Tuesday, 10 October 2017

EXAM 101 – What to do during your exam

There’s often a lot of discussion surrounding how to control anxiety and stress. Personally I find that the best way to control my emotions and focus my thoughts during an exam is to set up an ‘exam routine’. These routines are small actions that you complete in a certain order throughout the exam to create a sense of surety and certainty throughout the exam.
Current studies (6 April 2017) reveal that 35% of university students experience self harm or suicidal thoughts in the past 12 months. Headspace representative, Jason Trethowan revealed that the rates are only increasing – and one in three students will experience thoughts of suicide in the space of a year. If you struggle with significant exam anxiety – or generalized anxiety creating an exam routine can help to get through some of the peak anxiety moments of the year.
Even more significant is the 65% of students are reporting high to very high levels of psychological stress- with more than half suffering from panic attacks. While you’re not alone, don’t allow yourself to fall victim to these fears. Instead try instituting some practices that will help you to continue to move forward, even when you’re frightened.
Below is the routine that I generally follow through the exam process from beginning to finish. My program isn’t a fail-safe method to pass your exams. It works best when you’ve prepared well before hand and you’re now trying to make sure that you can remain focused.
Before bed
Ø  Prep exam bag
Ø  Ensure have water, snacks, textbooks, reference notes
Ø  Check alarms are set
Ø  Check exam venue and travel route
Ø  Check Exam Venue
Ø  Last check of bag
Ø  Take phone
Ø  Decent lunch/breakfast
15 Minutes Prior
Ø  Hot drink/ Cool drink
Ø  Flip through flash cards
Ø  Read some news
Ø  Take out pens
Ø  Place drink on floor
Ø  Deep breaths
Ø  Look for a lecturer/someone you know
Ø  Write out anything I’m worried I’ll forget
Ø  Read the questions three times over
Ø  Plan out the long question
Ø  Answer the multiple choice questions
Ø  Have a little nap if time is left 😊
Ø  Answer questions you are most confident about
Ø  Answer questions with highest marks
Ø  Answer the rest of the questions
Ø  Have a snack
Ø  Rest your eyes for five minutes

And then you can leave your exam and continue your day! The creation of a routine may seem crazy – as if you have that much time in the first place right? Well the routine helps you to ‘slow’ time by creating a sense of calm. This calm allows you to remember that there is enough time to take a short break and focus your mind.
The key thing to remember about exams is that 800 words of well structured, legible and poignant writing is far more effective than 1500 words of a rambling point about something akin to what you were asked.
This method is a simple way to spot reduce anxiety. Try not to rely entirely on this method and instead try using some other techniques. I would recommend simulating an exam situation several times throughout the term to make sure that you have some good methods that will help you be effective. To simulate the anxiety that can be felt during an exam go somewhere loud and distracting like a café, noisy public place or other area that you find distracting. That distraction can be equated to the distraction that anxiety creates.
Some good methods to try using throughout an exam are;
-        Repeating positive mantras such as ‘I can do this, I will do this – I’ve worked hard, I can do this’. These positive affirmations are simple, unobtrusive ways to develop your self confidence and continue through with the exam.
-        Subtle and quiet fidgeting, spinning a pen, playing with the edge of the paper or twirling an eraser can make a good way to calm your mind without distracting anyone around you.
-        Visualizing what you’ll do after the exam – while you should be careful after this to ensure that you won’t end up day dreaming your time away, envisioning the resulting reward after your exam can be a good way to spur on your confidence and finish that exam.
-        Set yourself a minimum. As crazy as this maysound, there are times when your panic is so overwhelming that even picking up the pen is a success. When this challenge arises set yourself a minimum standard. For example, you must write two paragraphs and then you can finish – or four lines! It can be just enough to pass the question. This may sound bad, but often this can be a major relief for yourself and can help break down those perfectionist barriers – leaving you feeling free to perform the best that you can on the exam.
Best of  luck with your exams!

