Thursday, October 31, 2013

Tips to Achieving an "A"

Let’s be honest, every September you starts off the semester thinking “This is going to be my year. I'm going to get straight A’s, a killer GPA and impress all my professors with my brilliance!”. You work super hard for the first few weeks of school and then around midterms, everything starts piling up (what do you mean I need to study for midterms, do readings, prepare for labs, start thinking about essay topics, contribute in class AND get enough sleep to do all this?!). Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Everyone is on the same boat when midterms roll around but that doesn't mean it’s the end of the world and you won’t get those A’s you've been aiming for. The best way to get the grades you want is to stay focused and keep in mind a few simple tips to keep you on track for that stellar GPA.

Get Organized

Midterms have the tendency to throw everyone for a loop in terms of readings. You’re so bust studying for them that you forget that there are new topics that your professor is covering in lecture. This is why an agenda is so important; by writing down readings in your agenda, this will serve as a reminder to not brush them aside. Remember, the best way to retain knowledge is not speeding through readings two hours before an exam but rather pacing yourself over a few weeks.

Use Assignment Calculator

There’s nothing worse like the fear of having an essay due in a week and you haven’t even started looking for resources. To avoid this and to avoid the stress of haphazardly throwing a subpar essay together, make sure to use the AA&CC Assignment CalculatorThe great thing about Assignment Calculator is that it can be geared towards the type of assignment that you have (e.g.  research essay, literature review, lab report, etc.) and will set a realistically paced schedule for completing the assignment. Getting an A doesn't happen overnight or with an overnight essay. Slow and steady wins the race :)

Making It Stick!

One of the greatest difficulties for students is retaining the information they have just read. One strategy to help retain information is by chunk reading. This is done by reading paragraph by paragraph, taking a short five minute break and then trying to recall the information that you just chunk read. This style of studying coupled with note taking has been proven to be more effective than marathon reading a whole chapter without a break or without trying to recall what was just read.


Don’t just be a wall-flower; make your presence known in class. You've done your readings, so you're equipped to participate in lecture, tutorial and labs. There are a few reasons this is a good idea. One is that participating in class will help solidify information your head the stuff you learned from doing your homework and readings. Talking out loud about relevant information uses a different portion of your brain than just writing. This will open up your mind in making connections between various materials more quickly. The last reason is that your professor or T.A. will get to recognize you over time. If you’re like many students who don’t want to speak out, that’s okay. Make a goal for yourself to comment at least once a week in tutorial in a course that you feel confident about. The following week, extend your goal to participating twice in a tutorial. By being engaged and participating, you are showing the professor or T.A. that you are taking the course seriously. Also, never underestimate the usefulness of participation marks to boosting you towards an A! 

All the best,

Monday, October 14, 2013

Midterm Mania!

It’s that time of the year again – the dreaded midterms are here and they have just declared a war against your sanity! I have always been a huge believer of studying hard but over the years of my undergrad study I have come to realize that the better option is to study smart and not particularly hard! What is the distinction you might ask?
  • Studying smart translates to actively listening on the lectures, taking down the key words used by the professor during the lecture, trying to identify the key areas in the chapter and focusing on them, avoiding cramming at the end .. and the list goes on but you get the idea!
  • An effective approach is to design your plan of study for a test according to the anticipated format of the test. The strategy to study for a multiple choice exam would be totally different one from the strategy you would employ to study for a short answer test or an essay exam. Don’t shy away from asking your professors for the format of the test or even to post a couple sample questions so that you get an idea of their expectations.
  • Identify your style of learning - whatever worked for your friend doesn't necessarily work for you. Don’t feel anxious and doubt your learning just because your friend’s style of learning seems more organized than yours. Flash cards, taking elaborate notes, designing mind maps for each topic/chapter are some of the techniques different people use to study and organize the course content. Discover the various styles of learning and stick with the one you feel gave you more productive results.
  • Multiple choice tests aren't as bad as they are believed to be, provided you study right for it! The crucial thing I think on a multiple choice test is to pay close attention to the question. Sometimes the question involves a double negative, It could ask you to pick the most incorrect answer rather than the most correct answer. No matter how many words the question has, make sure that you are reading each and every word of the question. Highlighting the key words in the question is also a great idea to make sure that you aren't missing or misreading the important words in the questions
  • Coming from a Mathematics background, I feel responsible for sharing a couple strategies around preparing for Math. So here they are - Clearly printing your answers and drawing a box around your final answer is always a good idea. Always put in all the steps necessary leading to the final answer, simply printing the final answer raises a lot of questions around ownership and its source. Skip the question that you are not sure about and go to the ones you know the answer to, then come back to the ones you have left initially. 

