A-LEC helps students plan for success at semester’s end

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A SMU student studies in the library. (Photo credit: SMU A-LEC)

Madisen Reid had never stepped into the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center (A-LEC) before Thursday. Extra credit was up for grabs in Reid’s Reading and Learning Strategies course. While many of her peers attended the A-LEC’s “Plan A Successful Finish” workshop just to gain some extra points, Reid found that she was leaving with much more.

“This is a place I would definitely recommend to all my friends who I know are struggling in different courses,” Reid said after the workshop.

About a dozen students filed into the A-LEC’s computer lab with Reid to learn how to better prepare for this semester’s finals. With their exam schedules in hand, students created a detailed study plan for the upcoming weeks with assistance from A-LEC Learning Specialist LaTina Jackson.

“Around this period the stress and anxiety is high,” Jackson said in an interview after the workshop. “The goal is to keep the stress and anxiety down so that when test day comes, it doesn’t explode.”

Jackson said that she sees students struggle through finals without a plan far too often. She encourages them to write down their schedule and plan out when they will study weeks in advance, which is exactly what students at the workshop were tasked with doing.

“It gives you a broad overview of everything so you don’t get overwhelmed in the moment,” Reid said during the workshop.

Students in attendance were provided an exam management packet containing an exam schedule, a test planner and a planner specifically for exam week. Each form taught students time management skills and gave them an outlook of the weeks ahead.

Jackson said students often approach studying for exams the wrong way. In a perfect world, students would begin studying far enough in advance to dedicate equal time to each exam. Jackson said most students study for their exams in chronological order when they should be allowing more time for subjects they find more challenging.

“I’m a more English, verbal type person, so for me numbers do not come easy,” Reid said. “Statistics is probably the test I’m more worried about as finals approach.”

Her final in microeconomics has accounting major Delia Xu the most concerned.

“I think I know the definition very well, but when I actually do the questions, I really struggle with that,” she said.

For those concerned with math-related subjects, Jackson suggests students time themselves while doing problem sets in order to increase timeliness and accuracy.

For other subjects, Jackson recommended flashcards, Cornell notes, memory games, brain dumps, and even word association. She said students should use a different study method for every subject as a way of retaining and compartmentalizing information.

What’s the biggest mistake Jackson sees students making this time of the semester?

“Believing that I’m going to re-learn everything in a short period of time,” she said. “I get a lot of students who come in with the panic of, ‘It’s just overwhelming, I have too much, I don’t know where to start.’”

Jackson believes that some students are too hesitant to ask for help, choosing to face exam week on their own.

“We’re here to help you, for that college freshman and that senior,” Jackson said. “You don’t have to do it alone, that’s why we’re here.”

Reid said she heard that message loud and clear during her first visit to the A-LEC and that she will be back for more.

“I see it’s a valuable resource that we have on campus that I will definitely start using in the following years I’m on campus,” said Reid.

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