Productivity

Top 5 Productivity Hacks For College Students

Image courtesy of Dennis Hamilton via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The new academic year is fast approaching and like all good students, you’ll be thinking of how to get the most out of your time and studies.

Whilst there is no substitute for hard work, there are always a few life hacks that can help you along the way.

Here are five hacks that can be invaluable during university:

 

  1. Airplane mode

This function on smartphones gives you the opportunity for some much needed peace and quiet when you need it most. When you’re studying, it’s best to keep the many distractions that being permenantly connected can bring at bay. Also, turning notifications off is a good idea.

 

  1. Hide your phone

One stage further than airplane mode is to leave your phone off and out of sight. It can distract you from what you’re doing even if it’s just turned on. A good motto is: out of sight, out of mind.

 

  1. Schedules

We’re creatures of habit, so planning your time is a good way of building good habits. By having a schedule (including your free time, gym, breaks etc), you’ll be much better at keeping on top of all your duties and make the most of your time. Try to find when you work best and then figure that into your schedule.

 

  1. Wear headphones

The key to this one is to drown out outside noise, not share the tinny sound of your music with the rest of the library. It’s a good habit to have them on to cover your ears and keep you focussed on the job in hand. You don’t have to listen to music, but if you do – maybe something quiet and calming is best!

 

  1. Buddy up!

A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes – so having a study mate or group can help alleviate the stress of study. It can also help keep you to your commitments to have friends remind you! Working together is fun too, so find a fellow traveller and buddy up!

 

The Key to Study Success? Don’t Set Goals, Create Habits

Image courtesy of Geraint Otis Warlow via Flicker (CC 2.0)

 

We’re always told that it’s good to dream big. That we should have our goals planned out: write a hit novel, become a surgeon, run a successful business.

 

But as we embark on making those dreams a reality at university and beyond, we can come unstuck. Most people have experienced those difficulties to some extent. The progress to achieving our goals is slow-moving. There are still a lot of blank pages that we’re trying to fill.

 

So, what’s the key to achieving the goals we set ourselves and realising our dreams?

 

Some Psychologists suggest that instead of setting goals, we should create habits.

 

They argue that a goal is too far off in the distance for it to have a significant effect on our daily lives.

A goal doesn’t help you get the thing done. In fact, until you reach the goal you exist in a sort of state of failure, e.g.  ‘I haven’t written a novel yet.’

 

Instead, we should create a habit that fits with the sort of person we are, or want to be.

 

For example, writing that thesis is a daunting prospect, with many thousands of words to compile.  But if you create a habit: ‘I’m the sort of person who writes for an hour every morning,’ the thesis takes care of itself.

 

In both cases (goal or habit), the end result is often the same (these completed). But crucially, our happiness, and therefore our ability to produce our best work, is far greater when we employ habits.

We’re creatures of habit after all.

How to Get Ahead? Volunteer!

Image courtesy of NewAmericanLeadersProject via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

The world of work is competitive – that shouldn’t come as a surprise. In many professions or careers there will be many other people applying for the same position as you.

For recent graduates, the odds are against you in one crucial aspect: experience. You’re not likely to have as much as others going for the same job – you haven’t had much of an opportunity to gain experience. But one simple way to overcome that is to offer your time and volunteer.

 

Experience

Qualifications are only one part of what employers will look at when judging how suitable you are for a job. They want to see examples of you working as part of a team, problem solving and showing what you can do. With the time spent in a volunteering role, you will be able to say you’ve had hands-on experience.

It’s also more likely that you will get greater responsibility straight away as a volunteer than you would in a paid role, by assisting the management of a project for example. You can then start filling up that CV with useful skills and experience you wouldn’t otherwise have.

 

Initiative

Volunteering your time in an industry you want to work in shows you have initiative and passion. A prospective employer will appreciate that fact.

Those contacts that you make can often be crucial to you finding a job. You’ll have an advantage over other people by being known to your employer. This is by far the best way to impress and get your foot in the door.

It might also be that not much is being done on what you’re really passionate about.  Perhaps you’re keen to reduce food waste in your area and nothing is being done to tackle it. Real initiative is to do something about it yourself and get all the supermarkets in your area to sign up to a pledge to give left-over food to homeless shelters. You don’t necessarily need to be working for someone else to gain experience, in fact you’ll learn more with a project of your own – the possibilities are endless.

