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Midterm momentum: better, faster, stronger...

You're halfway there! Here's advice from Concordia experts on how to keep moving forward
October 20, 2016
By J. Latimer

Take a bow. You made it through midterm exams! (Or at least, the end is in sight...) It’s a good moment to call home and share the news with your friends and family.

If you wish you’d done better, don’t despair. There are resources in place at Concordia to get you back on track, emotionally and academically.

“This is the time to ‘up’ your self-care, paying attention to your diet, water intake, exercise and sleep,” says psychologist Dale Robinson, manager of Concordia’s Counselling and Psychological Services. “These seemingly simple measures can play a big role in helping you perform your best in exams.”

Reframe results for a new attitude

Robinson recommends shifting your outlook. “Students who think they’ve underperformed during midterms may be comparing the results of their first exams to how they did in high school and CEGEP, leaving them feeling like they’re doing a lot worse, which is not necessarily true,” she says.

“Don’t jump to conclusions in the first six weeks of university. It’s not the whole story. You need to reframe what ‘failure’ means. Failing to accomplish something does not mean you are a failure. It just means you haven’t hit your mark — yet. Failure can be a positive thing if it leads to honing your skills and tweaking the way you study.”

For students feeling demoralized, she also recommends simple measures such as exercise — a fabulous way to get rid of stress hormones and change your mood — importantly, remember the big picture.

“It’s all about context,” says Robinson. “To weather the bumps, remember that setbacks are normal in any goal attainment and even essential in some ways. It’s good to visualize where you want to be and to use that visualization as a powerful tool to motivate yourself. That will boost your emotional resilience.”

Counselling and Psychological Services provides the Concordia community with individual and group psychotherapy and personal counselling, as well as outreach and consultation. 

To get a better understanding of what to expect, meet the counsellors. Also, consider joining one of their groups and workshops. Titles include “Building Your Buddha Nature.”

For students who feel exceptionally overwhelmed, Robinson advises making a triage appointment.

Need a new academic game plan?

While accessing your inner Buddha and reframing your outlook, it’s also advisable to look at tangible ways to improve your study habits.

“The worst thing you can do is worry without taking action,” says Juliet Dunphy, manager of Student Learning Services at the Student Success Centre. “If midterms created a crisis of confidence, what matters is what you do about it next.”

Learning resources within the Student Success Centre exist in many forms: writing assistance, math assistants, study groups, language support and over 200 workshops a year on topics such as improving your memory, taking multiple choice exams, time management and critical thinking.

There is a writing assignment calculator online to plan and break down the process of drafting papers, as well as approximately 90 PDFs with tips on everything from problem-solving to effective reading and note-taking.

“Making an appointment with one of our learning specialists is a good place to start, along with requesting a Student Success Mentor,” says Dunphy.

“We point students to workshops, handouts, math tutoring, writing assistance and possibly counselling. We also have strategic learning sessions — specific study groups for historically difficult classes in economics, chemistry, biology and geography.”

Meet the learning specialists

Haleh Raissadat and Elaine Ransom, two of Concordia’s full-time learning specialists, note that study strategies are different for reading-based courses versus problem-solving courses, which typically involve numbers.

“Problem-solving courses are cumulative, so it’s important to make sure you understand everything as you go along,” says Raissadat, who specializes in problem-solving courses in math and engineering. “Redoing questions isn’t learning. You need to apply the knowledge in a different context.”

For students in the humanities and other reading-based courses, Ransom recommends that you “go beyond the notes.”

“Don’t just read and highlight,” she advises. “You need to be more engaged with the material if you want to remember it. Ask why you’re reading it, and what should you be getting from the content.”

Leverage the library

The library, of course, is another font of resources. It offers four workshops, covering academic essentials, note-taking strategies and tips on how to build a bibliography and follow APA style for first-time essay writers.

There are also 24/7 study spaces, laptops and iPads to borrow, subject librarians to consult for research advice and more.

When it’s time for a study break, is there anything more comforting than a furry friend with a wagging tail? Pet therapy comes to the libraries on Concordia's two campuses on specific dates in November and December.

Webinars for success

New to the Student Success Centre’s toolkit this year is a free "online hangout," broken into four segments. Hacking Your Brain for Success is packed with tips and tricks for optimizing your study sessions and increasing your motivation.

“It’s very easy for students to participate — once you register, we send a link,” says Petio Petrov, a third-year psychology student in the Faculty of Arts and Science, who’s also pursuing a minor in computer science.

Petrov and behavioural neuroscience student Zarin Arshy are Student Success Mentors, and will combine their psychology training with their knowledge of frequent student questions and concerns. 

“There’s no need to install anything on your computer and you can do it from home or the library,” Petrov adds.

The seminar is split into four 30-minute sessions: The Cognitive Method (October 25), detailing cognitive tips on efficient studying; Work It Out (October 27), providing insight into the benefits of an active lifestyle; The Behaviourist Method (November 1), outlining tips on the science behind habit formation; and Sleep On It (November 3) praising the virtues of rest.

If you can’t attend them all, don’t worry! The evening sessions are designed to be independent of each other.

“The webinar’s content is based on validated behaviour science. We’re confident we’re giving good advice,” says Petrov.

Find out more about Concordia’s
Campus Wellness and Support Services and the Student Success Centre.



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