Friday, December 9, 2011

Test Taking Strategies (literal light bulbs).

There are several different kinds of tests. One question that many people ask is: Why do we have to take tests? That is a good question. Let's start off by taking the "Why Do We Have to Take Tests" test.

Question #1.

What would the world be like if nobody took driving tests?

Questions #2.

What would people do if they never took vision tests?

Question #3.

Do I need to continue?

Without tests, we would live in a world of blurry-brained road-ragers who keep mistaking the gas for the brake. Sometimes tests are necessary, and even if they're not, sometimes we've just got to take them. Now that the semester is winding down, we've got to face it. Sometimes we've got to take tests. Here are some tips to keep you thinking on your toes before taking so many finals.

Tip #1

Don't just go into the test thinking that you'll ace it if you haven't even opened up a book. If you walk into the final and you haven't studied, please wear your running shoes. As soon as the professor administers the test, put down your pencil, and run to the nearest McDonald's for a job application.

Tip #2

Sometimes we study and we're just horrible test takers. That's okay. As long as the information is up there someplace, you should rest assured that it has the ability to come to you at the right time if you stop fidgeting and worrying. This brings me to my next tip....

Tip #3

Relax. The world won't end over a test. People don't say "give it the old college try" for no reason at all. Go in there with confidence and do your best.

Also, perhaps I should pass this tid-bit of information along to you. Studies have been done on students who were taking tests. The ones that tested with the best grades were the ones who were in the right mindset. Don't watch cartoons before your exam. Try thinking like a scientist, (or whatever it is you're hoping to be). Put yourself in the position of your professors. Try to think along the lines of those who you admire in your field. Go into the test with the mindset of success. Visualize yourself in the seat you are moving towards. Wear a tie. Bring your Einstein doll (I would bring my pine-plant that I named "Pine-stein"). Bring a light bulb and let it hover over your head. If you are taking a philosophy test, bring a giant question mark. Ask Galileo to come along. Write a letter to Abraham Lincoln. Do anything to help yourself get into the mindset and then -

Have a Happy Holiday!

Gina LoBianco & The Writing Center Staff

Monday, December 5, 2011

Put into a Comma after Punctuation-palooza

So you have this bundle of assignments that you got done two weeks ahead of finals because you're an especially responsible student who enjoys a relatively stress-free conclusion to his/her semester. First of all, bite me. Second of all, good for you. Although now you're probably getting anxious; none of your professors accept early assignments because they have "other things to work on" before they receive the torrent of papers and accompanying papercuts that arrive just before holiday break. What to do, what to do.

Here's a crazy idea: go back over them. Now I know it's painful to go back and look at old work (I have a whole folder of assignments on my computer that I refuse to open because I'm sure it'll send me into shock), but you haven't turned in your assignment yet. Basically, you're not quite done yet. That compare/contrast paper you did on the political associations of Fox News and MSNBC? You know, the one you knocked off in a couple hours so you could go see the new Twilight at midnight because your friends are fans of the series but you never saw one before because you read high-brow stuff like David Sedaris and frequent McSweeney's? Welp, you might just want to glance over it one more time.

MSNBC has Rachel Maddow, Andrea Mitchell, and Chris Matthews.

Fox News features Bill O'Reilly, Shepard Smith and Greta Van Susteren.

Look hard. There is a difference between those two sentence, one that goes beyond the content. I'll give you a hint. It's not the periods. Give up? It's the commas. You use them in a series. While in the first series you use one before the "and," you didn't put one before the "and" in the second one. Now, it's my understanding that either is acceptable but here's a word of advice: consistency. You want to keep the stylistic choices you make consistent or someone's going to take them for mistakes as opposed to a decision of style.

Commas are a weakness, you say? Let's change that. Let's make them a strength.

Oh, here's another spot.

Fox News personalities tend to sit on the right-wing of politics; conversely many MSNBC personalities sit on the left-wing.

Astute observation. Bravo on the semi-colon. But you forgot something. It's not the--

Yeah, it's the comma. Or rather, the lack thereof. Any idea where you might jam that comma?

Fox News personalities tend, to sit on the right-wing of politics; conversely many MSNBC personalities sit on the left-wing.

NOPE. Try again.

Fox News personalities tend to sit on the right-wing of politics; conversely, many MSNBC personalities sit on the left-wing.

Huzzah! Right after the transition! Bravo. One more spot.

Keith Olberman was once on MSNBC, but has since left.

Now let's--okay, so you're getting it now. Commas. Solid. But what do you think the issue is with this comma? Still nothing? Try reading after the comma and conjuction:

has since left.

Who has since left? What has since left? What did you do with that subject?! By jamming that comma before the phrase you created a compound sentence out of a sentence and a fragment--a union that should never be.

Now there are some other spots in that paper where you made similar mistakes with commas.

Eliminate them.

Last Week of the Semester

The Writing Center will close for the fall semester on Friday, December 9 at 1 p.m. If you need to schedule an appointment for this last week of the semester, please call 581-5929 to schedule an appointment. We look foward to working with you.

We open for the spring semester on Wednesday, January 11. We hope to see you again next semester.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Finale

Like any good tv show, this semester is coming to an end and it's almost time for the season finale. Will it end with a cliffhanger? Will your favorite character get cast off? Does the relationship end with question marks and polka dots? Does Dawson fall into the creek? Now is the time for our brains to run the marathon. We all know how awful people look when they run (it's just unnatural!), but we've got to plow through, red face and silly swishy-pants or not. Some people achieve a type of peace after they run for a prolonged period of time (I wouldn't know). That's what I've been trying to find. Now is the time for all of the final papers when it seems like my brain is just as barren as the cornfields that engulf me. Although the game is on, we've got to remain calm. Remember rule # 6. What is rule #6, you ask? Rule #6 is "Don't take yourself too seriously." What are all of the other rules, you ask? There aren't any. Just keep on truckin'.

On a semi-related topic:
After writing several millions of research papers, I've found a method that seems to generally work for me. First, I pick a topic. It is always something that I'm really interested in. If there isn't anything that you're interested in, make it into something that you are interested in. Be creative with it. Second comes the research. You don't need to have a thesis at this point, because chances are you don't know what you're going to say. You will most likely realize what you're going to say after you've read about what everyone else has said. I find all of my sources from the library and the interweb. Next, I read through my sources and take thorough notes on my computer. Be sure to include page numbers, works cited, and quotes within your notes so that the writing process is less difficult. Then, abra-cadabra! You formulate your thesis after reviewing your notes, outline, and write your paper! And you think to yourself 'What a wonderful world?'

DISCLAIMER: Also, please make sure to eat lots of brain food. If I'm working at school, I always make sure to have some change for my most-loved vending machine slot, D2 (not to be confused with the movie, which I also like). Finally, when you start seeing strange people coming out of your computer, talking to your computer, or find that your eyes haven't blinked in three hours, and possibly are physically not able to blink, take a break.