Everyone experiences varying levels of stress during major exams. The key to performing well during your exam is your ability to manage the stress that exams bring. Here are a few techniques to deal with exam stress which will allow you to optimize your performance during your exam.walk-before-exam (1)

  • EXERCISE: Just prior to a major exam, many students feel time spent reading their books and reviewing notes is the best use of their time. However, research has shown that exercise just prior to your exam can boost memory and brain power. A study conducted by Dr. Chuck Hillman, at the University of Illinois, demonstrated the positive effect a 20 minute walk has on the brain.
  • SLEEP: Although you feel you need to keep studying for hours into the night, research indicates that sleep and being well rested are key to success. Sleep allows your brain to take information and move it from short term memory to long term memory. This process will increase your ability to recall information during your exam.
  • CHOCOLATE: I don’t know anyone who would turn down an opportunity to eat chocolate. Cocoa that is found in chocolate fights the stress hormone cortisol and creates a sense of relaxation. Chocolate also releases endorphins which are natural stress fighters. Dark chocolate, which contains 70% cocoa, maximizes the positive results of having chocolate during your exams.
  • BREAKS: Your brain becomes fatigued while studying for long periods of time. After 60-90 minutes, continuous studying becomes less effective. The 50/10 rule creates a plan where you study for the first 50 minutes of the hour and take a break for the last 10 minutes. While taking a break, get away and do something different and get your mind off of studying. An excellent way to use your break is to exercise, which allows you to clear your mind and increase your concentration level when you return.
  • VISUALIZE: You have done all you can do in your preparation for your exam. It is now time to build your confidence on test day. Imagine yourself taking the test, seeing all the questions, knowing the answers and feel how relaxed you are as you are taking the test.  Be sure to eliminate negative self-talk and take negative thoughts and turn them into positive ones by creating a picture of success…”I am prepared” “I can handle this”.

There is no way around the stress that comes with final exams. The best thing you can do is to learn how to manage it and minimize its negative effects which allow you to perform at an optimal level.

It’s the start of a new term.  New classes.  New textbooks. New professors and New expectations.

One way to set yourself up for success is to identify the important due dates listed on your course syllabi and gather them together on a “Term at a Glance” worksheet.  This tool lets you see the weeks you’ll have a lot going on quickly, by showing all your exams and major assignments for ALL your classes on a single sheet of paper.

Follow these steps to create your own Term at a Glance tool.

1.  Download the Term at Glance worksheet from the OSU Learning Corner’s page about term-long planning.

2.  Gather all the syllabi for your courses this term.

3.  Read through one syllabus from beginning to end Every time you see a due date or exam date transfer it to your Term at a Glance worksheet.  Note that often professors won’t list a specific calendar date, it might say “Tuesday of Week 4” or something similar.

4.  Double check that you have all exams and major assignments listed.

5. Repeat steps 3-4 for each course.  You may chose to use a different color ink or indicate each course in some other way.

Now look at the whole termTerm at a glance example

  • Is it fairly balanced from week to week?
  • Do you have any weeks that are empty?(a great time to schedule project work or extra studying)
  • Are any weeks very full? (may require planning ahead!)



You can use your Term at a Glance as a starting point to more detailed planning and organization if desired.  Check out this information about organization and time management for more ideas and resources.

How often do you highlight, underline, or write in your textbooks?


If you’ve ever purchased a used book that was (generously) highlighted by its previous owner, you may think of marking up textbooks as distracting or annoying.  However, when done properly marking up a textbook (also known as annotation) can be an effective active reading technique, and reviewing annotations you created while reading is a great study tool.

Image from: http://jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/how-to-use-a-textbook-6-rules-to-follow/
Image from: http://jameskennedymonash.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/how-to-use-a-textbook-6-rules-to-follow/

How to annotate in 5 easy steps.

1) choose a section of the textbook to read actively (also known as ‘close reading’) – if you’ve been assigned a full chapter, focus on a smaller section.

2) look at any headings, titles or other emphasized words and ask yourself what you think the section is going to teach you.  For example, if you were annotating this blog post you might look at the title and ask “what is annotation?” or “how would I use annotation to study?” You may choose to write this question in the margin or near the heading.