 

Discovery

When you volunteer you can try a variety of work. One week you’ll be asked to work on social media, the next you could be travelling out of the office meeting people and representing the organisation.

Look around for a project that interests you and see what existing charities or organisations are involved with it. Even if your volunteer placement doesn’t match your dream job exactly, you can still benefit from the skills you learn as many will be transferrable. You’re bound to discover something new in what you do, so that can only be worthwhile.

 

Many of our IELTS Awards winners have volunteered in and around university and have gone on to great things!

Besides the obvious benefit of feeling a warm glow from helping others, volunteering can offer concrete experience and chances to develop. Now, over to you!

Apps That Make Uni Life Easier (Part 2)

Image courtesy of Ash Kyd via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

In the previous part, we looked at three applications that can help you find, organise, and store information ‒ Evernote, Google Drive, and Wikipedia. Here are some more.

 

  1. Bookmooch (http://bookmooch.com/)

Bookmooch is an international online community, where you can exchange books you no longer need for ones you would like to own. So, how do you do it? Register for free, give away unwanted books on your virtual shelf to others and earn points, and use those points to get books that are of interest to you.

Although you need to pay for postage when sending out books to others, the free books you get in exchange can save you a great deal of money over time.

 

  1. Delicious (https://del.icio.us/)

Have you ever lost all your bookmarks from your browser due to a virus attack? Well, here’s a simple solution – begin using a social bookmarking website such as Delicious. Apart from making bookmarking easy by allowing users to categorise links, it also lets the user access saved bookmarks from any device with an internet connection.

 

A word of caution – bookmarks on Delicious are generally visible to all users, so you don’t want to be saving pages you don’t want others to view.

 

  1. Viber (https://www.viber.com/en/)

As a foreign student, it’s quite natural to pine for friends and family once you’ve spent a few months away from home. Making international phone calls isn’t always an option, as they can cost a fortune. So, downloading Viber would be a cheaper option. In addition to making calls, you can also send text or picture messages, and all of this is absolutely free.

But what if the person you would like to talk to isn’t on Viber? Easy! Use Viber-out, a service that offers calls to any mobile or landline number at low rates.

 

So, if you are finding campus life stressful, maybe download a few applications that can help you cope.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

 

give away
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to give someone something you no longer need
Example : When Roger retired, he gave away all his tennis racquets to kids in the neighbourhood.

 

postage
Form : noun
Meaning : money paid to send letters / parcels through the post
Example : Does the price of the DVDs on your website include postage?

 

bookmark
Form : noun
Meaning : an electronic way of marking an internet page so that you can find it again quickly
Example : Our web address has changed, so please update you bookmark.

 

pine for (someone)
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to miss someone very much
Example : She still pines for her ex-boyfriend.

 

fortune
Form : noun
Meaning : a large amount of money
Example : She spends a small fortune on perfumes every month.

 

cope
Form : verb
Meaning : to manage something well
Example : Timothy finds it difficult to cope with extreme heat.

 

 

Free British Council IELTS prep tools

Image: Martin Fisch via Flickr (CC 2.0)

Most IELTS candidates leave their test preparation to the last minute. When they go into the test centre, they discover they don’t understand the question types, they’re not sure how to allocate their time efficiently, and they don’t know what the examiner is looking for. And this is just the basic knowledge they lack.

ClarityEnglish and the British Council are trying to solve this problem, and to go much further. We have developed three free resources that tackle the nuts and bolts of IELTS prep, but also provide the scope for committed candidates to go further, and find out more.

 

IELTS blog

Clarity’s IELTS blog includes dozens of posts from IELTS experts explaining task types, preparation ideas and pitfalls to avoid..

Peter Hare (British Council Addis Ababa) reveals that 23% of answers submitted in IELTS Writing are under the required word count and develops a strategy for avoiding this problem. Colm Downes (British Council Indonesia) points to a TED Talk showing that just two minutes of ‘power posing’ before the IELTS Speaking test really can change the outcome. Andrew Stokes from ClarityEnglish points to a 1970s study suggesting that a test taker’s cultural background can influence their performance in the Reading paper. What measures can Chinese or Arab candidates take to avoid being disadvantaged?

