Category Archives: Reflections

02 Feb 2018

The PQRST Method of Studying

The PQRST Method of Studying

 This is a method of reading a textbook so that the information you read really does enter your long term memory. It is based on work by Thomas and H. A. Robinson, Spache and Berg and R. P .Robinson. Its sometimes cryptically known as SQ3R.

So what can it do?

The method has been shown to improve a readers understanding, and his/her ability to recall information. In other words, the reader is more likely to learn, and to learn more, of the material he/she is reading. If you use this method, reading won’t be a waste of your time.

How does it work?

In this method you follow five steps – Preview, Question, Read, Self-recite and Test (PQRST). The middle three steps apply to every section within a chapter whilst the first and last steps apply to the chapter itself. You may find that many textbooks are compiled in a way which makes this method easy to apply, using an introductory passage, and questions at the end.

The diagram below illustrates the method:

  1. PREVIEW an assignment by scanning it.  Read the chapter outline at the beginning of the chapter.  Pay attention to the headings of the sections and subsections.  Read the summary.  The point is to get an idea of the main topics and sections of the chapter.
  2. QUESTION As you read through each section, start by asking yourself “what am I supposed to learn in this section”. This helps to get your brain in to sync with the topic being discussed.
  3. READ. Next, actually read that section. Do it carefully, think about the meaning and relate this to other things you know about this and similar topics. Do some underlining or highlighting of key words. Don’t overdo it! If you want to take notes, read the whole section first, and then summarize it later.
  4. SELF-RECITATION requires that you try to remember the main points of each section and that you say them out loud (if possible) to yourself. Check back against the text, and note the things you missed out. Ensure that you didn’t miss them because you haven’t learnt them. Only then go on to the next section and Question again.
  5. TEST yourself after you have finished the entire chapter.  How many of the main ideas from the chapter can you remember? Think about the relevance of what you learnt and how it all fits together. Reread any chapter summaries. Even though you have only just read the chapter, now is the best time to test yourself.

 

12 Jan 2018

How Do YOU Learn?

 

Most of us can learn anything we put our minds to.  However, we have a preferred way of learning. Get to know your learning style and study in the ways you learn best.

Everyone has a mix of learning styles. Some people may find that they have a dominant style of learning while others may find that they use different styles in different circumstances. There is no right mix. Nor are your styles fixed.

There are Seven Learning Styles

  1. Visual (spatial): You prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  2. Aural (auditory-musical): You prefer using sound and music.
  3. Verbal (linguistic): You prefer using words, both in speech and writing.
  4. Physical (kinesthetic): You prefer using your body, hands and sense of touch.
  5. Logical (mathematical): You prefer using logic, reasoning and systems.
  6. Social (interpersonal): You prefer to learn in groups or with other people.
  7. Solitary (intrapersonal): You prefer to work alone and use self-study.

Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn.

Strategies to use, depending on your preferred learning style:

Visual Learners

  • Use graphics to reinforce learning­­, films, slides, illustrations, and diagrams.
  • Color coding to organize notes and possessions.
  • Write out directions.
  • Use flow charts and diagrams for note taking.
  • Visualizing spelling of words of facts to be memorized.

 

Auditory Learners

  • Use tapes for reading and for class and lecture notes.
  • Learn by interviewing or by participating in discussions.
  • Have test questions or directions read aloud or put on tape.

 

Kinesthetic Learners

  • Experimental learning (making models, doing lab work, and role playing).
  • Take frequent breaks in study periods.
  • Trace letters and words to learn spelling and remember facts.
  • Use computer to reinforce learning through sense of touch.
  • Memorize or drill while walking or exercising.

Express abilities through dance, drama, or gymnastic

02 Jan 2018

Stress… What it is and how to make it work for you

The Oxford English Dictionary defines stress as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”.

Any one preparing for the standardized college admissions test knows that this definition is a perfect description of the feelings and emotions created by these tests.  But did you know that stress that is managed could actually be a good thing?

A 1979 London research study recognized that stress could be beneficial. Yes, you read that correctly – beneficial! The benefits of stress can be found in two main ways; First, stress can actually enhance performance and, secondly, stress from challenges, not threats, invite physiological responses that improves thinking by making the heart beat faster, adrenaline surge, the brain sharper and the body release a different mix of stress hormones which aid in learning.

You can rethink stress by understanding that it is a normal response when we care about what’s at stake.

Since stress is unavoidable, working out how to harness it may be wiser than trying to eliminate it.

Embarking on a mindful approach to the test prep process might sound hokey, or perhaps like a way of complicating a process that is pretty straightforward: study the material, take practice tests, get results. But being mindful is a practical and subtle way of managing stress – AND it puts YOU in control.

