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5 Tips To Prepare For Exams

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5 Tips To Prepare For Exams

The end of spring and the beginning of summer is where the nightmare begins for most students. Burning the midnight oil, as they say, as we sit and cram a whole semester’s worth of topics into 2 days. Tensions run high as we sit in groups in the library trying to catch up with everyone else. As we lean upon one another to help and grow together, the cooperation that was absent throughout the semester happens overnight. This is the time where everyone becomes allies; this is the time of final exams.

However, during this time is when many fail to realize that being calm and collective is the key to concentration and successfully getting through finals. Here are a few pointers that might help you get through your finals and move on to an amazing summer.

1. Choose An Appropriate Study Time.

Our bodies are unique. Therefore, our biological clocks are programmed differently too. That means that adapting your routine to everyone else’s can bring you more harm than good. As your body suffers from trying to force itself to absorb all the information, you’ll eventually tire yourself out and the whole session won’t be as productive.

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Alternatively, it would be best if you create your own study time. Observe yourself at the times you’re highly productive and align your study periods then. This will increase your efficiency and you’ll be able to carry on the same energy flow for a longer period. This methodology also increases your ability to concentrate, hence you needn’t worry about forgetting what you’ve learned.

2. Keep Sweets Of Different Colors And Flavors With You.

Sweets are one of the world’s great gifts. As the delicious, sugary goodness oozes down your throat, you realize what a good day feels likes. Also, you may not have known that munching on sweets while studying allows you to increase your attention span. This gives you the ammunition to concentrate longer and remember better.

There’s also something called “association memory,” where your memory associates what you taste, smell, or feel with a particular memory. Keeping this in mind, munching on something sweet with either varied colors or tastes will allow you to associate that particular subject with the sweet. Then, during the exams, your subconscious memory will trigger the knowledge needed for you to ace that paper — just don’t forget to take the sweets with you to your exam!

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3. Prioritize Leisure Breaks While Studying.

After being trapped in a study room for days, a breath of fresh air can be bliss to the soul. Picture studying as keeping our mind in a library with constructed concrete information where creativity is on hold. Our mind keeps running on the treadmill of information and it eventually tires itself. This is exactly when you start losing your concentration and focus on whatever it is that you’re doing.

Huge companies such as Google have created various spaces for activities that allow your mind to breathe again, as a way of inducing a more efficient workforce. Why don’t you create your own time for leisure too? It could be binge reading your favorite novels, catching up on your favourite series, or making a good meal to treat yourself — just do something to get your mind off studying for a short period of time.

4. Have A Hot Flask Next To You.

Have you noticed that in most Hollywood movies, you find a group of students sitting in a corner studying while sipping on a mug of coffee or a huge pot of tea? There’s an interesting reason for this. Studies have shown that taking the time to slow down while studying allows your brain to digest information better compared to the normal robotic munching of information.

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Keep a hot flask with you and take a sip of your favorite beverage while studying. Even though you’re down to the wire, rushing the process doesn’t quite help — even if you’ve completed all the chapters. Instead, enjoy your beverage while going through the process of learning — what could be better than making learning a fun and relaxing activity?

5. Have A Great Playlist.

They say always save the best for last, and the one recommendation which every student knows is to have a great playlist of songs which tender the mood. Music is related to associated memory and it can also calm your now-speeding mind. This gives you the centered emotion you need to overcome each chapter of your studies.

Have a playlist of calm studying music — there are many on YouTube and Spotify — and listen to it while you’re studying. It can help you lose track of time and forget just how long you’ve been hitting the books. In other words, music helps in tricking your mind to work more.

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If you have a great playlist set before flipping through your books, studying will seem a lot less like work.

Even though finals is a time when as students we feel suffocated, using various adapting mechanisms can make this period a breeze. After all, this process is part of enjoying life as a student and the evolution of you as a person. As they say, first come finals, then comes summer.

Featured photo credit: Students Studying via az616578.vo.msecnd.net

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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