Final exams are approaching on college campuses around the world. Finals can be stressful, even for the most prepared students. Here are some tips to help you succeed:
Preparing for the Final
- Find out what your entire final exam schedule is so that you’ll know how many finals you will have on each day.
- Prepare a written schedule for yourself indicating when you will study for each test. Leave some time in your schedule for exercise and relaxation, too.
- If the professor offers a study guide, use it.
- If the professor offers a review session for the exam, go to it.
- If you study well in groups, form a study group.
- Know if the final is comprehensive (covering everything since the beginning of the semester or quarter).
- Find out what kind of exam it will be. You’d study differently for a multiple-choice (Scantron) final than an essay (blue book) one.
- If the final will be taken online, find out if you have to go to a specific computer lab on campus at a specific time, or if you’ll be allowed to take the final on your own computer. Also find out how many chances you will have to take the final. Assume it’s just one chance unless you hear differently from the professor.
- If you have your previous exams available, scour the exams for things that you think will be on the final.
- Flag your notes by highlighting or using Post-It notes.
- Don’t pull an all-nighter. (Though some people are successful with studying all night and then taking a test with no sleep, I wouldn’t recommend you try it for the first time on a final exam.)
- Calculate your grades in the class. Determine what score you will need to get the grade you’re hoping for in the class. You may discover that you can’t possibly get an A, no matter how well you do on the final, but to get a B, you only need to get a few questions right.
- If you’re an auditory learner, record yourself reading your notes aloud, then play the recording back several times.
- If the exam is an open-book exam, this does not mean that you don’t have to study at all. In fact, one of the most challenging exams I ever took as an undergrad was an open-book essay exam. Flag your textbook based on where you believe the questions will come from.
- Consider using one of the available smartphone apps to help you prepare for your final.
- Create a detailed Final Exam Battle Plan.
On the Day of the Final
- Feed your brain. Eat a meal and drink at least two bottles of water.
- Don’t overdo it with the caffeine. You want to be alert but not jittery. If you’ve never tried an energy drink before, the day of an important final is not a good first time.
- Are food and drinks allowed in the classroom where your final will be? Sometimes, the rules are different for exam days than other days. If you can have food with you, choose things that will not disrupt other students.
- Know what to bring with you to the final. Do you need a blue book? A Scantron? (And if you need a Scantron, which specific type do you need?) A pencil? A pen? When in doubt, overpack.
- Even if you don’t usually wear a watch, take one with you to the final. It’s unlikely you will be able to look at your cell phone to check the time during the final.
During the Final
- For a paper-based exam, read through the entire final exam before you start answering any questions at all. This way, you will know what you’re facing.
- If the final is an online exam, find out if you can revisit questions, or if after you click past a question you cannot go back to it again.
- If you’re using a Scantron and you skip a question to finish later, make sure you’re answering your questions next to the correct answers. (When I took my GRE to get into grad school, I skipped a question on the first page of the booklet, but never skipped a number on the Scantron. When I realized it, I only had 10 minutes to go back and put the answers with the correct questions. Talk about stress!)
- Keep a close eye on the time you have allotted.
- Some students benefit from answering the most difficult questions first, while others do better completing all the easier ones. Do what works for you.
After the Final
- Do not share with other students what was on the final exam. In most universities, this is a violation of the honor code.
- Take a breath, relax, then forge ahead to the next final.
Now it’s your turn: What final exam tips do you have to share? Please let us know through your comments below.
To wind down our semester in Corporate Public Relations, each student will create a short review of his or her chosen chapter from the book Reputation Management by John Doorley and Fred Garcia.
Create a three- to five-minute interactive overview of your chapter for our class. Be sure to include at least three things that PR students should know about your chapter. Get creative! But remember that you only have five minutes maximum; after that, I will get out my hook and pull you off the stage (metaphorically speaking). We’ll do our review session in class on Tuesday, Dec. 7.
Also, write a blog post that covers the highlights of your chapter. You may want to look back to your Reading Notes that you’ve already prepared and posted on your own blog. When the post is done, reply to this blog post with telling me the hyperlink to the new review post you have written.
In reviewing the Personality Profiles written by my PR Writing students over the last several semesters, I’ve discovered that there are several common errors that seem to show up. Avoiding these common errors will help ensure that someone might actually want to read the story you have written.
- Treating the story as if it’s a pre-obituary… you know, the obituaries that newspapers and TV stations have waiting, just in case someone famous dies. They tend to simply recite a few key facts from the person’s life. These pre-obituaries, posing as personality profiles for my class, are flat and fail to engage the readers. Yawn.
- Telling the story in chronological order.Just because we live our lives in chronological order doesn’t mean that is how the stories should be told.
- Writing a snoozer of a headline. Something like “A True Leader in Our Community!” is not something that would entice someone to read the story.
- Not reading well-done personality profiles before starting out to write one. People magazine and Sports Illustrated always have numerous profiles in each issue.
- Not interviewing the person you’re writing about. You can typically learn more about your subject in a face-to-face interview in 30 minutes than you can by reading things others have written for three hours. (Okay, I made up those numbers, but you get my point.) Spend some time learning who the person IS, and then you can better write about what the person DOES.
- Lack of quotations. Using the words of the subject of the story and those who know the person well can bring the story to life. Aim to incorporate quotations in every three to four paragraphs. They don’t need to be long ones, just ones that punctuate the point you are trying to make.
- Using the first paragraph or two to recite the subject’s job description. Try leading off with something that might be interesting to the readers instead. You can add in bits and pieces of the job description throughout the story if needed, but please don’t lead with them.