So… How can you be “mindful”

  1. Become aware of your thoughts. There’s a little voice in your head that’s talking to you constantly. 
What is it saying? How do the thoughts make you feel?
  2. Take a breath. When you become aware of a thought (any thought, positive or negative) take a breath. Let your thoughts come and go without analyzing them. Be aware of what happens to the feelings caused by stress?

Let your breath serve as a cue for you to be fully present in this moment. On the next exhalation imagine any tension in your body flowing out through the soles of your feet into the air. Let your tension go on the exhalation and on the inhalation breathe in relaxation.

  1. Guided Imagery. Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that utilizes the power of the imagination and all of the senses – what we feel, see, hear, taste, and smell – to create a relaxing scene. Guided imagery can be used to visualize positive outcomes, especially in stressful situations. For instance, if a student is anxious about an upcoming test, she imagines going through it in a calm and relaxed manner beforehand. This is called a mental rehearsal.
  2. Positive Affirmations. Positive statements can help students feel less stressed and more in control of their emotions. Examples of positive affirmations are:
    • I feel calm
    • I am confident
    • I can do well
    • Let go of (anxiety, fear, tension, etc)
  3. Question your thoughts. If your thoughts are of self-doubt or self-criticism, replace the latter part of the “What if” proposition with a positive quality that relates to the specific situation or preceding thought. Ask yourself:
  • What if I’m good enough?
  • What if I’m smart enough?
  • What if I have what it takes?
  • What if I succeed?
  1. Be willing to see the situation differently. There are objective facts about the college admissions process. There are tests (the SAT and ACT) for which you can prepare. College admissions officers will consider your test scores when evaluating your application. How you relate
to these objective facts is up to you. When you feel stressed out, anxious, or scared, tell yourself “I am willing to see this situation differently.” Keep an open mind, and stay willing to be positive and relaxed.

Test prep is a process, but when you bring your whole self to the experience, amazing things can happen.

 

 

21 Oct 2017

Joining 25 Clubs Isn’t The Move: How To Handle Extracurriculars

So you’re in your junior year of high school, freaking out about how few extra-curricular activities you have compared with your friends, and you promptly join 25 clubs. We’re going to stop you right there.

Joining some clubs? Well, that’s a good thing. Colleges like to see that you’re interested in causes, subjects and ideas outside of the classroom. Captain of the Academic Quiz Bowl team? Great! Student council member? Awesome!

But when you join 25 clubs in an effort to show colleges how involved you are in the world, their skepticism begins to grow.

Nobody, and by that we literally mean nobody, has the time, range of interest, or empathy to truly care about and be active in so many clubs. You know that. And more importantly, colleges know that.

What they do want to see is a narrative. If you’re interested in writing, college admissions officers should read your app and say:

“Oh, this kid Jimmy loves writing. He’s a contributor to the school’s literary magazine, is president of the school’s Book Club, took a creative writing class over the summer, and won a Scholastic writing award for one of his poems. He’s also on the varsity tennis team and is a Latin Affairs club member, which is awesome. But most of all, he’s a writer.”

Get the picture? Joining a reasonable number of clubs that make sense in the context of your larger interests will make your application more attractive to Admissions Officers. They want to understand who you are. Listing as many random clubs as possible won’t help them do that.

So, join clubs that align with your interests. Be an active member. And make sure the clubs you join create a plausible, compelling narrative.

 

04 Oct 2013

The Wonderlic

For better or worse, college football has become a multi-billion dollar industry, and more than ever, players are being likened closer to employees than students. There is even a popular movement among ex-college athletes and fans to allow performance-based compensation for student-athletes at top tier universities. Obviously this trend is a bit disconcerting considering that these student-athletes are, first and foremost, students, and receive full scholarships to attend their respective universities. But, as fall turns to winter and winter to spring, those student athletes worthy enough to be invited to the NFL combine will be forced to demonstrate more than just their physical prowess to gain admission into the rarified air of the NFL… All athletes invited to the combine are required to take an SAT-like test known affectionately by football fans simply as the Wonderlic.

The Wonderlic Cognitive Ability Test is a 12 minute, 50 question exam designed to assess aptitude, analytical thinking, and has been employed by the NFL for the last 40 years. Interestingly, many player scores and questions are in the public domain, meaning that neither Dallas Cowboys corner back, Morris Claiborne, will ever be able to live down his 4, nor will Tennessee Titans quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, escape the shadow of his 48. So, in the interest of welcoming fall and football back into our lives, and with popular fall SAT dates drawing nigh, we offer an educational break to compete against some of your favorite (or least favorite) Sunday players. For an added SAT boost, stay true to the clock. The hardest aspect of the wonderlic may very well be the time limit, which provides a perfect opportunity to practice budgeting your time on test day!