Lulu Hensman

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

EXAM 101 – Panicking before exams

There’s no way to prevent panic before exams. We all suffer from anxiety and it’s commonly known that certain levels of anxiety create the perfect exam conditions. This is known as your ‘peak arousal.’ However, there are times in which too much anxiety can be devastating to your performance and mental health.
There are two times when anxiety can impact you. The first is the most commonly, which is immediately before the exam. This is generally a useless type of anxiety that only serves to make you uncomfortable and cause your grades to suffer. I have three ways to combat this type of stress.

1.      Chewing and drinking
There is a clear link between eating and the temporary reduction of anxiety. Using comfort foods can be an effective way to reduce anxiety prior to an exam. While your go to comfort foods may be a packet of hot chips or a chocolate milk shake, it is easy to stuff some dark chocolate and sultanas into a clear zip lock bag. I recommend putting in a mix of high sugar, sweetened foods along with maybe some salt pretzels because they are foods that are high energy and dopamine encouraging. Lesser amounts shouldn’t cause a sugar rush later and can make you feel good, reducing anxiety.
Similarly, don’t forget to pack your water bottle. There is a link between dehydration and the onset of panic attacks – while this is not the trigger for every anxiety attack there is evidence to suggest it is a factor. So, pack in a clear water bottle and slurp away!
2.      Music and lectures
If you’re a music fan you’re probably familiar with the psychological impact of music. Music is a way to impose structure and order in an environment where none may immediately appear. It can manipulate your emotions and draw you to a new mental state. Creating a playlist that makes you feel powerful, focused or calm (depending on what you feel works for you best) can help you to control your mental state at the time. A good place to get some playlist inspiration is through 8tracks.
However, if you’re like me and music doesn’t really help you focus you may find that listening to lecturers from tedtalks or other speech platforms helps you to calm down. I find that listening to other people talk either giving motivational speeches, or talking on a topic that I am interested in distracts me before the exam and gives me the opportunity to rest my mind before I launch into an exam. As a teacher once told me, there’s nothing you can do in the last five minutes that will destroy your exam. Any information you forget isn’t useful. Allow your mind to breath and process information without the added anxiety.
3.      Talking to others/social media
Talking to people around you before an exam can form a strange kind of kinship. It’s the kind where you’re all reasonably frightened of what might happen, but the shared experience makes you feel more positive. This kind of event can be good to make you feel like you’re working towards something that is bigger and better than just this one little exam. Although some people find it makes them more worried if you’re a bit extroverted this may just be the tip that helps you reach that little bit of calm you need before an exam.
If you’re worried that you might psyche yourself out another good thing to do is to scroll through social media. Pick a tag that you like (my personal favorites are cake decorating and summer clothes) and scroll through the pictures. They’re upbeat, well-lit and pretty – just the kind of thing you need to look at to get yourself in a better mental state.

While you’re doing these tasks relax yourself slowly. There are smaller physical things you can do to control the psychological tricks of anxiety.
a)      Pace and move your body
Movement is a great distraction technique and when it comes to beating anxiety distraction is exactly what you’re looking for. Walk around the room or building. If you need more of a distraction try looking for things in the room; for example, while you’re walking around you must name;
-        5 things that are making a noise
-        2 different things that you can smell
-        1 thing you’re going to do after the exam
-        3 people that you know (either in the room or out)
-        1 person wearing blue
-        1 person listening to music
Etc. this is part of a process called ‘grounding’. You can read the hand out to find more of these techniques. This is a very good tactic to use because it encourages you to interact with your environment and can adapt to whatever environment you’re in.
b)     Tell yourself that you can do it.
Visualization is a critical component to any de-stress routine, whether it’s days before the exam or in the moments just before it. Try repeating in your head ‘I can do this, I’m going to do well.’ This simple action can reduce your anxiety and bring you to the right mental state.
If, however, you’re suffering the stress a few weeks before the exam begins, there are some other methods you can add to your plans to help conquer these fears. They are a little more proactive because you have more time.
1.      Set up a plan so you can visualize how much time you have and what you’re going to do with it
Some people may consider this to be like setting up a timer until the end of the world. However, if you’re a fan of routines and planning this can be a wonderful way to remind yourself you have plenty of time to act. My biggest weakness is that I always panic and underestimate the amount of time I have left. Just last semester I finished my exam review four weeks early because I messed up the timing and panicked that I was going to run out of time. The result was that I burned out way faster than normal and way exhausted by the end of the exam season – so learn from me and use a planner!
2.      Assess the amount that you have on and see if you can trim anything from this
Sometimes we add a lot of ‘little things’ into our schedule that add up. Try to write a list of all your extracurricular and see if there are some things you can drop to give yourself some more time to split between relaxation and studying. It is critical in the final weeks of your study to maintain a healthy balance between your personal life and your study life.
3.      Speak with an academic advisor
Exam planning pack
Sometimes early onset test anxiety can be an indicator that there is something wrong. Try speaking with an academic advisor to get their opinion on whether you need some extra helping the class or if there is a way you can offload some of the academic burden. I know there are a lot of advisors who are experts at helping students create flexible study plans that leaves a student working productively and not overloading themselves. While it may be a little frightening to admit to someone that you’re struggling with your academic commitments, remember that it is the peak of maturity to know your limits and to get help to move past them.