3) read through the passage slowly, identifying and underlining main ideas, circling key words, making connections between ideas, and noting anything you don’t understand.   Some annotation guides suggest writing in the margins during the first reading and underlining during the second, the order of actions isn’t as important as ensuring you are marking key ideas (not whole paragraphs or pages) and making useful notes to yourself in the margins.

4) look over the material, what types of questions might your professor ask about the information in this section?  Can you see any connections to previous material? Are any of the course objectives or learning outcomes (found in the syllabus) addressed?  Note these questions in the margins.

5) later, either  during the review/recall stage of a SQ3R reading method, while studying for a quiz or exam, or looking for information for a discussion board post or paper, look over your annotations.  Can you answer the questions you created?  Just glancing at the underlined and circled key ideas can you explain the topic in more depth without rereading the whole section?

Many proponents of annotation actually discourage the use of highlighters and encourage students to annotate with a fine tip pen (ball point is better than gel if the pages are thin).  What tools and methods you choose are up to you, and annotation is a very individualized technique.


Not sure annotation is for you? 

Concerned about book value?  It can be intimidating or even feel ‘wrong’ somehow to write in a book that cost you more than you like to think about…and you may be worried about resale value of your book.  This is valid, marked up books can sell for less than ‘like new’ online, but if marking up a book results in more information being learned and retained in a course that has a value as well…and some students actually intentionally purchased marked up books with the hope that it will have been done well and be useful to guide their own learning focus.

Worried it will take too much time?  By actively reading and turning the margins of your textbook into an instant study guide you should actually reduce the amount of time needed for re-reading or outlining in preparation for exams.  Initially annotation will be slow and add time to your reading, but just like any skill you will become more proficient with time and consistent practice.

Still not quite sure what annotation really looks like in action? To see a demonstration of annotation, check out this quick 4 minute video from Southwestern Michigan College, or search for many more examples available on YouTube.

DID YOU KNOW….that OSU is one of only two land, sea, space, and sun grant research institutions in the United States?



WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? Lots and lots (and lots) of research!

You may think that just because you don’t live close to Corvallis, that you aren’t eligible to participate in the wide array of research opportunities that exist across the OSU campus for undergraduate students. Yet, there are many opportunities that involve “an educational collaboration between students and faculty members” that can be facilitated from a distance. Sometimes students reach out to faculty for project supervision, and other times faculty members seek out research teams. Either way, participating in undergraduate research can be beneficial educationally and professionally.



Undergraduate Research, Scholarships, and Arts states that undergraduate research:

  • Engages and empowers students in hands-on learning
  • Enhances the student learning experience through mentoring relationships with faculty
  • Increases retention in the STEM disciplines & other fields
  • Provides effective career preparation & promotes interest in graduate education
  • Develops critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, self confidence, and intellectual independence
  • Promotes an innovation-oriented culture



Check out the Undergraduate Research, Scholarships, and Arts website and Dr. Kevin Ahern’s video on HOW TO GET STARTED!

Great news! The OSU Alumni Association is committed  to helping you build a successful career and job search strategy by delivering virtual career guidance by the nation’s top career authors and experts for FREE! 

Check out the Free Webinars on the Alumni Association’s webpage and  start planning for your dream job today!


All you need is a computer, Smart Phone or Smart Pad to participate. 

Make sure to continue the conversation on the Beaver Careers Group!

Miss a webinar? No worries…check out the archives. 



success startWhether this is your first or only venture into online learning or it’s a more permanent commitment for achieving your academic goals, taking online courses requires some adjustment. The face-to-face support and positive peer pressure that often helps students stay on track in a classroom can be substituted simply by engaging in new ways. Take on the challenge with confidence & set yourself up for SUCCESS with these tips:

Buy Your Books!

You don’t want anything to slow down your potential for success, and it can often take a little longer to receive course materials for an online class, especially if they are being shipped to you. Always check the OSU Bookstore directly for the materials & software that are required for your new class and order yours as early as possible. Waiting until Week 1 is too late.

Get into the course site and take a look around

Review your course syllabus for software/computer requirements.