Attached are links to previous exams as well as a list of memorable scores in modern football history.

Good luck 😉

Wonderlic Test

Memorable Scores

27 Aug 2013

What your IPod says about your SAT scores.

Famous (or infamous) hacker and WikiScanner creator, Virgil Griffith, completed an interesting project mapping out a correlation between SAT scores and Music preference.  Albeit not the most scientific of studies, Virgil creatively aggregated students’ self-reported music preferences on Facebook, and plotted them against their schools’ average SAT scores.

Even more interesting than his methodology, are his results.  Virgil scientifically (well, sort of) established a link between Lil Wayne and Pitbull’s mind numbing music and actual mind numbing.  According to his data, students who listed Lil Wayne as a favorite musician score the worst on the SAT – roughly in the 30th percentile (that’s below 900 using only Critical Reading & Math scores).  Soca and Nickleback listeners don’t perform much better with average scores hovering around 900 and 996 respectively.  I guess Nickleback’s lead vocalist, Chad Kroeger, wasn’t kidding when he whined “I never made it as a wise man”. Musicians that top the list are Counting Crows, Radiohead, and Sufjan Stevens (no huge surprise considering his tendency to pepper lyrics with words like eminent and futile).

Of course these findings may be completely correlative and not causative, but it probably doesn’t hurt to occasionally forego the Lil Wayne in favor of some Sufjan Stephens or Counting Crows to get those synapses firing before test day.  Plus a cool chart is a cool chart, as my grandmother always used to say.

Check out where your musical preferences place your SAT scores after the break!

 

http://img.labnol.org/files/music-that-makes-you-dumb.png

23 Aug 2013

Success in Small Envelopes: The Silver Lining of College Rejection

With colleges accepting fewer and fewer students and application pools overflowing, the possibility of receiving the coveted “big envelope” of admission is becoming as slim as the dreaded rejection envelope.  Although the goal is and always will be to receive an offer of admission from your “dream school” the consequences of rejection are not nearly as life ending as one may fear.  As highschoolers across the country begin the arduous process of brainstorming, drafting, redrafting, scrapping, and rehashing college applications, it is important to keep perspective on what its all for.  The college application process is not simply a game to be won, but a journey to find a school that matches the interests, talents, convictions and goals of an applicant.  In several cases, initial rejection has been the springboard that has launched the most famously successful into careers with big payouts.

 

Steven Spielberg

Billionaire Director of our most iconic movies of the last two decades tops our list with a grand total of three rejections… from the same school.  Steven Spielberg was so convinced that the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts was the first and most essential stop on his way to silver screen success that he applied and was rejected on three separate occasions.  Obviously, the Jurassic Park, Terminator, E.T., Saving Private Ryan and Shindler’s List Director found an alternative road to success, capturing five Oscars and countless imaginations along the way.  Today, Spielberg holds an honorary degree from USC and sits on the schools Board of Trustees – who’s laughing now?

 

Meredith Viera

Beloved anchor of the Today Show, and one time host of hit television series “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”, Viera was turned away from Harvard’s doors hat in hand.  Viera later enrolled at  nearby Tufts University where she met her mentor who offered her an internship that inspired her to pursue a very successful career in broadcast journalism.  Had she not been initially been rejected from Harvard, she “doubts [she] would have pursued a career in journalism.”

 

John Kerry

Former Democratic nominee for President of the United States, long sitting senator, and current Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry has not always been the lauded leader of the more liberal party we know today.  In 1962, he was one of many gangly teenagers to have a dream crushed by the Harvard University admissions committee.  When asked about his rejection, Kerry stated, “I never would have fit in at a total jock school.”   But, the lure of Harvard held strong – in 1973, Kerry tried and failed again to attend Harvard, this time, as a law student. Sec. Kerry took his talents first to Yale University and then to Boston College Law School, going on to become one of the most respected and long serving legislators of the last few decades.  Of course, marrying someone with the last name Heinz didn’t hurt.

 

Warren Buffet

The Oracle of Oklahoma, the CEO of value inventing, and the world’s most well known and oft imitated investor, Warren Buffet joins our list of “rejects”.  Similarly Crimson-ly challenged, Buffet was rejected from Harvard Business School at the age of 19.  Looking back, he say’s “Harvard wouldn’t have been a good fit. But at the time, I had this feeling of dread”.  Ultimately, Buffet landed at the prestigious Columbia Business School where legendary investors, Benjamin Graham and David Dodd, mentored and influenced the young tycoon’s investing approach.  By 2008, Buffet’s schooling and intellect had resulted in $62 billion in investments and he is considered one of the pre-eminent market movers… in the world.  Take that Harvard!