And lastly, Don't let the anxiety get the best of you and manage your time wisely, both while preparing for and writing the midterm!

Good Luck!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

How to Get Oriented for a New Job

A new academic year means a lot of new experiences in school or in the workforce for current students and recent graduates. Whether you’ve entered the world of employment through a work study, an internship, a part time or full time position, getting oriented to a new environment may be difficult. But have no fear! AA&CC is here with some tips to help you get adjusted! (Roos, 2013) and yours truly have a number of great suggestions on what to do in your first few weeks to not only help you get through but also thrive in your new job.

Take Initiative: Want to impress your new boss before your first day even begins? E-mail them after you get the position to ask if there is anything you need to prepare in advance. Whether they ask you to fill out some extra forms, prepare a list of what you hope to accomplish in your first week on the job, set up a company email address or nothing at all, your boss will appreciate your eagerness to jump right into your new role. First impressions like this really stick so take advantage of that window of opportunity as the new hire right away. 

Do Your Homework: And you thought your nights of doing homework were far behind did you? Well think again! Making a good first impression doesn’t just mean asking what you can do for your boss but rather it also means knowing what the new company that you’re working for is all about. Think about it, do you really want to be the new hire who doesn’t even know your employer’s mission statement when it’s on the homepage of their website? Yeah…I didn’t think so. Get familiar with the website, how to navigate it and find key links that you can refer to often (Roos, 2013). Trust me; this will only help you in the long run.

Put Your Best Shoe Forward: Ever heard of the saying that you only get 7 seconds to make a good first impression? Whether it's 7 seconds, 20 seconds or a full minute, we all know one universal truth: you only get one chance to make a good first impression so make it count. To do this most effectively is to show you mean business through what you’re wearing. Now I’m not saying wear a tux or ball gown during your first two weeks at work (in fact, I’d highly recommend you DON’T do that) but this also means you have to part with that well-worn college hoodie and sweat pants (Roos, 2013). Take the time to invest in a work wardrobe. Your work environment could prefer that you go business casual or business formal, you either way, want to look like you mean business. 

Brown Bag Your Lunch: The biggest mistake I ever made on my first day of work was not packing my own lunch. Why didn’t I do this? To be honest, I didn’t want to seem uncool with a packed sandwich and juice box (elementary school flashbacks much?). In hindsight, packing a lunch would have helped me avoid all the embarrassing stomach growling and starvation at work. Lunch room culture is different at anywhere you work; some environments have their staff eat at their cubicles, some have a lunch room that everyone goes to, while in other work establishment, everyone goes out for lunch (Roos, 2013). Regardless of this, in your first few weeks at work, you don’t really know if there’s going to be a food vendor nearby or if you’ll even have the time to go out to buy food. Play it safe and pack a lunch: even if it seems dorky, your stomach will thank you for it.

Use the Buddy System: Sometimes being at a new job feels like being the new student transferring to a new school in the middle of the school year; everyone already has their group of friends and it may be difficult or seem intimidating to introduce yourself to make friends. As daunting as it may seem, be sociable and try your best to make friends at work. Having a buddy at your new job will help you feel comfortable enough to have someone to ask questions that you might feel embarrassed asking your boss, have your breaks with or just have a friendly face around. Even if you do get a new pal at your workplace, don’t limit yourself to this one person forever. After a while, diversify and make connections with more and more of your colleagues. Not only will it help you network more but it will also help the day pass by quicker. Who says work can’t be fun? :)  
Don’t Expect the World Right Away:  It’s great that you got hired and that you’re a part of the work force but don’t think that just because you have the job you can do whatever your colleagues who have worked at the same place as you for five or ten are doing. Always remember that you have to pay your dues. What does this mean? Well don't expect everyone to know you after the first week; it takes time to build connections. Also don't expect to be able to take Fridays off or get a two week vacation after only working for two months; you need to build up your value in a company/environment before asking for perks. In short, always remember that what you give in a job is what you get. The added benefits will come to you one day but that day is down the road.

In summary, a new job is always great and it will help you in the future. Adaptation and flexibility equals success in the workforce so do your best and the rest will come in due time.

Good luck and stay happy,
Souraiya Rahee

Roos, D. (2013, October 8). 10 Tips for your First Day at Work. Retrieved from