Point your students to the IELTS blog here.

 

IELTS Tips phone app

The IELTS Tips phone app drip feeds key IELTS information one day at a time for 30 days. There are five categories of tips: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking and Preparation. Test takers can spend as little as a minute reading key facts or can follow links to get their hands on more comprehensive resources on the Internet. It’s all about repeatedly stimulating their interest!

Download the IELTS Tips app at www.ielts.tips

 

IELTS practice Facebook page

The IELTS Facebook page has attracted over half a million fans. It features downloadable worksheets, sample questions from the different papers, videos of candidates explaining how they prepared for IELTS, and a lot more.

Click here to visit the IELTS Facebook page.

 

These resources are cross-platform, and students can access them on their desktops, or on the go on their phones or tablets. They are all available free of charge. If you think they would be useful for your students, simply post them the links below.

IELTS blog blog.ieltspractice.com

IELTS phone app www.ielts.tips

IELTS Facebook page www.facebook.com/PractiseforIELTS/

 

This post first appeared on Clarity IELTS blog here.

Apps That Make University Life Easier (Part 1)

Image from Esther Vargas via Flickr (CC 2.0)

 

University life can be frantic and exhausting, particularly for foreign students. There’s so much to do, and so little time! From attending lectures and making notes to just unwinding after class, it’s sometimes difficult to stay on top of things.

 

Don’t fret though, because mobile technology is here to save you. Here are some applications that can be useful, both inside and outside classroom.

 

  1. Evernote 

This is the ideal platform to manage whatever information you collect at university, in the form of “notes”. These can be pieces of text, handwritten notes, excerpts from web pages, images, or audio files. What’s more, Evernote supports most operating systems, so you can use it on a device of your choice.

 

Among other things, it also lets you create to-do lists, set reminders, and even share your stuff with others. And the best part – you can locate any piece of information with ease because there are different ways to search for the notes you’ve made.

 

  1. Google Drive

A file storage service provided by Google, this is one place where you can store all your documents. In other words, it’s this huge online cabinet that can hold a lot of virtual files of different shapes and sizes. Once uploaded, files can be viewed, edited, or shared instantly. Google Drive for Education, a later version designed for schools, offers a set of tools for classroom collaboration.

 

Considering that Google apps are widely used in the workplace, being able to use them fluently will help students build career readiness.

 

  1. Wikipedia

An online encyclopaedia that’s available absolutely free, Wikipedia, or Wiki, has something on just about everything under the sun. At the last count, it had over 5 million English articles, and that number continues to grow. So, as part of university work, if you need to have some generalised information on any topic, Wiki is the place to visit.

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

frantic
Form : adjective
Meaning : done quickly, especially in a way that is not well organised
Example : The firemen made a frantic attempt to save people from the fire.

 

unwind
Form : verb
Meaning : to stop worrying and start to relax
Example : After a long day’s work, Sam likes to unwind for some time.

 

on top of (something)
Form : phrase
Meaning : be in control of what is happening
Example : It’s important to stay on top of things when you manage a large team.

 

lend a hand
Form : phrase
Meaning : to help someone
Example : Can you please lend me a hand with this bag, it’s very heavy?

 

 

readiness
Form : noun
Meaning : the state of being prepared for something
Example : Schools can help build career readiness in children by teaching them computer skills.

 

under the sun
Form : phrase
Meaning : used to emphasize that something includes a large number of things
Example : He has tried everything under the sun to lose weight, but it just hasn’t happened.

 

at the last count
Form : phrase
Meaning : according to the latest information regarding the numbers of something
Example : He had hit 47 goals for the season at the last count.

 

How to Choose a Career (You Will Enjoy)

icecream

Image courtesy of Melody Hansen (CC Flickr)

 

Choice Anxiety

Choosing a career, like many things in life, can seem like a daunting prospect. In some countries you’re expected to have an idea of what you want to do as early as 14 years old!