Your syllabus holds the keys to learning success, maybe particularly in an online class where you will not have the benefit of weekly in-class meetings to keep you on track. In addition to all the good stuff found in a syllabus that guides you in other courses, pay particular attention to technology expectations. You may need to configure your computer or make sure you have guaranteed access to streaming tools like Adobe, Flash, etc. You can use the OSU Ecampus webpage Check My Computer tool to scan your computer for the minimum technology requirements.

Get to know the “flow” of your new online course.

Course organization can differ quite a bit online, just as in on-ground courses. Once you are logged in to your online course site, spend some time learning how to navigate the contents. Where are the lecture/lesson materials located? Do you have access to the entire course immediately or does a new folder open on a certain day each week with contents for the next topic? What are the weekly due dates and what will you be responsible for accomplishing each week? How do you access the discussion board and how often should you participate? Does your instructor hold office hours? Can you locate the special due dates for assignments, exams, projects, or synchronous class meetings?

How will you quickly get answers to your questions?

Knowing all of the answers isn’t important… it’s knowing where to find them when you need them that counts. Such is life! In asynchronous classes, you may find yourself online when your instructor is not. Is there a “Q&A Discussion Forum” or a preferred method for contacting the instructor, like office hours, stated in the syllabus? Do you know how to contact OSU Computer Help Desk in case of tech issues? Is there someone nearby you can designate as your personal “go-to” tech support in a big emergency? Make note of any tools offered directly from your course site to support your learning, such as NetTutor, Academic Coaching, and the OSU Writing Lab. Other resources to help you succeed:

Distance Support: Ecampus Success Counseling 

On Campus Support: The Academic Success Center, 102 Waldo Hall

Print and get familiar with your syllabus

If you aren’t already using your course syllabus as a guiding document for your classes, you’ll want to develop a new habit of success when you take a course online. Your syllabus is your learning contract, unique and specific to each course you take, and it should include everything you need to know to set your expectations for self-managing your learning. Look for instructor contact information, required elements of your course (materials, exams, events, participation), due dates, project details, grading guidelines and rubrics, as well as a course schedule… which is especially useful for scheduling your days and weeks throughout the term.

Establish a regular study schedule

Got time? You should plan to spend 2-3 hours “in class” weekly for each course credit hour you are enrolled in online. In other words, make sure you have at least 6-9 hours for each 3 credit course you take, factoring in other requirements of the class. Unlike a campus schedule, you will need to designate your own class time and protect it from the rest of the demands on your time. Consider your full life schedule: family, community, career requirements so you can block out the hours you will be dedicating to your studies including completing readings and assignments, adding discussion posts, and preparing for exams. Let your friends and family know that you are unavailable at those times… you’ve got your student hat on!

Introduce Yourself

…to the instructor

Most online courses offer an introduction discussion forum so you can interact with your new classmates. Make the extra effort to introduce yourself to your faculty, too. A instructor who knows a little bit about you is more likely to help you, to respond to your questions or to the situations that might come up for you during the term, and to remember you when you want to reconnect at a later date.

…to the class

Participate early and often with your classmates. It can feel awkward to get started, especially if this is your first online course, but doing so lets others know who you are and that you are interested in being active in the course. You will make connections more easily, develop a better grasp of the material, and if you have a question… what a great way to jump in early!

Use Effective Communication

Online communication in an educational setting should be a little different than the chat/messaging style you may use more commonly with friends. Be sure to get familiar with guidelines for “netiquette” which include using a positive tone, professional language, and clear and concise messages. Consider one more tip: be proactive. If you have not received a reply from your instructor or from team members online in a reasonable amount of time, contact them politely again.

Make Friends

Learning online can seem like “a whole new world”. When you trade your email address with at least one other classmate, you will be forming partnerships so that you can help each other understand the material better, get answers quickly to questions, remind each other of important deadlines, and just share in the challenges of balancing online learning and the rest of what your life demands.


Interested in what an Ecampus looks like and how to get around? Check out our course demo.

“The moment we believe that success is determined by an ingrained level of ability, we will be brittle in the face of adversity.” – Josh Waitzkin

 (Josh is an International Chess Master, World Champion in Tai Chi Chuan, and subject of the movie “Searching for Bobby Fischer”)

Josh is also a great example of someone who believes that he knows how to learn and to develop new skills.

