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The Top 3 Speed Reading Techniques

The Top 3 Speed Reading Techniques

A majority of us read at a rate of about 200-400 words per minute. A minority of others known as speed readers can hit around a whopping 1000-1800 words per minute!

Speed reading is not something that you are born with. It is a skill that one can develop similar to learning how to skateboard or to draw better. Some people take to it more naturally than others, but most every one can do it with understanding and practice.

Breaking down the process of reading

Before we can understand speed reading, we need to understand what reading is and how we comprehend words normally. 

There's a difference between reading purely for pleasure, and reading to learn. I'm sure you don't curl up on the couch with a hot cup of tea and open up your latest Additional Mathematics Syllabus to read, right? When you are reading to study, the reading becomes a kind of mechanical process. It requires a whole lot more brain power to take in the unfamiliar concepts and process them in your head. 

When you look at a word or a sentence, this is called a "fixation", and it takes about 0.25 seconds on average to happen before you move your eye to the next several words. The movement of your eye to the next group of words is called a "saccade", and it takes up to around 0.1 seconds to happen on average.

After one or two fixations and saccades occur, you pause to comprehend the sentence you just looked at. This takes around 0.4 seconds on average. When you combine all these fixations, saccades and pausing together, you end up with a reading rate of around 200 to 400 words per minute. 

How can you shorten this reading time?

Speed readers shorten how long they fixate on a word. By cutting down on the extra 0.25 seconds, they end up reading faster than the 0.4 seconds that the majority of us read at.

Here are 3 type of speed reading methods:

1. Meta Guiding 

One of the oldest speed reading techniques, meta guiding is when you use your finger, or a guiding tool like a pen or a pointer, to guide your eyes to specific words. The visual guiding of the eyes allow them to move faster along the words in a passage. 

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How this works is the visual guidance speeds up your visual cortex and increases your visual span to take in the whole line instead of one word at a time. This increased visual can even help in imprinted what you read into your subconsciousness.

However, in order for this method to work, you will need to train your eyes to view each word with emphasis without regressing. Regressing is what happens when your eyes go forward two or three words and then go back. Regressing usually happens so quickly that we don't even realised we have done it. So, it will take much practice to be able to increase your visual span to view words with emphasis, and at the same time without regressing.

2. Rapid Serial Visual Presentation (RSVP)

This method is used by most of the recent digital speed reading systems. Single words will flash across the screen so you end up concentrating on one word at a time. You start off with a reading speed that is comfortable, and slowly speed up how fast the display flashes you words as you get used to the speed.

You can find out your current comfortable reading speed here, and try increasing it over time with practice. 

Personally, this method has completely transformed the way I read. Before RSVP, I would almost always lose focus while reading long articles. Since I started training myself, not only was I devouring articles daily, I have also started to chip away at the mountain of non-fiction books that I had hoped to finish in months instead of years. 

Pro tips: RSVP technology takes a bit of adjustment, so start off slow and give your eyes plenty of rest in between heavy readings.

3. Skimming

Skimming is a practice whereby you glance through the words of a page to find the important parts to read - or the "meat". Most can agree that writers pad the important points with filler words. Fillers words can be analogies to explain a point better, or sentences that build up to their final point. 

Instead of the earlier two methods which teaches you to read faster, this method is teaching you to learning what parts you can skip over instead. 

By skimming, you are training your eye to sift through the filler words quicker so as to glean the main gist of what you are reading. You look for and seize upon words that appear to give the main meaning. Skimming occurs at 3-4 times the normal reading speed, which also means that you are not fully comprehending everything that you are skimming.

For this reason, I would only recommend skimming for when time is short or when you need to understand the general ideas but not the full details of an article or book.

How to understand Shakespeare's words better

How to understand Shakespeare's words better

With bizarre words like "Peradventure", "Wherefore" and "Methinks", perfectly confident A1 Literature students can still be dumbstruck when they read Shakespeare. For many, the language is the biggest barrier in understanding Shakespeare better. Which is a shame, as some of the best stories in Literature were penned by him. 

As a way to counter this, it helps to think of Shakespeare's words not as a completely new language, but more like listening to someone speaking in a strong accent. You have to allow your ears to adjust to the new accent, and then your mind to match it to the English that you are familiar with.

If even then you are still confused about some phrases, it helps to see the overall context and other visual cues of that particular chapter. What is the speaker trying to convey? What are the emotions he/she is feeling at that moment? Pretty soon you'll be able to understand more of what is written.

Here are some tips for navigating your way through the words used in Shakespeare's plays, and hopefully this serves as a cheat sheet for your future readings:

1. Thee, Thou, Thy and Thine = You

The first four words you'll usually be hit by when you open up a Shakespeare book are "thee", "thou", "thy" and "thine".

"Thee" and "thou" are used instead of the word "you", and "thy" and "thine" instead of the word "your". 

This is because back in the olden days of England where Shakespeare is from, the older generation would use these words when they are referring to people of status or authority, such as when addressing a member of the royal family.

As Shakespeare's plays mostly revolve around the lives of characters from the middle to upper-class, those words appear more often than not. Fun fact: In the rare occasions that Shakespeare do refer to the common peasants in his stories, the words "you" and "your" do appear at times.

2. Art = Are

The word 'art" is used in place of the word "are". So a sentence beginning with "thou art" would mean "you are"

3. Don't, Do and Did

One thing to note is that in Shakespearian English, the words "don't", "do" and "did" are not used as they simply wasn't created then. So, instead of saying "don't kill me!", Shakespeare's characters would have said "kill me not". Or instead of "what did she look like?", they would have said "what looked she like?" 

This is why there are some unfamiliar sentence structures in Shakespeare plays. But the meaning of the sentence can still be discerned even though the words are not in order.

4. Would = Wish

Although the word "wish" does appear, such as when Romeo says "I hope you sleep peacefully. I wish I were Sleep and Peace, so I could spend the night with you." in Romeo & Juliet, the word "would" is often used in place of that instead.

5. -eth

Words used in Shakespeare sometimes have a weird "-eth" tagged to the end of them, making them sound super alien even thought the meaning of the words remain the same. But that was just the way things were done then. 

For instance, "say" will appear as "sayeth" and "speak" will be "speaketh".

6. Anon = soon, presently, shortly 

What might seem like "anonymous" in today's modern English, back in Shakespeare's time, that word is used to mean soon or shortly. 

For example, in Hamlet, Hamlet says to his potential wife Ophelia "You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago's wife" which in the sentence is to mean 'you shall see soon'.

7. Ay = Yes, No = Nay

“Ay” simply means “yes”, and "Nay" simply means "no".  So, “Ay, My Lady” means “Yes, My Lady”. This form of saying yes or no is still used in certain areas of Northern England. But back in the olden days of England, this was commonly used in all social circles.

Feeling anxious? Eat a pickle

Feeling anxious? Eat a pickle

Pry open the next MacDonald's Big Mac or Cheeseburger and you might find two pathetic looking slices of pickles - all shrivelled up and sad. When I was younger, I would pick them up with a disgusted look on my face to toss them into my brother's burger. 

I'd replace pickles with ketchup hearts any day...

I'd replace pickles with ketchup hearts any day...

Little did I know, that little piece of vegetable can work wonders in calming any anxiety before a major exam.

