How Simple Breathing Can Stomp your Test Anxiety

By Cole A Harrison-Priddle, 3rd year English/Art History/Voice student

 Exams and in-class tests are not only evaluations of your knowledge and ability to apply it. They’re also performances: the class is your stage, your pens and pencils are your props, the time limit is your show length, and the examiner is your audience. Unlike actors performing a rehearsed play, students like you must determine the best answers to the show as you are performing it. Considering how rampant stage fright is even amongst veteran performers for rehearsed plays, it is understandable that you might feel test anxiety when approaching or performing an exam. Luckily, you and everyone else has a latent tool – one in constant use but likely not yet harnessed, one that is foundational yet able to make or break actors, singers and musicians alike, and one without which you cannot live – your breath.



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University has taught me to… Get comfortable being uncomfortable

By Sam Taylor, 4th-year Concurrent Education, English major student

Now is the time to try something unordinary!

I am currently in my fourth year of my undergrad here at Queen’s. I think one of the most important pieces of advice that I learned throughout my undergraduate experience is to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I actually just heard this saying recently at the Queen’s Conference on Education that I attended my first weekend back from Christmas break. It occurred to me that this saying holds true for a lot of occurrences over my past four years: I just never had a way of categorizing them. Here is how Queen’s has taught me to “get comfortable being uncomfortable” and made me a more open-minded and well-rounded learner because of it.


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Editing So That It Makes Sense: Breaking Down Your Thesis Like 1,2,3…

By Lily Zhu, 3rd year Concurrent Education, English and French Student


When editing a paper, one of the first things to look at is the thesis statement—for good reason. The thesis statement is the most important component of your essay. It is the MAIN IDEA, which means that everything you argue in your essay should relate back to your thesis.


It’s pretty common for a paper to have a strong, argumentative, well-written thesis, but then end up going in a different direction. While you might want to return to that original statement, it’s important to remember that you can adjust your thesis just as much as the rest of your essay. So after exploring your topic in writing your first draft, there’s a way to make sure that your thesis is “up-to-date” before working on your final draft.


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A Harry Potter themed-study guide to make your learning magical

By Zier Zhou, 2nd year Life Sciences student


It’s been more than 20 years since the publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but the series still remains as relevant to our lives as ever. Perhaps your invitation letter from Hogwarts never came into existence, but there is certainly no harm in adding a creative twist to your study session by setting an enchanting atmosphere. Furthermore, discover what each of the four Houses have to say about learning, and unlock your greatest potential.


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Happy New Year from Learning Strategies! Are you ready?

By Chelsea Hall, 2nd-year Life Sciences student

The start of the new year marks the beginning of the winter term: you will have a new schedule, face different challenges, experience more possibilities open to you and so much more. Although new year resolutions are often hard to keep, you can learn good habits anytime.  There is no better time to do so than now!



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A Big Decision: Changing My Academic Plan

By Becky Bando, 3rd-year Concurrent Education, English student

Imagine you’ve changed half of your courses six weeks into the year. But these weren’t just any random courses; these were courses required for your new major. And this change wasn’t just a small shift in your major, like moving from Chemistry to Biology; it was a drastic change, like moving from Math to English. This means weeks of work to catch up on as well as learning a whole new set of skills connected to your major. Not to mention, entering new classes not knowing anyone. What if you change your mind and regret your new major?





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Get your groove back: Tips for a smooth return to schoolwork after a break

By Caleigh Treissman, 3rd-year Psychology major

After the break, getting back into the rhythm of school can sometimes be difficult: the return of responsibility and stress, saying goodbye to family and friends from home. The important thing to remember is that YOU CAN GET BACK INTO THE GROOVE!

We recognize that motivation may be low to start, so here are a few handy tips to get you started!

  • Be gentle with yourself. Recognize that it may take you a while to get back into the school work groove! Don’t get down on yourself, take breaks and do what you can!
  • Set realistic goals. Don’t plan to do all those readings that you’re dreading all at once! Break them up into manageable chunks!
  • Prioritize in order to stay on top of your work! What is each assignment worth? How long will it take you to complete? Ask yourself these questions and do the most important work first!
  • Reward yourself when you are able to accomplish tasks that seemed daunting at first!
  • Believe in yourself above all else! Put motivational quotations and reminders of your long-term goals around your room to remind yourself why you are here.

Make sure to use your term and weekly schedules in order to keep track of assignments and exams!

It may take some time to really feel back in the groove of school again, but Learning Strategies and the Peer Learning Assistants are here for you if you need some extra support!



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Can my personality determine where I should study?

By Orly Lipsitz, 3rd-year psychology student


A big part of exam season is the environment you choose to study in. You might be wondering how some of your friends have no problem studying all day in CoGro, or you might be asking yourself how some other friends do all their studying in silent cubicles in Stauffer, Douglas or Bracken. Did you know that one aspect of your personality type—introversion vs extroversion–likely plays a role in determining the best study environment for you?