Overall your anxiety over exams is purely a mental block. Prepare to deal with it, but don’t let it prevent you from showing off all your hard work over the semester. Use your time well to prevent over reacting and do your best on the exam!  

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

High Court under the microscope ; Kable v DPP

This case arose in response to an act made by the NSW parliament called the community protection act 1994. It worked to allow the government to make an order to contain any individual for a period up to 6 months after the end of their prison sentence – if a court was satisfied upon a reasonable grounds that they were more likely than not to commit a serious act of violence. This was then justified on the condition that it was for the safety of the community.
However, the plaintiff, Kable argued that the Act was breaching the separation of papers doctrine because it gave the NSW court powers that were incompatible with Chapter III of the Federal Constitution.
This was important as it rose the question of whether or not the separation of powers doctrine arises at state level. The separation of powers doctrine refers to the principle by which no arm of government can rely on or have influence over another arm of government. This separation is not followed properly in Australia as the legislature and the executive arms of government are one and the same and often intermix with each other. However, the judiciary is very firmly kept separate from the other two arms of government as they are the arm of government that reviews all actions and decisions. This independence is considered to be imperative for the democratic future of Australia. These cases which refer to the separation of powers are very important and should be given close attention as they refer to the founding features of Australia
The majority of the court were satisfied by the argument that the act in question gave the Supreme Court of NSW a non-judicial power that is against the Chapter III of the federal constitution. That meant that any exercise of that power was unconstitutional and the act which confers said power has to be invalid. This meant that the parliament’s act could not be used to detain anyone.
However, it is not an argument that relied upon the separation of powers under the NSW constitution but it relief on the separation of powers of the Federal constitution. This was because the supreme court falls under the jurisdiction of Ch III of the federal constitution as it is a Ch Iii court. Other state courts in NSW do not come under Ch III (unless there are other specific characteristics of them that would require them to be included as such) therefore the NSW constitution would need to be used in the argument.
It is important to remember, however, that unless it is specifically created there is no separation of powers at the state level of government, only at the federal level of government. This is because of the historical creation of the colonies and for administrative purposes.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Negotiations and managing the tightrope

Sometimes in university you’ll be stuck in an award situation with someone who has a higher authority than you. That is a very awkward situation and knowing what to do can be next to impossible. I’ve run through some scenarios below that will hopefully help you out of your next tight spot!
1.      You get a bad grade
Of course this will happen to every university student at some point and the important thing is how you handle it.

The first step should always be to take some time out. This can be a very emotional result for someone, especially if you worked really hard on the project. Try to give yourself some time to process the result and calm down. It is always best to be well rested and level headed when you consider a bad grade. If you can invite over someone supportive to help you with the next step.
The second step is to evaluate yourself. Self evaluation is critical to ensuring that the mistake won’t occur again. Overall this step can be very difficult but if you’ve followed through with the planning methods and tracking your progress it may be easy to see if there was a lapse in your preparation. Another important thing is to get ahold of the markers scheme and rubric and run through the project to see what errors you have missed.
The markers feedback can be a great tool for understanding and interpreting the rubric. Some examiners will point out where you went wrong – and the best ones will supply tips for where you can improve. Don’t be worried about how they think about you, this is a highly automated task and rarely will the examiner have applied any kind individualistic application.
Some critical questions to ask yourself are;
-        Was this explained in the course?
-        Is this information readily available?
-        Is this a subjective opinion?
Planning is essential to surviving a busy
period at work
It is important to consider whether or not the criticism is subjective because if it is that the marker has interpreted an answer or argument the wrong way you may be able to initiate a remark process that would allow you to negotiate for a better result.
However, don’t use this process as a reason to get a remark, that should never be a goal. Always assume that the grade is a fair indication of the work and move forward from there.