It's estimated that around 7% of the world's population is suffers from anxiety. One of the most common forms is social anxiety - triggered by social situations such as public speaking, going for job interviews, or even interacting with strangers at a party. For some people, it can be so bad that it becomes a crippling fear.

The good news is that there is a long list of suggested ways to combat anxiety, from seeing a therapist, to taking medication, to gradually exposing yourself to a situation that makes you anxious a little bit at a time until you have built up some form of tolerance to it. 

Research has shown that there is another way to combat anxiety that may be a safer alternative to prescription medicine, and if you like to eat pickles, you're in luck! Even better news, you can stock it up in your fridge. 

Fermented foods like yoghurt, kimchi, and pickles contain probiotics that seem to act in much the same way as some anti-anxiety medications do. They alter GABA - the brain’s neurotransmitters that trigger anxiety. According to research from the University of Maryland School of Social Work, people who regularly ate fermented foods were less likely to suffer from social anxiety, even though their scores on the neurotic scale suggests that they should actually be more prone to it.

As weird as it sounds, it’s building on something that has already been scientifically proven decades ago -- that there is a correlation between gut bacteria, and a reduction of anxiety and depression in animals. By narrowing this down to the type of food that increases the GABA in subjects’ system, researchers found that food high in good gut bacteria from fermentation (such as pickles and kimchi) have an effect in reducing anxiety levels.

It may seem a bit far-fetched that wolfing down a big jar of pickles before a big exam might help you feel more comfortable, but plenty of studies support the influence our gut bacteria have on what’s going on in our heads and bodies.

So adding the right kind of bacteria into our systems when we need it the most may seem the logical thing to do, don't you think?

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

Science hacks to beat the stress hormones in your body

From breathing in lavender-scented essential oil, to going for a kickboxing class to work out your pent up frustrations, and even sleeping with a weighted blanket to help relieve insomnia -- there are a ton of ways to help relieve stress, but they all seem to cost a pretty penny. 

The good news is that we have some science-backed ways to help you lower the stress hormones in your body. The better news is that they are all free, and can be practiced in the comforts of your own home. 

What are stress hormones, anyway? 

Stress hormones are also known as cortisol. They are hormones produced by the adrenaline gland and influences our immune responses, metabolism, and blood pressure as part of a "fight or flight" survival mechanism that the human body naturally created to give us the energy to survive in stressful situations.

In today’s hectic world, we are dealing more with emotional stress rather than physical dangers. But our body can’t tell the difference so it continues to tell cortisol to do its job. If we don't manage to deal with stress and lower our cortisol levels, having constantly high cortisol levels can deprive us of sleep, lead to weight gain, and cause various immunity and digestive problems. Here are some simple hacks you can apply to reduce cortisol levels and feel better:

1. Sleeping an hour earlier can reduce cortisol levels by 50%

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There's a reason why your parents nag at you when they check in on you at 12am and you're still up youtubing away. The benefits of a good night’s sleep cannot be overstated as it goes a long way in improving the quality of your life.

A study conducted by the Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Germany showed that helicopter pilots who slept 6 hours instead of the recommended 8 hours had an increase of 50-80% in cortisol levels. If, however, for some reason you don't manage to get enough sleep, try to take a nap the following day. It can work wonders in bringing your cortisol levels down as well.

2. Drinking black tea can reduce cortisol levels by 47%

Tea time! What's popularly seen in movies and tv drama series as the time old ladies sip tea and gossip about the neighbours. It's no wonder those old ladies are living to a ripe old age, researchers from the University College London conducted an experiment over a period of six weeks where a group of volunteers was given 4 cups of black tea every day, while another group was drinking plain water. 

Both groups were given stressful tasks to complete, and while they recorded similar increase in cortisol levels, those who drank black tea had 47% lower cortisol levels an hour after completing the tasks. Those who drank water had their cortisol levels decreased just 27%.

So pick your favourite time of the day when you can be on your own, make yourself a cup of Lipton black tea in the kitchen and enjoy the silence. Try to make this your daily habit.

3. Listening to soothing music reduces cortisol levels by 66%

If you're not a fan of tea, I'm sure you are a fan of listening to music. We all know that music can stir up emotions in us, but did you know certain genres can evoke more positive emotions and lift our spirits? We can all benefit by using music as part of our stress-relief therapy.

A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information explored the effects of instrumental music during a surgery procedure, and proved that soothing music helped the patient reduce cortisol levels by up to 66%. The types of music that are the most effective are instrumental music such as classical, soft jazz, and sounds of nature. 

So, whenever you feel like you are going to explode, plug in your earphones and play some music. It helps to create a "I’m-not-going-to-freak-out" playlist on Youtube or Spotify, and make that your go-to music when you need to unwind. This is a good channel to start off with. 

The Groundwater Theory

The Groundwater Theory

When you are studying, how do you know if you are really learning? How can you tell if what you're memorizing is short term purely for last minute cramming, or long term actual memory making?

Many students spend their study time memorizing information. While this can lead to some effect, memorization does not really equate to actual learning. To learn, you must study to make memories. The basic steps of memory making usually involves receiving information, processing that information, storing it properly so you can retrieve it for use whenever you need.

The Groundwater Theory

Groundwater is the water that exists beneath the surface of the earth. There is a similar process that occurs between storing and retrieving of groundwater, and storing and retrieving of information in your brain. 

If you can understand how the groundwater system works to sustain and grow life on the planet, you can better understand how memory making works and use that knowledge to foster healthy learning habits. 

How Groundwater Works

1. Precipitation falls as rain.

2. Some water seeps into the ground through varying types of soil. The type of soil in a certain location will effect how much and how quickly the water sinks in.

3. The ground becomes saturated with water. The upper layer of this saturated area is called the water table (a mix of water and soil), and bottom layer is called the aquifer.

4. In the aquifer, water is stored for long durations in the large spaces between rock.

So what does all this groundwater talk have to do with learning? Let's take a look at how memory making works as a comparison: 

The Memory Making System

Have you ever heard someone say "let that sink in for a minute" after they've told you something new or surprising? The process that occurs when our brains soak in new information and the process that occurs when the ground "soaks in" new water is very similar.

1. Information must be absorbed.

2. Too much information flooding us at one time is not a good thing. Some of it runs off and goes to waste.

3. Once the information is allowed to sink in by being processed in a gradual and intentional way, it can be stored deep beneath the surface as memory.

Groundwater sinks in at different speeds, depending on the type of soil. Ground that contains a lot of clay tends to be tightly packed and water has a tough time "sinking in." On the other hand, ground that contains a lot of rocks allows water to sink in quickly and in large quantity.

Comparing the two.

Different types of soil allow different rates of water to seep in. Similarly, some types of brains allow information to sink in rapidly when dumped with a lot of information at once, but other types of brains need time to process new information in a deliberate way. We all learn different things in different ways and speed.

This means that some students can benefit from cramming, but some students cannot. Some students can wait until the night before the exam and review notes and actually retain information the next day, just like how rocky soil absorbs and retains water.

Most brains are not so "rocky" however. The crammed information stays on the surface for a short period of time, but this information "runs off" or evaporates after a few short hours.