Are you introverted?

Do you like your time alone? Prefer to listen to music on your own rather than going out? Research has shown that there is a difference in performance for introverts vs. extroverts depending on their study environment (Green, McCown and Broyles, 1985). Performance of introverts on complex cognitive tasks (e.g. writing an essay, analyzing an article, solving a math problem) is negatively affected by distractors such as music and background noise. Introverts do worse when there is background noise than when there is silence. What does this mean? If you think of yourself as introverted, your best bet at studying would probably be studying without music in a quiet environment (Dobbs, Furnha and McClelland, 2010). You might also find that you get more easily distracted by small amounts of noise, like the two people sitting across from you talking in the library, whereas your extroverted friends might not even look up when someone drops a huge textbook on the ground. This has actually been confirmed by research—it takes much louder noise for an extrovert to get distracted from their material than for an introvert to get distracted. Introverts show greater sensitivity to lower intensity noise than extroverts (Green, McCown and Broyles, 1985).

So what places on campus would be good for introverts to study?

  • Stauffer
  • Douglas
  • Bracken
  • Biosci 2nd floor
  • Kingston public libraries
  • Empty classrooms
  • Home

If you are extroverted, this is the section for you! Some studies have shown that extroverts respond to tasks with greater accuracy when in an environment with higher noise intensity (Green et al., 1985). However, other studies have shown that both introverts and extroverts perform better in quieter environments (Furnham, Gunter and Peterson, 1994).

Where should you study if you want a noisier environment?

  • CoGro
  • Cafés around Kingston
  • The Tea Room
  • The ARC
  • Botterell Hall Market Café

However, most people can’t be boxed into a specific category of introvert versus extrovert. Where you choose to study might also depend on the mood you are in or what work you need to get done. For some tasks, you might prefer silent work areas. For others, you might prefer a little bit of background noise and stimulation.

Some places to go to that are somewhere in the middle include:

  • JDUC
  • BioSci atrium
  • Mac-Corry cafeteria (depending on time of day–it is louder during lunchtime)
  • Residence common rooms
  • Tables outside of Stauffer
  • 3rd floor ARC (above CoGro)
  • New medical building

Don’t forget, what works for others might not work for you. Try out different study areas and different methods of studying—such as studying with music and studying without (although if you use music, it is best to listen to classical music or music you are unfamiliar with so that you do not get distracted by the lyrics). At SASS, we recommend that students spend approximately 25% of their study time reviewing with a group. There are lots of places on campus to work as a group, including many of the areas listed above. Additionally, you can book study rooms in advance in the various Queen’s libraries. Many faculties also offer study rooms specifically for students in their faculty as well.

If you need more help finding the right way to study for you, drop by SASS (Stauffer Room 143)!


Green, R. G., McCown, E. J., & Broyles, J. W. (1985) Effects of noise on sensitivity of introverts and extraverts to signals in a vigilance task. Personality and Individual Differences, 6(2), 237-241.

Furnham, A., Gunter, B., and Peterson, E. (1994). Television distraction and the performance on introverts and extroverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 8(7), 705-711.

Dobbs, S., Furnham, A., and McClelland, A. (2010). The effect of background music and noise on the cognitive test performance of introverts and extraverts. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 25(2), 307-313.

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How to Better Manage Your Time

By Cherry Chun, 2nd Year Life Sciences student

Throughout my time at university, I’ve noticed that one of the factors that played a significant role in my stress level was time (or lack of it). Being able to better manage my time allows me to accomplish things more efficiently and effectively. Although I still find time management quite difficult to juggle between academics, clubs, and life’s other commitments, here are some useful tips and tricks I’ve picked up throughout my struggles at university.


Make a Timetable for Each Week

Every weekend, I plan the following week’s tasks. For example, I jot down (in point form) an anatomy quiz on Tuesday, a biology assignment on Thursday, and a statistics midterm on Friday. Doing this helps me put into perspective what I need to complete and prioritize for that week. I feel as though this helps to reduce the stress that comes with assignments and tests by allowing me to feel more prepared for each one. Feel free to design and use your study timetable in whichever way you want! If you’re a more highlighter-and-markers kind of person, colour code the timetable to your heart’s content. Remember, this is something that’s solely for you. Make sure you understand what your timetable means and organize it however you want.


Own a Planner or Equivalent

In addition to having a weekly planner, I find it equally important to have a daily planner you can carry around for your daily schedule. The daily planner allows you to address specifics on a day-to-day basis. When the daily planner is used in conjunction with the weekly schedule, it helps me to broadly visualize how my week is going to go, and then know exactly what I need to complete each day. In my planner, I like to use the ABC method of prioritization. To use the method, jot down everything that you have to do during the day, then put the letters A, B, and C next to each one. A is for the most important tasks, B for the semi-important ones, and C for those that you can complete another day. I usually base the prioritization on several factors, such as academic deadlines, the weight of the marks involved, and the difficulty level of the task. Using this method ultimately allows me to complete tasks on time with less stress involved, which is always great!