The third step is to run through the document and highlight the points where you went wrong. List them out clearly with paragraph or question number references and either rewrite them correctly or write out the question that you would like to ask about them.
Some good questions to ask conveners about a marker’s determination include;
è Source A suggested this, was there another more valid source that disagreed?
è Was it the application of the information that was incorrect or was the basis of the argument wrong?
è How would you improve this answer?
I would strongly advise that you do the majority of planning before you go in to interview with an academic professor or teacher. This is because it is easily to become overwhelmed when teachers begin discussing things with you – especially when they relate to things like your personal grades. The more organized you are the easier it will be to set the boundaries and expectations of the discussion.
Other ways that you can make sure you remain professional and level headed throughout the interview is to bring in a general guide of the things that you want to say.
The best way to do this is to create a simple list flow chart with off shoots;
Page one issues;
è Para 4, grammar point – how much did this reduce?
è Para 9 – The readings agreed with marker but recent research supported argument (Which valid?)
Page two;
è Spelling is correct Australia – USA marking?
è Why is the diagram wrong? (markers guide not available)
If you run through this it is easy for you to avoid feeling upset about your mark and instead make sure that you get the best possible feedback. After all, it’s very difficult for anyone to help you if you can’t tell them how to help!
Printable available online
To help with the general value of the meeting you can download this printable from fee by following the link, here. This printable will allow you to work with the pace of the speaker – son long as you write in relevant phrases and not everything that they say. The download is not a pdf so you and type it into your laptop for those who struggle to write quickly. But try to fill in the extra questions along the side as this assist your analysis.
If you get through this stage and you still feel that you haven’t had an appropriate redress you can feel very upset, but don’t be perturbed! There is still more that can be done. Check out your student union and ask them about the mark evaluation policy. Take the feedback sheet, your questions and the original assignment with the feedback with it. Ask them if you can have someone else to assess the paper and perhaps help you to understand it. These officers are generally very experienced and will be able to help guide you through the process.
Best of luck – and remember that your grades don’t reflect on you!

Lulu Hensman

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

EXAM 101 -Anticipating exam questions

Anticipating questions before an exam
Of course making a study plan is also useful -
 but it's figuring out what to put /in/ the plan
that can be hard :)
This is one of the hardest things for many people to prepare for. The exam can seem like an endless swirl of questions that you will have no idea about what might happen or what might be asked. The best advice that anyone can ever give you is to cut down the amount of work that you do. The more work you do the more things that you will know -it sounds a little odd but the truth is you’re never rewarded for knowing everything – you’re rewarded for knowing the right things
The critical component of answering an exam question well, therefore, is to analyze what exactly you will be asked. It is possible to work this out (not as an exact art but as a reasonable probability) through six methods. I will explain these methods below.
A.     Looking at the textbook index
This can be done in the days before exam or (ideally) in the holidays before the teaching period begins. I am sure many people will find this post in the frantic scramble three days before the exam – so I’d recommend you begin here.
To use this method, look at the index of the textbook. Sometimes you’ll strike lucky and find an index that looks like this;
-        Subheading
Ø  Key point
-        Subheading
-        Subheading
If you have this – focus on the main headings and study;
·        The key definition of that heading
·        The overall concept
·        Then the critical components of each subheading
Summarize these in 1-2 pages maximum.
However, if you’re not that lucky and your index is just a list of indistinguishable chapters, use this list as an exam checklist. You should know everything in this checklist – unless you were explicitly told by the teacher that it wouldn’t be on the exam.
Summarize each component of your checklist in 100 words. If you can’t make a short, succinct description of the component you haven’t learned it well enough. 100 words is a very tight description and once you can describe a topic that quickly your brain has synthesized the information so sufficiently that you should be able to answer most questions on that topic. For this summary don’t simply memorize the textbook description, make it in your own words after reading and understanding the information in each chapter. That way you can be certain that you understand how that component works and operates in your education topic.