Building an aquifer of memories

Remember when we mentioned the upper layer of where groundwater is stored is called the water table (a mix of water and soil), and bottom layer is called the aquifer? The aquifer is where water is stored for longer durations. Similarly, by collecting and taking the time to process and store your memories, you build a deep aquifer of information in your brain. This is called learning!

Memories are made when we receive information in manageable quantities and allow time for the information to sink in. How can we do this?

You can start by receiving information in manageable amounts over an extended period of time. This is why studying for an exam should always start 2-3 weeks before the date of the paper. One week before the exam, try to work the information in some way such as practising past year's exam papers. This act of testing yourself, much like dipping into a well of water to pull out small samples to drink, will nourishe and reinforce your memories.

6 free or cheap places you can study at

6 free or cheap places you can study at

One of the most common fixtures in Singapore's Starbucks and fast food outlets are the phenomenon of students hogging seats for hours on end to study, often nursing only a single drink. Some of them can even be spotted sleeping. 

Did you know you can save up to $766 a year by foregoing your usual Starbucks drink? Instead of hogging the tables at eating places with books and lecture notes strewn everywhere, here are 6 free or cheap places where students can study at.

1. Libraries

Libraries these days are getting pretty swanky with aesthetically pleasing interiors and plush seats. Library@Orchard has stylish reading corners, while the main National Library branch has a dedicated study room and a rooftop garden where students can take a breather in-between cram sessions. 

They also have numerous power points for laptop/phone charging, and some libraries like Ang Mo Kio Public Library and Woodlands Regional Library even have Cafe Galilee outlets inside so you can easily get a cuppa as you study. 

If you can fight the urge to stop and pose for fancy Instagram selfies, these are really conducive spaces to get lost in your lecture notes. 

2. Community Clubs 

No, community clubs (CCs) are not just places for senior citizens to go and learn sewing or do taichi, neither are they just places for you to meet your MPs during Chinese New Year. Most CCs have conducive, well-equipped study rooms. 

In Nee Soon South CC, there's an air-conditioned study room with about 20 seats opened from 9am to 10pm daily. They charge a membership fee of $12 per year. Comparatively, that's the equivalent of 2 trips to Starbucks!

Bishan CC also has a study room with about 15 tables, open from 9am to 10pm daily. During exam periods, it opens 24 hours, with snacks and drinks available for free.

3. Airport

Ranked one of the world's best airports, and in the eyes of local students, also ranked the most popular study haunts in Singapore. It's open 24/7, has free Wi-Fi, and not to mention free air-conditioning too. There are also multiple eateries for you to find comfort food when you're feeling peckish from exam stress. 

There are many peaceful common areas, like the aviation gallery at Terminal 3, where you can find students sprawled on the carpets concentrating on their Ten Year Series.

Just remember to never to leave your belongings unattended because with the high security in the area, people might notify the police if they feel your belongings are suspicious. Wouldn't want to lose that laptop three days before an exam, would you?

4. Universities

Studying here would make total sense, because these buildings are literally meant for education. Most people do not know this, but some parts of university grounds are open to public access.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) has numerous study spots. One of the more popular spots is the area in front of the Basement 1 Starbucks. It's technically the Education Resource Centre and not owned by Starbucks, so you don't really have to buy a drink to sit at the tables.

Another favourite (possibly since it's situated in the heart of town) is Singapore Management University (SMU). At the ground level and basement level, there are empty chairs and tables all around the public access areas with power plugs and Wi-Fi. So grab a table, blend in, and study away. 

5. Pay-per-use study areas

Pay-per-use study areas such as Desk Next Door and The Study Area have sprung up recently, with entrepreneurs tapping on the increasing competition among students vying for good study spaces. For a flat fee, students can book a desk space to study for hours at a stretch, and have access to Wi-Fi and power points, and even beverages and snacks.

Most of the services charge an average of $1 an hour, with cheaper rates if you book a seat for longer stretches of time. This can spur students on to study more, since the longer you sit there the less you pay. 

6. Hospitals

So I learnt this recently for myself while visiting a sick relative at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital in Yishun. There were students all around the ground level hanging out and studying at the available tables. I guess they enjoyed the quietness and sense of calm and serenity. If you're not germophobic about catching a virus, the area can be quite conducive and beautiful with the sprawling view of Yishun Pond stretching into the distance. 

Hospitals are also open round the clock. While there's no convenient access to power plugs, there’s usually free Wi-Fi courtesy of Wireless@SG.

3 reasons why you should get a university scholarship

3 reasons why you should get a university scholarship

A level student, congratulations! The dreaded A levels are finally over! While it is tempting to live in blissful oblivion for the next 3 months until your results are released, you might want to consider what is to come.

Are you going to university? If so, where and how? It is in answering the ‘how’ question that you might want to consider getting a scholarship, because tertiary education is not cheap, especially for those who come from humbler backgrounds.

Types of scholarships

In Singapore, we have a myriad of scholarships, to cater to a variety of interests and needs. Scholarship providers range from the government to industry leaders to universities, and the courses that you can study are varied. Scholarships can be bonded or bond free. Even when you become a scholar is your choice – right after A levels, or after you have studied for some time in university (these are the mid-term scholarships). You can find out more about the scholarships up for grab at www.brightsparks.com.

Reasons for getting a scholarship

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The most obvious reason for getting a scholarship is of course for the funding. University tuition fees are not cheap, costing $8000 per year for even the cheapest course in Singapore. That is not including textbooks costs (if you want to pass your exams), hostel fees (if you want to enjoy hall life), overseas cost of living (if you want to go on exchange), summer school fees (if you want to graduate earlier) and a plethora of other expenses.

By getting a scholarship, all these will be paid for you. In addition, you might even get an allowance of $1,000 per month if your scholarship provider is generous. Say goodbye to the days of sucking up to your parents just to get a pittance; you will find financial freedom in a scholarship. Sounds good, huh? In a nutshell, if you want to experience the whole range of experiences that your university (and life) have to offer, without being bridled by financial constraints, then get a scholarship.  

Another reason for getting a scholarship is to secure a good future. Scholarships are given out to individuals whom the government/ big companies want to groom. The management team will know you exist and will keep an eye out for you. This will translate into more opportunities and faster promotions. Basically, you will have a bright future, so long as you do not screw up like this guy.

Getting a bonded scholarship also saves you from having to find a job in the future. In exchange for your freedom, you get job security. Right now, many of my friends have already begun the long, tedious and demoralising process of job hunting. They attend resume writing workshops to learn the art of selling themselves. They go to networking sessions hoping that the next person they meet will be the key to getting into a good company. They mail out applications after applications (a friend’s record is 41 in a semester), yearning for the elusive internship at a good company. All the while, they have to worry about their grades (only first class honours will do!). Watching them, I am glad I took up my scholarship offer (and that my scholarship board only requires a second upper class).

If you are nearly convinced that you should get a scholarship, then know just one last thing. When people know you are a scholarship holder, many automatically assume you are smart and capable. Of course, you should not go around introducing yourself as a scholarship holder. Show offs are never welcome. But it’s nice when people automatically assume the best of you.

3 tips to help you figure out what course to study in poly

3 tips to help you figure out what course to study in poly

I remember when I was a student, schools were incredibly bad at providing career guidance that are practical and relevant. Poly courses were basically chosen by default, meaning everyone just tried to get into the first course that qualify for at the polytechnic located closest to their home.