- Focusing on only one part of the subject’s life. In addition to describing the subject’s connection with the client organization, it’s smart to also sprinkle in some details about outside interests.
- Making the subject seem superhuman or saccharine. Even if the story is for your internal company newsletter, it’s important to make the subject seem like a real person that others can aspire to becoming like. If you put the subject too high on a pedestal, there’s the danger of creating a persona that is not likable.
- Failing to use standard news release format. Remember that a personality profile is just a specific type of news release. Datelines, contact information, -MORE-, slugs, end signs and perhaps even boilerplate information are still needed.
- Neglecting AP Style. See my post on 8 Common Errors for more details on this.
What other tips would you add for creating an effective personality profile?
A colleague and I were having a discussion today about cell phone use in class, especially during student presentations. We were of the same mindset that it’s especially rude to be texting while a peer is doing a presentation for a grade. It’s tough enough to be standing up in front of a room full of peers; it’s doubly or triply tough to do it when your peers are (apparently) more interested in a tiny electronic device in their hands than whoever is baring his/her heart and soul by doing a presentation. A great majority of student speakers I have worked with would prefer eye contact and other forms of engagement to the appearance of boredom by the audience. Wouldn’t you?
NOTE: I do have a different view of tweeting in class, if the students are distilling the presentation and sharing soundbites in 140-character segments so that others can also benefit from the presentation. At times, I even encourage tweeting in class.
This reminded me of a blog post I wrote on my Becoming Learner Centered blog a while back. Below is a cross-post of what I wrote in 2008. The sentiment remains the same here in 2010.
Like many educators, I have a short statement in my syllabi stating that I do not want my students to be spending time in class text messaging or surfing the web. But many of my students probably believe this is just because I want them focused on me instead of elsewhere. And that’s partially true.
Technology and the Problem of Divided Attention
In recent years the saturation of cell phones, text messaging, and laptops, combined with the broad availability of wireless in classrooms, has produced something I call the problem of divided attention. A March 25, 2007, article in the New York Times summarized recent studies of productivity in business settings. Researchers found that after responding to email or text messages, it took people more than 15 minutes to re- focus on the “serious mental tasks” they had been performing before the interruption. Other research has shown that when people attempt to perform two tasks at once (e.g., following what’s happening in class while checking text messages), the brain literally cannot do it. The brain has got to give up on one of the tasks in order to effectively accomplish the other. Hidden behind all the hype about multi-tasking, then, is this sad truth: it makes you slower and dumber. For this reason alone you should seek to avoid the problem of divided attention when you are in class. But there’s another reason, too: technology often causes us to lose our senses when it comes to norms of polite behavior and, as a result, perfectly lovely people become unbelievably rude.
For both these reasons, then, turn off your cellphones or set them on silent mode when you come to class; it is rude for our activities to be interrupted by a ringing cellphone. Similarly, text messaging will not be tolerated in class; any student found to be sending or checking text messages during class will be invited (quite publicly) to make a choice either to cease the texting or leave the classroom. You are welcome to bring your laptop to class and use it to take notes, access readings we’re discussing, and the like. You are not welcome to surf the web, check email, or otherwise perform non-class-related activities during class. Here’s my best advice: If you aren’t using it to perform a task specifically related to what we are doing in class at that very moment, put it away.
Thanks, Cara, for explaining why texting in class is not a good idea.
So, what are your thoughts about students texting while other students are giving presentations in class?
For your Final Project Presentation in COMM 4363 (Corporate PR), please keep these guidelines in mind. Both the presentation and the final project are due in class on Tuesday, November 16.
- Share with your class 10 Things People Should Know About [Your Company], based on the research you did for your series of blog posts. Pick and choose the information you find to be most relevant and important to share with your classmates.
- Dress professionally (business casual at a minimum), just as you would if presenting directly to a client.
- Follow this basic format (just like you learned in your public speaking class)
- Introduction (remember to start with an attention getter to lead into your introduction)
- Body (the 10 Things)
- Please use either PowerPoint or Prezi to augment the spoken part of your presentation, but no Death by PowerPoint. If possible, embed your presentation or presentation slides in your blog.
- You will use your own computer, not mine. I can help you set it up. (If you have a Mac, bring the appropriate adapter.)
- Though I love gum and hard candy as much as the next person, avoid them when you are in front of the room.
- Review my tips on How to NOT Suck as a Guest Speaker; even though this post was about being a guest speaker, not doing a class presentation, many of the guidelines still work well.
Solo Presentation, 5-7 minutes
- See above
Team Presentation, 17-20 minutes
- In addition to the 10 Things, also include approximately 10 minutes on an overview of your mini-campaign. Use visuals, as applicable, to back up your points. Be sure to include a section on what you’d do differently if faced with a similar campaign in the future.
- Each team member must have a speaking role. Practice transitions between speakers, in addition to practicing the content. Also think about where people who are not speaking will be when one of you is presenting. It’s important that the entire team appears engaged during the presentation.
As an Audience Member
- Treat the speakers with the same level of respect as you would wish for your own presentation.
- Tweeting during presentations is acceptable. Use the class hashtag of #COMM4363 with any tweets. (Avoid any other use of electronics, please.)
- Develop a question or two to ask the speakers. I expect to hear at least one question from everyone in the class on the day of presentations.
- Applaud when the presentations are over.
- See additional tips on being a good audience member by Cathy Stucker.
For my PR students at Southeastern University and Georgia Southern University:
As this semester is winding down, please take a few moments to complete this Blog Checklist to ensure your blog is on track.