B.     Look at the structure by which the course was taught
Examiners generally don’t like to repeat elements of the course that they have already examined. So, look at what has already been on your assignments (if you’ve had any) and don’t rehash them in your study. It’s important that you still have a reasonably good understanding but don’t critical re-study them. It’s unlikely that they’ll be focal points of your exam. (There is an exception to this that I will explain later).
Don't forget that changing your scenery
can be the perfect way to hone your focus
That means, usually, anything taught in that second period of the teaching season is 90% more likely to be on the exam. Place extra special focus on these areas and use your drop-in time to ask questions about them You can see why many students find the exam more difficult because they often begin the teaching session with gusto, studying late into the night and perfecting the first 4-6 weeks’ worth of material. However, those last few weeks are e the critical components to the exam and they fall because they burned out and weren’t really prepared for that kind of work.

C.     Look at older practice exams – and exams from similar courses
The common trick is to do practice exams. Many people suggest it – but few realize the utility of practice exams from other universities. While the marking and writing style may be different – don’t think that your professors don’t want to borrow questions from other lecturers. Writing exam questions is hard (particularly if you work in a field like law or politics where the questions must be carefully thought out).
So, borrowing the questions from another institution where you can presume that the student hasn’t tried them is a straightforward way of getting past the difficulty of writing out an exam question. Don’t expect that the question will be the same but you’ll find the structurally similar question with one or two differences. Therefore, make time to practice exams from your institution AND from other institutions. When I was working towards my end of year high school exams I did practice exams from every state in Australia, some from America and some from England. I did this because I knew that if I could master the components of these exams there was no way that I could be surprised in the final exam. The same is true for university and other high school courses. Always be on the lookout for courses that are like yours and try a few of their exam questions. Even if you must learn some new things to be able to answer the questions – it’ll only make you better prepared.
D.     When something unexpected may appear on the exam
There is an exception to all of this – and this is where some of you may run into trouble. If you haven’t been attending or at least listening to recordings of your classes I’d rush through as many of them as I could right now.
My mess of a desk in the midst of study....
When your lecturer spends three or more weeks on the topic – take that as a hint it’s going to be on the exam. They won’t waste time teaching you things if they don’t want it to be a part of the examination at the end. Additionally, if your teacher repeats a phrase, point or source of information you can guarantee that is going to have something to do with the exam. Don’t forget about it just because it’s annoying you or you think it’s an annoying quirk. Chances are they’re deliberately saying this to you because it’s the exact phrase or material they want to refer to in their marking guide.

Examiners have a marking guide which is a lot like an exam checklist. You need to hit every point on that checklist to get the highest mark. It’s a very rare exam where it matters the content of what you’re saying – and not the content that they’re looking for. Remember, the average lecturer has at least 100 students to mark, they don’t have time to base the work of each student on their individual merit. Unfortunately, you must appeal to the criteria they’re looking for.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