These days, things have changed for the better. There are a lot more courses on offer for instance, and more young people are now aspiring to be entrepreneurs or app developers, which has shifted the focus from the usual medicine, finance and law courses to more varied ones.  

If you’re about to pursue further studies in a polytechnic but can’t figure out what course to take, here are some 3 tips that might help.

Consider your current passions and whether a career can come out from it

Perhaps you have something that you really enjoy doing in your spare time—it can be making jewelry, painting, caring for animals, or taking photographs. Whatever your current hobby is that you spend a bulk of your time on, leverage off it to explore what poly courses can help to develop those interests further. By using a poly course as a stepping stone to help add relevant skills to your current passions, It is very possible to transform your hobbies into a potential career. 

Let's say you like making jewelry, you probably know all the latest trends, and have an innate understanding of what styles look good on different people. By taking a marketing course in poly, it can help you understand the industry better, and potentially to learn how to become a jewelry buyer for Cartier and Tiffany and Co in future. Or a poly design course can help you to hone your design skills better so you have the confidence and ability to own your own startup business when you graduate.

Take a piece of paper and write down what you hope to see yourself doing in future. It will help to include details as well. Perhaps you want to work overseas, start your own company, become a powerful CEO, or to help people. Your next step will be to find out what these careers are really like, considering factors like salary, lifestyle and what people in these jobs actually do from day to day.

Take on internships, talk to adults doing these jobs and join an internet community targeted at these fields. It may not come to you right away, but after a few months of interacting with certain types of people you should have a good idea of what it’s like to join them.

Consider the kind of lifestyles your future career may bring 

Most students don't realise that work-life balance plays a huge role when selecting a potential career. This is also why the first 1-2 years of many young people’s careers are fraught with unease when they realise they don’t like the work environment they’ve entered.

The career path you choose is going to influence not only how much you earn and what you spend your day doing, but also the sort of lifestyle you live and the people you’ll be surrounded by. It’s a good idea to speak with working adults in the fields you’re interested in to find out more about what it’s actually like to do their jobs. That will help you to decide on whether it is truly a career path you want to explore, and to enrol into the relevant poly course.

For example, jobs in tech start-ups or advertising might allow for a little more creativity and flexibility, but be prepared to pull intense all-nighters. On the flip side, fields like law and management consulting are much more formal and hierarchical, so be prepared to go to work every day decked out in office attire and to show deference to your superiors. 

Make sure you're not only looking at the good stuff

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One of the obvious upsides of being an adult is getting a "real" job and never having to step into another classroom ever again (also, never having to wear a school uniform again). Suddenly, you'll have all this money from a monthly salary. But make sure that you're not only looking at the upsides when evaluating a career and selecting a poly course that will hopefully lead you closer to that career path.

Many students rush to apply for the courses that churn out lawyers and doctors— thinking of the fat salary and prestigious job title. But few consider that many lawyers in top firms drop out after a few years due to the high work stress, or that many doctors in hospitals are on call for stretches of 24 hours at a time.

Choosing a career requires quite a bit of trial and error for the majority of people, unless you’re one of the lucky few who can just put your head down and work in any job no matter what it is. The answers aren’t going to come right away, and even when you think you’ve picked the right course to lead you to the right career, you might later decide you want to do something else. And that's completely okay! Learn to roll with the punches and thrive in new situations. You've got a lifetime ahead of you.

Poly VS JC

Poly VS JC

O level students, congratulations! The dreaded O levels are finally over! It is time to take a well-deserved break while you still can, before your results are released – and you are presented with a dilemma: poly or JC?

Why you should choose poly over JC

You may think O levels are bad but wait until you sit for A levels.  Content wise, A levels are unsurprisingly much harder than O levels. They are named advanced levels for a reason. Not only are the exams hard to pass, but the way your school prepares you can also be unbearable for some people. Leading up to those dreaded exams are 2 horribly intensive years, when all you do is cram, practice and repeat. In fact, A levels are known to get so stressful that a few JC students commit suicide every once in a while, especially during the hell months that are September and October.  The fact that one exam determines your whole future is what makes it so stressful, unlike in Poly where everything is cumulative. For people who have a weak heart and low stress threshold, take this into consideration seriously.

Another reason why you should choose Poly – you get to show off your fashion sense. In poly, the lecturers (note: they are no longer called teachers because it is no longer their duty to teach you. If you do not learn, you simply get a lecture) do not really care about how you dress, so long as you don’t come to school half-naked. There is no uniform whatsoever. Although that also means that, if you are as lazy as a sloth superglued to a tree, then you are better off going to JC, which bring us to…

Why you should choose JC over poly

You get to wear a uniform, show off your school pride and get 30 mins more of sleep every morning not having to decide what to wear! How awesome is that???

Moreover, you study 2 years instead of 3 years before moving on to university. Disclaimer: that is, if your JC does not have a crazy retention rate of 50%.

If you are indecisive about what to do in the future, JC is also a great holding area while you make up your mind. In the meantime, you get to study a variety of subjects. Doesn’t sound like a convincing reason to you? Perhaps. But once you have entered university, you will appreciate the diversity. In fact, I have a pharmacy friend who regrets rejecting Yale NUS’ offer to study liberal arts once she realised how dry it is to go really deep into one subject. So embrace the diversity while you still have the chance.

If you doubt that you will be the top 10% of your cohort in poly and still want to enjoy varsity life, then the safer bet is to go to JC. Sure, A levels may be hard, but you do not need straight As to get into a local university. A few Cs and Ds can still land you a place inside NUS. Whereas, if you go the poly route, you better make sure your GPA is impressive.

And why would you want to spend another 4 years studying when you could be working, you ask. Well, the sad truth is, graduate pay is much better than diploma pay from the onset. And the difference in treatment will only get more and more obvious the longer you work. You will find that your graduate friends get faster promotions, higher pay rises and more attention from the bosses, even if you are the more capable one. Such is the difference one sheet of certificate can make. Because of this, many poly graduates eventually find themselves enrolling into private universities after a few years of working experience. Simply because that is the easiest way to stop unfair discrimination against them so as to fulfil their career aspirations.

Like all choices, there are both pros and cons to poly and JC. Choose wisely, because after all, you are only 17 once.  

Free iPhone apps that will actually help you study better

Free iPhone apps that will actually help you study better

Thanks to the wonders of technology, student life is much easier. Can you imagine back in the days when your parents had no Google to get immediate answers, but had to rely on library books to discover new knowledge? Today, there are hundreds of apps that not only help you to cope with everyday tasks, but teaches you too. Here are some of our picks that are completely free. Now you have more excuses to be on your phone while studying: 

Tinycards

This app is basically a set of flashcards which can be used to memorise virtually anything. You can choose from topics already in the app, or make your own decks. The cool thing is, it learns from you as you progress through a deck and shuffles the information around to help you memorise more effectively. You can also share decks with your classmates (unless you are super competitive and want to keep them to yourself, of course.)

iTunes U

Created by Apple, this app started out as a way for teachers to distribute their lectures and homework online, but grew into a place to get free access to lessons from some of the best schools in the world. From Statistics 101 from Harvard University, to Stanford's course on how to code your own app, there is something new to learn every day. 