He has what is called a growth mindset.





Carol Dweck and others have conducted research in children and adults to see the impact of a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset.  Students with a growth mindset are more likely to take on challenging courses, to see failures as an opportunity to change their approach or level of effort, and to translate criticism from peers or instructors into self-development. Growth mindset is also linked to the ability to persist when things don’t go as planned.





The greatest thing about mindset is that even if you’ve spent your life with a fixed mindset about certain areas of your life –

“I’m just not good at math.”

“All of my family are slow readers.”

“I’ve always struggled with tests.”

“I’m just not an A student.”

You can change, and grow, and learn new things, and develop new skills.

It won’t always be easy, in fact it will often be hard and take a lot of effort.  To get started changing how you think about yourself and your ability to learn new things or have higher levels of academic success can be as simple as listening to your voice (internal and external) and consciously adjusting your message.

“I’m just not good at math.” I haven’t learned Algebra, yet.

“All of my family are slow readers.” I haven’t learned how to read textbooks effectively, yet.

“I’ve always struggled with tests.” I’m not very confident at test-taking, yet.

“I’m just not an A student.” I’m not an A student, yet.

You didn’t develop a fixed mindset overnight, and you won’t shift to a growth mindset immediately either.  Be patient and kind as you learn not only academic content, but also how to shift your mindset toward one that will bring you the potential for higher success.




Learn more about fixed and growth mindset:

OSU Learning Corner has a page with tips about mindset

#YouCanLearnAnything from the Khan Academy

Growth vs Fixed Mindset (in just one minute!)

The Power of Belief – Mindset and Success: Eduardo Briceno at TEDxManhattanBeach

Mindset website, with lots of information from Mindset author Carol Dweck, including “test your mindset” and “change your mindset” sections.


Whether you have taken the Summer term completely off or the term is just winding down, it’s a great time to reflect back on previous successes and challenges to better prepare for upcoming terms. Did you earn the grades you wanted? Did you feel prepared and organized throughout the term? Were you able to balance your personal life with your academic requirements?

What might you change about the upcoming term to address any challenges that you may have faced?

Here are some great tips on how to prepare for an upcoming term:

  • Buy your books early! Open them. Look through them. Get together a game plan for studying!
  • Organize your time for each class.  We recommend setting aside 2-3 hours per credit hour. Where will this fit into your schedule?
  • Make a goal to commit to a success strategy this term. Log-in to blackboard everyday? Make a connection with at least one other individual in each course? Commit to using a planner for the entire term…
  • NEED ADDITIONAL IDEAS? Set up a Success Counseling appointment to start the term off strong!

We hope you are having a wonderful, successful summer!


Last week we talked about one method to plan out studying for finals.  Sometimes planning and list making can help create focus, calm and a clear path on what to do to accomplish goals; however, planning itself can become just another form of procrastination.

If a plan is simple and easy to execute, it can be an effective tool. 

If the plan has taken on a life of its own and created a situation where no action can be taken until the plan is perfect – that’s procrastination.

Marshall Goldsmith, the top-ranked executive coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony in London, recently presented on “Why We Don’t Do What We Know We Should Do – and How We Can Start Improving Our Odds on Getting Better” and a main idea to takeaway was that no plan is perfect, but taking the first step of action on any plan is better than endlessly continuing to consider options.  Take action.


Worried that your study plan for finals isn’t quite done?  Still wondering if you should read the textbook, then your notes, or the notes first?  Finals are coming, major project deadlines are right around the corner and the time to do something is now.  If your still not sure, consider starting with the Learning Outcomes or Course Objectives listed in your syllabus.  Write down everything you know already about each one and then decide – which ones do you need to focus on most?  Does that mean textbook review, practice problems, lecture notes review or a combination?  Pick an action and move forward with it, and check in frequently to make sure you are staying on track and using your time well.  Contact the instructor now about any confusing topics.

In summary, if you find yourself spending more time on the study plan than studying, or if you’re still struggling with “where to start”, pick something small that you feel is a “good” start and get to work.

“A good solution applied with vigour now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.”
George Patton, American general (1885–1945)