After that it’s hard work towards a university place and finally off to 50 years of work in your chosen profession. This can seem like a lot of pressure and to make big life decisions before you’re really aware of these things!

At such young ages, it is often our parents who have a large say in what we’re doing – though that’s not always the case or indeed a bad thing! But some realism is needed here, as we can’t always know how our tastes, opinions and curiosities will change as we move into adulthood and the world of work.

But how to find a career that you enjoy in the long run? There’s no one answer, but here are a few suggestions…

 

It’s ok to be confused

I think this is often overlooked, but it can help to ease the anxiety that we (and society) place on finding that ‘dream’ job. Perhaps it’s hard not to feel pressure when you see friends or siblings doing well, but I think it’s fair to say that the majority of people are confused – even if they don’t look it! So don’t pile extra pressure on yourself.

 

Find what you like to do – this will help

It’s not particularly surprising, but finding the thing(s) that make you happy is a breakthrough in itself. The more you do, the more likely opportunities to get paid for it will come along. This won’t work for everything, of course, but think in the same ‘ball-park’ and things will become clearer.

 

Transferrable skills

Perhaps the idea of a career is outdated, except for truly vocational and highly specialised professions, such as doctor or lawyer. So, studying medicine or law might be the only way for someone to work in those two professions, of course.

But studying either law or medicine will undoubtedly give you skills and knowledge that could be applied elsewhere – as a health correspondent or legal adviser in the charity sector for instance.

The most important thing here is that there are a multitude of careers and jobs out there that required a range of skills. If you’re not sure what you want to do in the long-term – don’t worry! So long as you are picking up transferrable skills and keeping an interest in a wide range of things, something will happen further down the line.

 

Try it out

Shop around. Be bold. Ask for advice and make it easy for people to let you help out. Talk to people who are doing the sorts of jobs you’re interested in and ask them how they got there. Impress them with your curiosity and knowledge! All of these things will give you a better idea of what’s required for certain careers and what the reality of the day-to-day work is.

IELTS Reading: Dealing with Difficult Question Types (Part 2)

bookshelf

Image courtesy of poppet with a camera (CC Flickr)

 

In the earlier part, we discussed how best to answer an IELTS Reading question most people find difficult – identifying information (True/False/Not Given).

 

Let’s now look at another that many find hard – Matching headings to paragraphs.

Here, candidates are given a list of headings and a text with about 6 to 8 paragraphs (or sections). They have to identify the right heading for each paragraph.

 

Here’s a simplified version of this question type.

 

Reading text

Elephants are gigantic creatures that can grow over 12 feet tall and weigh as much as 7 tonnes. They are herbivorous, feasting on vegetation such as leaves, twigs, roots, and grass. However, the quantities consumed are huge, and understandably so – an adult elephant needs about 150 kilos of food a day to survive. These large mammals may be broadly classified into two species – the African elephant and the Asian elephant. Though the African variety is slightly larger and wrinklier than its Asian counterpart, both are mammoth and possess brute strength. Their trunk, for example, can withstand weights of approximately 300 kilos.

 

Choose the correct heading for this paragraph from the list of headings below.

 

 
List of Headings
i Why African elephants are superior to their Asian cousins
ii The might of elephants
iii A varied diet and its benefits

 

 

 

 

Tips to answer

This question type checks the test taker’s ability to differentiate main ideas from supporting ones, so you must learn to identify the main theme in a paragraph. Also, before choosing a heading, make sure the key words in it agree with the information in the paragraph.

 

The paragraph details the size and strength of elephants, so the correct heading is: ii The might of elephants.

 

Although the text compares African and Asian elephants, the focus is on how both species are huge and strong, despite some physical differences. So, heading i is wrong. Similarly, there’s mention of the elephant’s diet, but it’s a supporting idea. Also, the text doesn’t talk about how elephants benefit from eating a variety of food, so heading iii is wrong.

 

Remember, identifying the central theme of a paragraph is the key to cracking this question type.

 

GLOSSARY

 

differentiate (A from B)
Form : verb
Meaning : to understand that two things are not the same
Example : His paintings are so similar that I can’t differentiate one from another.

 

detail
Form : verb
Meaning : to list all the information about something
Example : The article details how red wine is produced at our farm.