Easy Study

If you're the type who sits down to study, but no idea where and how to start studying, this app is for you. Just put in all the subjects you want to study for, how long you want to study for, and this app will churn out a study timetable for you. Just stick to its suggested hours and you may find yourself optimising your time in a really efficient way. 

GoConqr

Visual learners, rejoice! This app has numerous features that are a great help when you are revising your notes. You can create flashcards, quizzes, as well as a study planner to track how much you're learning. But what makes this app unique is that you can create a mind map to guide you in visualising how things are connected. By seeing how information is broken down from a main subject into smaller topics, it can help with both memorisation and understanding.

Dragon Dictation

Do you have a stack of study notes that you need to type up, but your hands feel like they are going to fall off due to the sheer amount of writing you have been doing? Try a dictation app! With this, you just speak into your phone, it converts it into text, and you can copy/paste it into a word document to save. 

Acceleread Speed Reading Trainer

Most people are only reading at 1/3 of their potential speed and produtivity. When you have a ton of textbooks to read while studying, being a speed-reader would really come in handy. Well, this app will help you train your brain to become a super-fast reader so you don't continue to plod through all those texts and waste valuable time.


 

3 pieces of advice for students starting university in 2017

3 pieces of advice for students starting university in 2017

So you've made it through the JC education system alive and in one piece. Congrats! This year, you will finally be enrolling into a university.

Going to university can seem equal parts daunting and exciting at the same time.

Kinda like going to this school...

Kinda like going to this school...

Now more than ever, students have more choices than before. If this were 10 years ago, most parents would have already shipped their kids off to the US to get into the most "prestigious" courses they qualified for - which means medicine/law. These days, the world of technology, business and god-forbid dropping out of school to become an entrepreneur await.

But before you sign your life away to 3 to 4 years to studying something that could determine your future, here are 3 pieces of advice you should know:

Don't consider only the courses your friends are considering

In the years leading up to your A'Levels, you are lumped together with other students who have scores so painfully close to yours that by the time you're deciding on which university to go to, your options can seem very slim. 

For instance, I was in the arts stream in JC. When I graduated, it seemed like the only two options that could lead me on a legitimate career path in future were business or law.  Of course that is a silly thought to have. But when you are 18 and all your peers are trying to get into just one or two options, suddenly it's easy to lose sight of your other choices. 

By following the crowd and applying for courses that your friends are applying for, you are failing to consider your own career goals and personal dreams. You can't be following your friends when you all graduate from uni and are deciding on what jobs to apply for, right? 

You've got months before the A'levels results are released, so use them wisely and start thinking seriously about what you are passionate about. What would you like to do when you grow up? Because you will most likely be doing it 5 days a week, from 9am-6pm, so you might as well be doing something you enjoy and are good at. Go for internships and talk to adults who are leading the kind of lives you admire. 

Studying overseas isn't as expensive as you think

Most people do not realise this, but university tuition fees and living costs in another country can add up to roughly the same amount you will be paying if you were to study at a local university!

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Even with an MOE tuition grant for Singaporeans, a year at NUS can set you back about $8,000-$10,000 a year (double that if you are in medicine or dentistry). If you're thinking of applying for SMU? That's more than $11,000 a year.

Many European universities charge low fees, or are even free. Especially now that the Euro is down, living costs are not expensive too. An added bonus is the once-in-a-lifetime experience to live and study abroad too. Most student visa can also entitle you to work part-time while you study, and you'll be surprised that salaries for part-time jobs are way higher than in Singapore. Working in F&B in Australia, for example, might net you a cool S$19 per hour! So that's a great way to save some money while you are there. 

Study hard, Network smart

In some universities, you might find yourself enrolling into a super competitive course whereby everyone guards their lecture notes jealously and mug until 2am. But before you disappear into your books and rarely emerge again, remember that many people are also using this time to make lots of friends and connections. 

Especially with Facebook and Linkedin so accessible nowadays, it's easier to remain connected. In fact, many uni grads I know actually managed to land their first job through someone they knew. Word of mouth still remains one of the best ways to get a job. It helps to have someone vouch for you. 

University is a great time to get to know more new people, and more importantly, to improve your social skills. A good way to test this is after your first month in university and your social circle still only consist of friends from your primary and secondary school, it's time to move out of your comfort zone and make more friends.

Remember, you've got the chance to decide your future. So whether it's course, location, or future career, make sure you're the one doing the deciding!

5 free online tools every student should know about

5 free online tools every student should know about

Often short on time, sleep, and money, students need all the help they can get! Thankfully, there's no shortage of free online tools designed to help manage everyday life, learn new skills, and even to study better for exams.

By taking advantage of these resources to improve and streamline your workflow, you'll get more done at the price of absolutely free. Here are 5 websites dedicated to being your new best study-buddy.

Google Docs, Sheets and Slides

Everything is going mobile these days, why shouldn't your study notes? Google's suite of office software is exactly like Microsoft Office, except completely cloud-based, so you can create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations anywhere you are from your laptop or phone. Our favourite thing about the Google apps is if you are working on a group project, you can create a document, share it with your group mates, and everyone can collaborate by editing the document in real time. (It's kind of magic when you see words appearing out of nowhere as your group mate is typing his/her part)

GoConqr

Visual learners, rejoice! This site has numerous features that are a great help when you are revising your notes. You can create flashcards, quizzes, as well as a study planner to track how much you're learning. But what makes this site unique are the mind maps. You can create a map to guide you in visualising how things are connected. By seeing how information is broken down from a main subject into smaller topics, it can help with both memorization and understanding. 

F.lux

Did you know your computer screen is designed to look like the sun? So during the day, looking at it is fine.  But, at 9pm or 1am, you probably should not be looking at the sun. This app helps makes the colour of your computer's display look like the room you're in at any time. When the sun sets, it makes your computer look like indoor lights. In the morning, it makes things look like sunlight again. This helps preserve your eyesight from straining when you are studying, as well as help you sleep better.

Evernote

For daily reminders and class timetables, your sticky notes are up to the task... until they lose their stickiness or you start to have so many of them you have no clue what each one is for. Evernote helps to store all your notes, research, and thoughts together in one place. One of my personal favourite tools, if you struggle with organization, this site can help! Evernote can be used in many ways: as a dumping ground for stray thoughts, a daily journal, keeping research notes in order, organizing presentation notes, for in-class note taking, the opportunities are endless. Simply create a note, and after you've typed, drawn, or added a photo to it, you can add tags to the note that are relevant such as 'Science Project' or 'To Memorize'.  The best part is it can sync across computers and phones.

Marinara Timer

Inspired by the Pomodoro method of productivity — work for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break, the Marinara Timer is dedicated to helping you increase productivity levels. Whatsapp, YouTube, and even snack breaks prevent us from focusing on our task. By trying out the Pomodoro method, you might just reduce distractions and become more efficient. Just click on the 'Start' button and let the timer sound to remind you when you can take your 5 minute break and when to go back to studying again. Bonus: This time comes with entertaining alarm sounds like “alien bot ordering lunch”

Stress vs Performance

Stress vs Performance

If you are like me, you do more in the 2 hours before you sleep than in the 4 hours after you wake up combined. Why are we so unproductive in the morning? If you are like me, you only start studying the day before the exam, yet you don’t do that badly. Why are we so productive right before the exam?

