Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If It's Not Broken, Don't Fix It

So perhaps at the start of the new year you made a new year's resolution. And, if you're like many people, perhaps you're struggling to maintain that promise to yourself, or have already abandoned it altogether. If this is the case, don't be so quick to throw your arms up in self-loathing and call yourself a quitter. Instead, maybe it's better to ask yourself if the resolution you decided to make was, indeed, worthwhile, or, was it simply a superficial product of the tradition of the season? If you did, in fact, make a resolution just for the sake of making one, it may be very difficult to keep up with since you might not actually be fully committed to the decision you made.

Perhaps there's something to be said for just staying the course. Now that we're in the third week of the spring semester, you've probably figured out what works for you and what doesn't. That is, regardless of your class rank, by now you've almost certainly learned many valuable lessons through experience about what it takes for you to be successful. If I'm correct in making this assumption, then you've probably also noticed that your recipe for success might not be the same as your friends' and peers'. In fact, it might be vastly different. For example, when I'm studying or writing, I need absolute quiet to be able to concentrate and be productive. But if you work more effectively with a friend or with the TV on, then I encourage you to stick to that strategy.

It is largely unimportant what means you use to achieve success; what is important is that you set goals. Decide what success means to you and what you want to accomplish. Then, work towards those goals in whatever way works best for you.

The same principle holds true to your writing; set goals for how you want to improve as a writer this semester, then work to achieve those goals. Don't be discouraged if you receive a lower grade on a paper than you wanted. Stay the course, stay positive, and remember that we at the Writing Center (304-293-5788) are here to help. We'll do our best to accomodate your particular learning styles and preferences.

So, if you learn like me, then barricade yourself in your room, turn off your phone, and get to work. But if you prefer to get your work done in a crowded pizza shop with friends, then I would argue that you should keep doing just that, and have your next slice to celebrate your own recipe for success.

Mick Snyder

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Reading Comprehension Made Easy

As I sit here writing this, I am a mere week and half away from the MCAT that I have been preparing for for nearly seven months. I feel as though my brain is completely consumed with formulas and facts and most of all, loathing for reading comprehension. Whether it’s the GRE, the GMAT, the LSAT, or the MCAT, we here at the writing center feel your pain and can help you with your reading comprehension woes.

The first thing to remember during a reading comprehension test is to take your time… but not too much time. Learning how to read quickly is key, but you also need to learn how to read actively. This was difficult for me at first as I’m a slow reader and would often times find myself thinking about my beach vacation last summer. This is where you need to find the best strategy for you. I’ve found that actively highlighting key words has kept me engaged in the passage so I think about the beach less and get more answers right. Try highlighting, try writing a few words down after each paragraph, try just reading—just find whatever helps you read fast, but actively.

Once you’ve read the passage, you have to do the hard part: answering the questions. This can be hard, but there are a few tricks that can help on test day. Extreme answers involving the words only, absolutely, all, etc. are almost always wrong. Being able to strike out these answers can help narrow down the answer choices immensely. We all hate Roman numeral questions where I and II or only II or I, II, and III could be right, but there’s a trick to them too. Almost always the Roman numeral that is used the most often will be included in the correct answer. This may not get you narrowed down to one answer, but it will help.

Over time you’ll start to find more little patterns and tricks that make reading comprehension bearable. The best advice I can give is practice, practice, practice! That way you’ll be ready for anything on test day and you can sail right into graduate or professional school. Good luck!