High Court under the microscope - The Eddie Mabo Case

Mabo v Queensland
This was a 1992 Australian High Court decision that was the first time in Australian history when the native title for the Australian Aboriginal People was recognized. Eddie Mabo brought the case to the high court on behalf of the Meriam People who are from the Mer Islands. This is in the Torres Strait area. The proceedings commenced in in 1982 after the Queensland Amendment Act was initiated.
The act worked to establish a system of land grants by trust for aboriginals and Torres strait islands. However, this system was inept and the mer islanders were unhappy.
The high court eventually received the case and was asked to consider whether indigenous Australians had a just and legal claim to their lands which could overturn the notion of terra nullius. Further the request to the court asserted that it was time for the common law to be ‘put to rights’
The success of the case was difficult to determine and it was largely regarded by the legal field as a mere test. Testing the court is very common as there are multiple complexities that run through the fabric of legal decisions. Issues such as;
·        Political values
·        Social concern
·        Financial constraints
·        Corporation concerns
 The High Court held that the doctrine of terra nullius was void. This doctrine had worked to import all English laws into the Australian country at the time of English colonization. This was done because the indigenous people were originally thought to be ‘uncivilized’ which gave the colonizers the right to claim the land as belonging to the British people.
The court held that the rules of reception that applied were not those that were originally called for but that the existing customary laws which were present at the time of settlement took priority over the imported English law. However, land rights could be extinguished by crown title. Any native title claims which were inconsistent with native title would be extinguished and the crown land would survive.
The decision was made by seven judges in five judgements of the high court;
Ø  Justice Brennan
Ø  Justice Deane
Ø  Justice Gaudron
Ø  Justice Toohey
Ø  Justice Dawson
Ø  Chief Justice Mason
Ø  Justice McHugh
There were several common threads of agreement between the five judgements. The basis of these threads of agreement is that the native title existed due to the nature of the indigenous use and connection to the land and that determined the nature and content of native title. It also rejected the concept of terra nullius and attempted to provide repudiation to those grounds that had lost the benefit of their lands.
The consequences of this decision are most commonly felt by corporations and land developers as they see the most of the native title claims. There is a difficultly in negotiating with many aboriginal groups who claim native title over key development areas. This difficulty is generally solved with skilled negotiators but can take some time.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Making and taking risks at university

University is an awesome time to learn and study but it is also the first time that many of us are striking out on our own and becoming used to being independent. Some students revert into their shells and choose to stick within the expected guidelines of university life. That can work to your advantage as you won’t find much challenge and will get high grades. We all know that academic achievement is a major positive for anyone in a university situation – however it won’t impress employers if you’ve never tried anything challenging. Additionally, university is one of the few times when you’re encouraged to take different learning opportunities.

These opportunities don’t have to be as big as taking a difference course or going overseas, in fact sometimes it’s better if they aren’t. These are all anticipated and expected opportunities. Below are some ideas for was you can introduce yourself to minor risks and get used to the idea that things can go wrong – and you are more than capable of dealing with them!   
Even just a book club can be
a great place to start!

1.      Go to a new activity group

Many freshmen sign up to lots of different clubs at the beginning of first year – but as the year carries on and the stress level increases we drop out. That’s because learning new things is hard and the criticism that comes on along with that can discourage anyone from continuing the struggle of learning something new.

However, in second year when you’re a bit more used to the challenges of university life try to take up a new group. Don’t’ worry if it’s not particularly strenuous -- one of the best groups I ever joined was a university brunch group! All it took was a Sunday morning in a restaurant enjoying some delicious breakfast group.

It can be a risk because too much time spent in groups can take away from your studies. Moreover, it can alter your schedule and leave you open to mismanaging your time. However, if managed well they can make a great talking point for future employment interviews and potentially create unique networking opportunities.

2.      Take up a new hobby

Like a social group hobbies are very popular in the new year and begin to wane as the realities of life and stress get in the way. Realistically, hobbies can represent a bit of a risk to a university student – they are highly enjoyable and can really take away from your studies. Additionally, those with perfectionist tendencies will probably struggle to take up something new.

If you can let go of this fear and explore something different you can totally open yourself up to a whole new variety of talents and advantages. In your future workplace, you may be surprised how miscellaneous knowledge can help add that extra sparkle to your output. While you’re in university it’s worth thinking how a hobby can work into your five-year plan to make sure that you have a competitive edge in the market.

3.      Try a different social group

Social groups or cliques are often satirized in the media as bitchy groups of people. This much is sort of true, exclusivity is the hallmark of any group friendship group – otherwise it’s just a mob. However, cross social groups can provide an extra boost to your widening perspective. Try
socializing with people from diverse cultures, age groups and disciplinary studies.

Additionally, the information that you gain from these new perspectives can be translated into your academic career. Providing extra information or criticism, when done properly, can boost your grade up a percentile.

4.      Work experience in a different industry area

Similar to learning new perspectives through others learning the practices of another industry can provide you with an advantage both in your academic pursuits and to a future employer. For example, a law student working in a retail area or an accounting area can have a broader and applicable knowledge when working in tax law or corporate law. The advantages to broader perspectives and knowledge are many. While they may take time from your studies or be an imperfect venture into something unknown the payoff is far greater than the risk!