The answer lies in the Yerkes-Dodson Law, which states that there is a quadratic relationship between stress and performance.

When your stress level is low, you are stuck in a stage termed “disengagement” in Psychology. You are disinterested and unmotivated. When stuck in this stage, you are likely to be watching sitcoms or napping in bed. Even if you study, you may find that you are unable to concentrate; you can stare at a simple question for 10 mins and still not register a single word.

As your stress level increases, triggered by perhaps a looming dateline, or a difficult yet interesting question that you are determined to solve, your performance also increases. You are “in the zone”, “performing at your peak”, or “getting your act together”, to name just a few ways to describe this feeling of undistracted focus, clear mind and high productivity. This is the stage named “flow” in Psychology.

However, everything should exist in moderation, and stress is no exception. When we have too little time to do too many things or the tasks at hand are simply overwhelming, our brains start secreting more stress hormones than is optimal. This is when the “frazzle” stage sets in.

This stage is characterised by first, an inability to focus. Your senses become dulled and your thinking becomes muddled. You feel frustrated that something that you could have easily done on other days is now posing a problem to you. What more, negative thoughts keep popping into your mind and no matter what you do, you just cannot shush them.

Second, you suffer mood swings. You are extremely irritable and other people’s minor mistakes can lead to an outburst on your part. Sometimes, even if there isn’t any trigger, you just want to cry. If that sounds like you, then you are living with an unhealthy level of stress.

As you can see, neither extremes are good; instead we should settle for the middle part –  the optimal stress level. How?

If your stress level is too high

1. Force your body to relax

Listen to calming music. Go for a run. Watch a funny video (don’t forget to laugh!). Have a good sleep. All of these reduce your stress level, which will then improve your mental state.

2. Confide in your close friends

Studies have shown that during a stressful event, children ages 10-12 who had their best friend with them did not produce as much stress hormone cortisol as those who were not around a friend. In other words, friends help to lower your stress level.

3. Plan ahead

Know how many things you have to do and know how much time you have to do them. Prioritise the most important things. Leave some buffer time so that even if some unforeseen event crops up, you will not be overwhelmed.

If your stress level is too low

1. Take a well-deserved break

Perhaps your stress level is low because you really do not have much to do and you can afford to slowly take you time. If that is the case, why not mindfully take a break? You can do anything from going shopping with friends to simply sleeping the day away. When you have spent quite some time relaxing, doing something other than homework, you will discover a new sense of urgency to complete your homework fast and well, which will heighten your performance. What’s more, you will be refreshed from the time you took to relax. That is how you can have your cake and eat it too – by deliberately placing yourself in a higher stress situation. 

Do try out these tips and see whether they work for you! They sure did for me. 

7 easy hacks to make your study space more conducive

7 easy hacks to make your study space more conducive

Stringent cramming is already hard to do. No point making it harder by being in a study environment that is totally not conducive to your learning and revision. Here are a few simple hacks you can try out to effectively turn your study space into somewhere you actually want to be in. 

1. Keep your desk free of clutter

It's easier to be productive when your desk is not strewn with stationery, books and notes. Store your stationeries in small table-top drawers, and your books in magazine racks so you know exactly where each item is located.

2. Get a proper desk lamp

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If your current desk lamp happens to have a high wattage bulb, perhaps it is time to get a new one as the glare can strain your eyes, posture, and cause headaches. Desk lamps can help you study more productively, efficiently and comfortably. Choose a lamp with an energy-saving LED bulb, as well as a flexible head to direct light exactly where you need it. You can get one for less than $15 from IKEA

3. Keep tasty snack rewards handy

It helps to give yourself little snack rewards whenever you achieve a study goal. Have a Ferrero Rocher after every two chapters of reading, or a gummi bear after completing a set of maths problems.

4. Have some really good pens

As mentioned before in a previous article, it has been proven that you remember things a lot better when you write them down by hand instead of by typing. So if you're going to be writing for hours, you'll need a pen that not only writes well, but is easy to hold in your grip. 

5. Stock up on coloured highlighters 

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Your brain naturally pays attention to bright colours so by highlighting important points, it will help in remembering them. Be sure not to go crazy with the highlighting and end up with an entire page full of yellow. Just because you are highlighting the text doesn't mean you are doing it effectively. 

6. Keep a small potted plant

Place it somewhere prominent in your study area. Aside from providing a little extra oxygen, studies have shown that plants can improve concentration and productivity. Whenever you get tired from studying, looking at the plant can refresh our direct attention and soothe the mind. 

 

7. Decorate your space with positive encouragements

Stick your favourite inspirational quote or words of encouragement on the wall above your study space. Or, if you have a specific grade in mind you want to achieve in your next exam, write it down on a piece of paper and stick it where you can constantly see it. A constant reminder of what you are working towards will help you to focus better. 

Having the right place to study is as important as having good study skills. By having more control over your study environment, it can play a big factor in how successfully you learn and retain information. So give it a try! 

6 ways to keep your stress level low

6 ways to keep your stress level low

As a student in Singapore, feeling stressed is practically inevitable. We are constantly pressured to do well and to be on top of our game. We are also constantly bombarded with homework and CCA commitments. Year after year, we compete in a rat race that is life. And we feel burnt out. But the world will not stop turning for us, and so we must trudge on.   

However, chronic stress is actually very harmful for our physical and emotional health. No matter how stressed you may feel, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and to regain control of your life.

All of us are unique and the amount of stress we can take before we buckle is different. Our reaction in the face of stress is different too. Some of us fight, some of us flight. But even if there is no “one size fits all” solution, one of the following 6 tips is bound to help.

1. Exercise

Stressful situations increase the level of stress hormones in your body. A quick exercise can be used as a channel to metabolise the overload of stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a more relaxed state.

2. Sleep more

Efficiency is the name of the game. By sleeping well, your head will be clearer, and you will be able to study more effectively.

3. Keep a to-do list

This tip is very effective for me. In the past when I did not have a to-do list, I only knew that I have a lot to do. But exactly what do I need to do NOW? That was unclear. I was running around like a headless chicken, doing the things that came to my mind (when the deadlines loomed ominously near) but neglecting those that might be just as important. As such, I constantly felt stressed.

After I developed the habit of keeping a to-do list, the heavy burdens lifted off my shoulders. I got a clearer idea of how much work and how much time I have. This allowed me to prioritise the more important and urgent ones first, and if I really did not have the time, I would just skip the less important tasks.

It also gave me the satisfaction of ticking things off the list. The feeling is so good, seriously, you need to give it a try.

4. Don’t be a perfectionist

As I said, efficiency is the name of the game. Bear in mind the 80-20 rule, which states that 80% of the outcome can be attributed to 20% of all causes for a given event. To illustrate the 80-20 rule, let us use the example of exams.

In a given exam paper, approximately 80 marks (out of 100) will come from questions which test basic concepts. These concepts are easy to learn and as such, requires maybe only 20 percent of your effort. On the other hand, to secure the remaining 20 marks (which come from hard questions), it requires you to build upon the basic concepts, to apply what you know to unknown situations, and to be exposed to a variety of challenging questions.  All these require substantial effort. This means that if you want to get 80 marks, you may only need to study for 1 hour. But to get 100 marks, you need to spend 5 hours studying.