 

diet
Form : noun
Meaning : the food and drink that a person or an animal eats regularly
Example : Micah’s dog is on a diet of brown bread and milk.

 

crack (something)
Form : verb
Meaning : to find a way to do something that is difficult
Example : The police are trying hard to crack the case of the missing boy.

 

Too Busy? How to De-stress and Achieve More

via GIPHY

 

Exams can be stressful – in fact, we need a bit of stress to help us perform to the best of our abilities.

 

But, attempts to be the best at everything we do, can lead to more stress than is good for us.

We think we are bound to achieve more if we can only do more – cram more and more into our schedules, juggle work and study, learn a new language – and the list goes on…

While this can work a some of the time, and we proudly boast to our friends that we are ‘just so busy’; in actual fact we are overdoing it and forgetting to find time for those things that we need to help us de-stress and achieve more.

 

Here are a couple of things to remember to help you find that balance:

 

You can’t do everything all at once

Trying to achieve a lot with the time you have is good. But if you think about it, multitasking means you can’t give your whole focus to one thing, so everything ends up below the high standard you’re aiming for.

Just focusing on one thing at a time however, can make best use of your time and allow you to do that one thing really well.

We can’t all spin plates like this guy, you know.

 

 

 

Give yourself time to unwind

Your body and brain need to recharge so they can work at their best. It is a simple thing, but we can all forget it and find ourselves slumped over our keyboard/books in the small hours of the morning. It’s better to get decent rest.

That doesn’t mean that every second of the day should be non-stop action either. Just as our bodies couldn’t run from morning til night without a break, our brains need moments throughout the day to wonder off and daydream.

Doing this means when we want to (like exams), we can sharper our focus and attention.

 

How to Get a Part-time Job as an International Student (Part 2)

choices

Image courtesy of Caleb Roenigk/Flickr

 

In the previous part, we spoke of four key skills (communication, customer service, time management, and numeracy) that could increase your chances of finding a part-time job in an English-speaking country.

 

Here are four more such skills that make you productive at work:

 

  1. Cultural awareness

In today’s business environment, it is common for an individual to work alongside people from different cultures. And where there are differences, people need to adapt. After all, a person’s culture influences their communication style and behaviour, so not being culturally sensitive can lead to problems. What is considered appropriate in one culture – for instance, regular eye contact during a conversation – may be thought of as rude in another.

 

  1. Working under pressure

Work and pressure go hand in hand; clearly, the way you handle pressure may decide just how well you perform a particular role. Do you, for example, panic if a long queue builds up in front of you? Or do you just remain calm, smile at customers, and continue working? The ability to perform effectively under pressure is priceless in certain jobs, especially customer-facing roles.

 

  1. IT skills

Given that most workplaces are computerised these days, the ability to use IT systems a prerequisite for most jobs, full- or part-time. If you are good at using computer software and internet-based tools, make sure it features prominently on your CV.

 

  1. Commercial awareness

This means an interest in the wider environment (customers, competitors, suppliers, etc.) in which a company operates. If you have commercial awareness, then you are in a way exhibiting your knowledge of a particular industry and the issues it’s facing.

 

Remember, companies nowadays weigh up applicants by looking for examples of these skills, so the more skills you have, the better your chances are of getting hired!

 

 

GLOSSARY

 

alongside
Form : preposition
Meaning : together with someone, in the same place
Example : During the war, some brave women fought alongside soldiers.

 

adapt
Form : verb
Meaning : to change your behaviour so that it suits a new situation or environment
Example : People sometimes have to adapt a lot after marriage.

 

hand in hand
Form : phrase
Meaning : if two things go hand in hand, they are closely connected
Example : Alcoholism and poor health go hand in hand.

 

panic
Form : verb
Meaning : to be unable to think clearly because you are frightened
Example : Molly panicked when she saw smoke coming out of the washing machine.

 

prerequisite
Form : noun
Meaning : something that must happen or exist before something else
Example : Practice is a prerequisite to successful learning of any language.

 

 

 

 

weight someone up
Form : phrasal verb
Meaning : to form an opinion of someone, especially by watching or speaking to them
Example : The security guard weighed me up as I walked into the lobby.

 

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