Using Your Phone to Stay on Track

To help keep organized throughout the week, I also like to use my phone to keep myself updated on upcoming events or important tasks I need to complete. The go-to function are the pre-installed calendar and reminder apps. I usually jot down in point form what it is I need to be reminded of, such as remembering to hand in an assignment at a specific time, and set the app up to remind me exactly a day prior. I use this function for everyday activities as well, such as remembering to take out the garbage or to attend group meetings. I like to use this method in conjunction with the planner and the weekly schedule because I feel as though all three methods provide a different function.


Although the weekly planner is great for viewing the entire week in one glance, it’s hard to visualize each specific day. This disadvantage of only using the weekly planner can be offset by also using the daily planner to help you keep organized for each day. And your phone can help remind you of the important tasks on an almost minute-to-minute basis. But remember: all of these methods are just recommendations, and it’s ultimately up to you to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. However, what I can tell you is that time management, in any occupation or situation, is a crucial thing to have, and knowing how to better manage time really only comes with practice. Start practicing now to manage your study time, reduce your stress, and prepare for the world of work after graduation.


Photo courtesy of Robert Couse-Baker under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.

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Procrastination is Your Frenemy

By Hannah Thiessen 3rd Year, Con Ed (History/English) student

I must admit that, even as I’m writing this, I am in the midst of procrastinating. With my due date looming tonight, I am reaching the frenzied state of productivity that only occurs in these times. Procrastinating ignites in me heightened levels of productivity, but the collateral damages that result are heightened anxiousness and loss of precious sleep, as well as a general morale slump.

Although in the aftermath of these frenzies of procrastination-induced productivity I recognize that these patterns of behaviour are not sustainable, time and again I revert to them as an invariable strategy of completing the various tasks that academia assigns me. I am working on it though. As I find myself well into my third year of university, I am slowly learning and developing strategies to fight the seductive but destructive habits of procrastination. These strategies are not infallible, and will likely not all work for you, but hopefully at least a few of these strategies will help you join the fight against procrastination too!

In no apparent order, here is how I combat procrastination:

    1. Optimism: I know that this is slightly frivolous and not quantitative, but I think that it’s vital to approach upcoming assignments with optimism. Right out of the gate at the beginning of the year I mark all of the assignments of my semester in my schedule using my syllabi. This allows me to see them coming well in advance, and be confident with the time I have for them. I can prepare for them in large and small ways as they draw near, sometimes even just through googling my topic and getting that little bit more of background info. A foundation laid like this is more easily built upon toward the completion of my tasks than jumping into tasks at the last minute.


    1. Time Management 101: Okay, disclaimer, I am far from excellent at time management, but as I recognize that my primary time wasters include social media and Netflix, I have downloaded an extension on my laptop to block these websites for specific periods of time. It works effectively on multiple levels; I am reminded to focus each time I attempt to access the sites, and I can also see how much time is left before I can allow myself a break, as the extension has a ‘sleep timer.’


    1. Friends and Studying: I love booking study rooms with my friends as a way to fight procrastination. The friends that participate in these study rooms are commonly from different faculties, so we all do independent work, yet we can motivate each other and keep each other accountable to stay on task. Alternatively, we also distract one another at times, so it’s important to choose friends that are good at balancing the productive and distracted times. Friends that bring tea kettles are a bonus!


    1. Breaks: Taking breaks is surely something you’ve been told about before, and ‘know’ about, but allow me to elaborate on my reflections. Breaks are best for fighting procrastination when they are earned. Rather than setting timed goals that result in half-baked focus until the timer goes of, I set quantitative goals such as pages read or words written. This results in realized goals rather than unintentional time wasted.


    1. Time to Communicate: Something that greatly motivates me to avoid procrastination is my desire to improve my work by communicating with my professors or TA’s, or even going to The Writing Centre when necessary. I know that taking time to hear the feedback of the person marking my work will vastly improve said work, and that in many cases they point me in a new and better direction. Opportunities to go to office hours do not happen the night before though, so I strive to give myself at least a week before the due date to reach out to my prof or TA. Even if, as in most cases, my work is incomplete, I know that I will come out of my time with them having gained valuable help. As well, especially in my first year, I fought the intimidation of physically seeing my marker by simply emailing them. I find that faculty members are consistently fast at replying to my queries via email, and while their responses aren’t necessarily as helpful as a live encounter, they are certainly helpful nonetheless.


So there you have it. I use these strategies as I try my best to not procrastinate. It really is worth it, and when I am successful I find myself being more relaxed, rested, and available for hanging out with friends and having fun, an equally important aspect of university life. Ultimately, fighting procrastination is all about your attitude towards your work, so give school (and fun!) your best, and do yourself a favour by not leaving your work to the last minute. We can do this!


Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

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