Is it worth it? I will let you decide, whether to pick only the low hanging fruits, or to climb up the proverbial fruit tree and pick all the fruits.

5. Be prepared

Fear of the unknown may manifest itself as stress. By being prepared, you make the unknown less scary. Have a presentation tomorrow? Rehearse your lines. Have an exam next week? Start studying now.

6. Don’t be distracted

Have you ever woken up telling yourself that “today I will be super productive”, only to end the day moping in self-pity and guilt because you got distracted by Youtube…?

I can empathise because I have been there. When I was taking my A levels, I keep getting distracted even though deep down, what I truly wanted was to study hard and do well. Eventually, I came to realise how weak my self-control is. As such, I asked my parents to change the Wi-fi password and I turned off my phone once I reached home every day. But temptation can come in other forms. For instance, my bed and the stash of food in the refrigerator… Which eventually caused me to relocate to the nearby library. Once school ended, I would go to the library and study until 9pm, the closing time of the library. The hard work eventually paid off, so no complaints here.

I hope at least one of these heartfelt tips inspired you. All the best keeping your stress level low! 

4 tips for remembering your study notes

4 tips for remembering your study notes

When it comes to remembering the stuff you need to know before an exam, flipping through your study notes and trying to cram all that information in is not going to work. The most important things to do is to take the time to absorb the information in a meaningful and active way. Here are 4 essential study tips to help you revise for your exams in the near future. 

1. Always take down your notes in your own words (even better, by hand)

Instead of blindly copying down what is shown on the whiteboard or lecture slides, listen to what the teacher is explaining and try to take it down in your own words. This action creates a deeper understanding of what is being taught, which will make it stick in your mind. As most of us type faster than we write, writing down notes by hand will also somewhat force you to slow down to process the information fully. 

2. Set a study schedule that allows time for testing yourself.

Many psychology studies have shown that the best way to see whether you remember something is to test yourself. Often, most students will start revising a week or so before an exam. This doesn't allow for much time in between to do a mock test for themselves. Give yourself the time to study, take a practice exam, then study some more. 

This also means that your studying should be spread out over 1-2 weeks in small portions (say, 45 minutes a day) instead of cramming in one six-hour session.

By starting a study schedule at least 2 weeks before the exam and following this "study, test, study, test" schedule, you are able to check for gaps in your memory and use the next study session to fill them. 

3. Try making a mind map

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A mind map is a creative way of connecting all the information in one subject together in an easy-to-view layout. By linking various pieces of information together, you are able to see everything together in a bigger picture, helping you to make sense of it more. Try creating your own mind map

4. Remove all forms of distraction

The final tip is also the one that's the hardest to do, but necessary! Remove what you feel are major distractions for you whenever you are revising through your study notes. This could be your phone that keeps vibrating with notifications, someone in the house that won't stop interrupting you, or even the music that you are listening to. One way to determine whether something is a disruption is to see if it's interrupts you every 15 minutes. 

Taking the first step in implementing these tips may be tough at first, but with some practice, you may find yourself remembering more & more of your study notes so do not be afraid to start trying it out now! 

 

Brain Food: 5 Snacks to help you study better

Brain Food: 5 Snacks to help you study better

It’s easy to reach for those chocolate, potato chips, energy drinks or instant noodles when it’s 11pm and your tummy starts rumbling in the middle of your study session. But snacking on unhealthy food is not only harmful to your long-term health (and waistline), but it does nothing to fuel your brain. Here are 5 brain food recommendations that you probably already have available in your kitchen that you can snack on while studying to help provide you with a mental boost!

Cereal

Who says you can’t have breakfast food at night? The ability to concentrate comes from a steady supply of glucose in our bloodstream to the brain, and a bowl of cereal with milk is great for achieving this. Be sure to opt for wholegrain cereal, as it releases glucose slowly, keeping you mentally focused and ensuring that your stomach will not go hungry in the midst of your revision.

Sardines

I’m sure you have heard of fretting mothers making their kids drink ‘Essence of Fish’ before their PSLEs. Well, there is some truth to that! Fish, especially sardines and mackerels, are full omega 3 fatty oils, which cannot be made by our body. These fats are essential for healthy brain function, and they also aid in releasing serotonin, which helps in managing stress. An easy snack to make when you are studying is a sardine sandwich. Just pop open a can of sardines, eat them on some whole wheat bread, and you have a healthy snack that's going to power you through those hours of revising. 

Nuts

There are so many variety of nuts out there, you are sure to find one that you like. Whether cashews, macadamias, peanuts or pistachios; not only are they crunchy, salty, and a good source of protein, they are also proven to reduce stress levels. Just remember to take it easy on these addictive little things, you only need a handful or two to get your fix of protein, fibre and essential fats. 

Bananas

Potassium helps to keep oxygen levels normal and enhances brain functions by eliminating foggy thoughts. As one of the rare few food items to contain a high level of potassium, bananas are great snacks in ensuring your brain is able to work at its strongest capability. You definitely want that when you are studying. Bananas are also low in calories, delicious, and can give you an energy boost, since they contain fructose and healthy sugars that the body converts into energy.

Peanut Butter

If you like snacking on candy, a much better alternative in satisfying that sweet tooth is peanut butter. Candy is likely to cause a sharp spike in blood sugar levels, and then a crash that can leave your brain feeling lethargic. However, peanut butter releases sugar slowly, and this helps the brain to stay alert. One tablespoon full of peanut butter also has a lot of protein, which means a little goes a long way in keeping you full and alert for studying. Bonus: it does not expire very fast, so you can always keep a jar handy wherever you study in case you get hungry.

Now that you have some ideas for snacks which have positive effects on your brain, use it to your advantage when you are revising for your exams. Snack smart, and study hard!

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started

It is 9pm. Your essay is due tomorrow at 10am and you have barely started! You mentally calculate and reason with yourself: ‘If I cut down on my sleep tonight, and wake up early tomorrow to complete it, that is an extra 3 or 4 hours more for this essay!’

Is burning the midnight oil the best choice you are making? What does it do to your body?

Convinced that it was the best idea you have made that day for the sake of your grades, you burn the midnight oil, cutting down your previously 6 hours of sleep to just merely 3 hours of sleep. Does this situation sound familiar? If you are a student, you have probably found yourself in this situation before. Is burning the midnight oil the best choice you are making? What does it do to your body?

Sleep Deprivation in Singapore

sleep

Firstly, getting just 5 hours of sleep per night is not enough. While sleep requirements vary with different people, most healthy teens (age 14- 17) would require 8 to 10 hours of sleep, while adults (age 18-64) require about 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Year after year, Singapore is found to be one of the most sleep deprived nations in the world. In fact, Singapore is the 3rd most sleep-deprived nation out of the 43 that were profiled in a recent report, trailing behind Tokyo and Seoul.

Effects

active

The effects of sleep deprivation is extensive. A study by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS) showed that the lack of sleep in students negatively impacts their ability to retain information and to integrate new information on problems. This is because learned information is replayed and reactivated during sleep, so with sleep deprivation, over-worked neurons can no longer function to coordinate information properly, losing ability to retained learned information.

Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts moods, giving a sleep-deprived person mood swings

Sleep deprivation also negatively impacts moods, giving a sleep-deprived person mood swings. Such mood swings affects our ability to acquire and retain new information. Numerous other studies have assessed sleep in students and its correlation with grades and test taking abilities, with all pointing to the same direction- burning the midnight oil to revise your work is not be the best solution for your learning in the long term. Although sleep deprivation affects different people in different ways, it is clear that having a good night’s rest has a strong impact on our learning and memory.

Take action

1.     Study Smart

Studying smart can save you all the trouble of needing to even stay up late in the first place. Manage your time well and create priorities for the assignments or subjects that need more attention. By studying smartly, you will be addressing the root of the problem, which is ‘insufficient time’ for doing your work.

2.     Caffeine

coffee

Try to cut your caffeine intake by 2pm. It may be tough at first, but the earlier you stop drinking it, the earlier you will get to bed at a decent hour. In replacement of caffeine, you can take small 20minute power naps throughout the day.

3.     Electronic Devices

All of us would be guilty of scrolling through Facebook or Instagram while lying in bed. Even I am guilty of this almost every night, but it has to stop. The artificial light that comes from our cellphones or tablets make it more difficult to fall asleep, making us more alert and messes up our sleep cycles.

4.     Exercise

active

You might find it helpful for your sleep to exercise in the day. Try to exercise at least 30minutes a day. There is no need to be running a full marathon- it could be as simple as walking or some stretches. This way, your heart rate increases and you burn the energy, making it not only beneficial for your health, but also leads to excellent sleep at night.

Taking the first step in getting more hours of sleep may be difficult at first, with the overwhelming work that you always seem to have on your hands

Taking the first step in getting more hours of sleep may be difficult at first, with the overwhelming work that you always seem to have on your hands. Nevertheless, having sufficient sleep is important for your health and quality of work so do not be afraid to take that leap of faith!

SWOT Analysis

SWOT Analysis

SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. It is often used as a method to evaluate a project or business venture

Ever tasked by your teacher or professor on a topic and have no idea where to start? Ever been scratching your head thinking of what to write to fill in the number of words required in an essay? Let me introduce you to something that may help you in these aspects and at the same time, boost the quality of your project or essay- SWOT analysis.

SWOT is an acronym for Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat. It is often used as a method to evaluate a project or business venture. A SWOT analysis can be carried out on a company, place, person, industry or place (for the sake of this article, these will be referred to as ‘organization’. It identifies the internal and external factors that are favourable or unfavourable to achieve that particular objective.  

Who introduced SWOT

consulting

The origins of the SWOT technique can be accredited to Albert Humphrey, an American business and management consultant, who led a research project in Stamford University, Using data from many top companies in the 1960s and 1970s, the project’s goal was to find out why corporate planning failed. 

 

How to use SWOT

The overview of the SWOT matrix is as such:

swot matrix

These are some of the questions that one can ponder upon in filling up the matrix above:

1.     Strength

  • What does the organization do better than others?
  • What is the organization’s unique selling point?
  • What advantages does the organization have?
  • What are the strengths that the people in the market see?

2.     Weakness

  • What can the organization improve on?
  • What do people in the market see the organization’s weaknesses as?
  • Due to what factors is sales lost?

3.     Opportunity

  • What are some interesting trends?
  • What are some good opportunities that you can spot?
  • Is there some new technology that the organization can adopt to help it?
  • What are the opportunities opened up as a result of the organization’s strengths?

4.     Threats

  • What are the organization’s competitors doing?
  • Is changing technology threatening the organization’s position?
  • What obstacles do the organization face?

More about SWOT

versatile

The one great advantage of using the SWOT analysis is that it is extremely versatile. This is because it can organize information, provide insights into barriers that may be present during a change and identify key strengths that the organization may have to counteract these barriers.

The SWOT analysis can help the organization to ascertain if achieving a particular goal is obtainable, allowing organizations to set achievable goals. It helps organizations produce practical and efficient outcomes. Of course, there are also some limitations that the SWOT analysis can produce. One of the biggest limitations seems to be the oversimplification of the issue at hand, as it does not seem to weave the complexities of a problem into the matrix.

bird's eye

In conclusion, the SWOT tool is extremely beneficial to the initial analysis of a problem as it provides a bird’s eye view to it. It is also a great way to communicate a problem to someone who is not exposed to it. However, deeper analysis of the problem needs to be done before implementing a solution to ensure its appropriateness in addressing the problem.

 

 

Group Projects

Group Projects

What are the benefits of group projects and how can you do well in them?

You probably have had group projects during some point in time in your education years, mostly in polytechnic, junior college and university. If you have not reached that stage yet, you will soon be exposed to carrying out group projects. What are the benefits of group projects and how can you do well in them? This article seeks to find out.

shared perspectives that members of the project group can bring different insights and perspectives into a certain topic, further broadening a student’s understanding and knowledge of the topic

Group projects are often cited to be the bane of a student’s life. Having to struggle with individual assessment criteria, they also have to ensure that the group project does not go bust (or their grades will go with it!). Having to deal with the project’s progression as well as potential conflicts or issues that arises when working with a group can be quite of a headache. It always seem like the school is torturing us to put us through these negative experiences but these experiences have some benefits to them.

Benefits of group projects

1.     Working with others

cooperative

Group projects help students to learn how to work with others outside of their own social circle. These people may have come from a background that is different from them and thus have different perspectives on certain topics. The variety of insights, questioning and analysis may result in better solutions and performance. Sharing what they know and respecting each other’s views also further reinforces the notion of teamwork.

2.     Mastering content by deeper understanding

perspective

Group projects help students to master the content of the topic on hand. Researching into the topic forces students to dig deeper into the content than what is learnt in the classroom. In addition, the shared perspectives that members of the project group can bring different insights and perspectives into a certain topic, further broadening a student’s understanding and knowledge of the topic.

3.     Mirror of the corporate world

mirror

Group projects are a mirror of the corporate world, where often, employees have to come together to solve complex problems at hand. Group projects provide this experiential learning experience that students can bring into the workplace. Knowing about different people’s working style and adapting to it comes with practice, where group projects can give. Conflict and disagreement resolution also plays a large role in the working world, in which group projects may be able to help students develop the techniques and methods for.

While it is absolutely true that not all group projects have the said benefits, it is so for those that are well managed and well designed. When group work is carefully constructed and when teachers help groups that have group dynamic issues that compromises group effectiveness, group work brings about certain invaluable skills that the student can learn.

How to do well in group projects

Interrupting or insisting that your idea is the best one without first hearing others out may lead to tension and conflicts that you definitely do not want to be embroiled in!

While it is impossible to control how your group members behave in a group setting, there are some tips that you can make use of, to make sure the project is more smooth sailing.

1.     Planning and Preparation

Successful group work always start with planning. Planning how the project progresses across the weeks can help members to have a mental preparation on what is to come and what to expect from that group work in the weeks to come.

2.     Respect

Respecting other people’s views and listening out to them helps in the group dynamics. Interrupting or insisting that your idea is the best one without first hearing others out may lead to tension and conflicts that you definitely do not want to be embroiled in!

3.     Do your part

Of course, doing your part is a given. Being a freeloader in the group work will give you an extremely negative reputation. Also, doing your part and your delegated work will aid in the pace and progress of the group project.

All in all, don’t be too worried should you be assigned to work on a group project for it can bring you invaluable skills that you can use in the workplace. All the best!