to write 5000 lines of epic poetry, during May. So get planning.

Solo Photo Book Month
Budding photographer? Then check out SoFoBoMo. Just as a side note, I love their website. All you have to do is take 35 photos, in 31 consecutive days, somewhere in July and August. This fuzzy month, as they call it, is a great way for it to fit in your busy schedule.

24 Hour Comics Day
Plenty of students are great artists, so if you’re one of them, sign up for 24 Hour Comics Day, which inspires you to create 24 pages of a comic book in 24 consecutive hours. It’s probably best if you save this one for a long weekend!

48 Hour Video Project
You and a bunch of friends spend the weekend writing, filming, editing, and whatever else needs doing, a short film. This is an event which travels around the world, and you can see if they’re coming to a town near you on the website. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t pull a bunch of friends together one weekend, and start filming. Go on, I dare you.

750 Words
Just like its website, the purpose of 750 words is simple: write 750 words every day for a year. Unlike most events, you actually do your writing on the internet. Its simple, its plain, its perfect for hammering out 750 words. There are also some cool features, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise. Go and check it out.

This one’s particularly close to my heart. Not really. Anyway, its National Blog Post Month, where the aim is to write one blog post every day for a month. Obviously not one I’ll ever be able to do :). If you’ve ever wanted to get into blogging, this is a great place to start. If you sign up, send me a link to your blog, I’d love to see it.

That’s it for the stand out different events. Of course, these are definitely not the limits. Do a search, and see what you can find. Are you a better writer in September? I’m sure if you do a search for NaNoNoWriMo September, you’ll find something to suit you. If not, who cares? Grab a few friends, and start your own events. It’s tons of fun, you’ll be ridiculously exhausted at the end of it, and will have accomplished something at the end. Go for it.