 

Tom Brokaw

Nightly news legendary anchor, Tom Brokaw has reported and recorded his fair share of failures.  Brokaw, who self describes himself as majoring in “partying and co-eds” while completing his undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa was shocked when he received his rejection letter from Harvard’s Journalism school.  The former anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News called his rejection from Harvard “the initial stumble” that was “critical in getting me launched.” According to the Wall Street Journal, the denial was instrumental in inspiring the revered newsman to commit to journalism… and to stop partying so much!

 

Ted Turner

Finally, Ted Turner, the most famous undereducated success story of… hmmm, maybe ever.  Mr. Turner, who attended Brown University for 3 years, never earned a collegiate degree of any kind (though he was awarded an honorary B.A. from Brown 1989).  After his Junior year, Turner was forced to move back home to manage his late father’s billboard business, and managed to grow it into the multinational multi billion dollar cable news conglomerate, CNN.  The rest as they say is history.

09 Oct 2012

Five Ways to De-stress after the SAT

High school seniors: How did this Saturday’s administration of the SAT go?

Wait! Don’t answer that!

Why?

…Because now that the test is over, you should be focused on de-stressing. After all, scores won’t be released for another three weeks! Why get all worked up evaluating your test-performance when you don’t even know your grade?

Yes. I thought you would agree with me. That’s why I wrote this blog entry on five ways to de-stress after the SAT. With these strategies, you can decompress and remain relaxed while you wait for your scores.

1.)
Let go of your mistakes

Pencils down!  Turn in the test. Take a deep breath and… Crap! I just remembered the meaning of that vocab word! And it was the answer! Or: Shoot! I should have used the Pythagorean Theorem to solve that math problem I left blank!

An especially crappy aspect of the SAT is that we tend to realize our mistakes once the test is over—and obsess about them endlessly. While reflecting on your test experience is important, it is NOT useful to consume yourself with questions missed. This is because fixating on questions bombed without also acknowledging those we aced can lead us to think we failed the test. In reality, we probably did just fine.

If you truly believe you BOMBED the test (as in, you didn’t answer the questions, got a vomit-inducing migraine, or wrote your essay on Fifty Shades of Gray) you can cancel your scores. Once you decide to do this, however, there is no going back. You must accept this decision without regret, and then start prepping for the next SAT.

2.)
Grab lunch with friends

The only fun part of the SAT is eating lunch when it’s over. Once dismissed from the test-site, head to the diner with a few of your friends to eat and laugh off post-SAT stress.

3.)
Exercise or Meditate

Exercise is a fantastic way to let go of stress built up during the exam. Not only does exercise trigger the brain to produce endorphins (natural, mood-enhancing hormones) but exercise also requires you to focus on your body’s movements in the present moment—that is, away from the SAT. Finally, exercise is literally exhausting. After a good workout, you’ll simply feel too tired to worry about how you scored on the SAT.

Meditation is also an excellent way to dispense with stress accrued through the day. My last blog entry focused on the benefits of meditation for students. Without restating the whole thing here, I will say that meditation teaches us to accept and let go of frustrations and mistakes. Like exercise, meditation also commands deep, unwavering focus. If you are having trouble enacting de-stressing technique #1, meditation should help you let go of your mistakes and tolerate uncertainty about your scores.

4.)
Spend some time with the television  

Months of test-prep on top of regular school work, socializing, and extracurricular activities means you probably missed out on a lot of TV. Celebrate the fact that the SAT is done by watching a movie/TV or by doing another completely passive (but thoroughly relaxing) activity.

Even if you’re planning to test again, allow yourself a couple of study-free days to enjoy some free time and bathe in the television’s soft blue glow.

5.)
Remind yourself that all will be fine—even if you bombed the SAT.

As much as the SAT matters… it really doesn’t matter.

Solid SAT scores are a vital part of your application to college, but it’s important to remember that admissions officials also consider your grades, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and personal statement. In other words, the SAT is not the be-all and end-all that determines your fate.

Even if lower-than-desired SAT scores keep you from admission to your top-choice school, you may find yourself at a college better suited to your interests, current academic skillset, and style of learning. In this case, lower-than-desired SAT scores would actually have benefited your personal, social, and academic growth.

The SAT means working hard to do your best on a grueling test, and then putting the experience behind you. Now that the test is over, you should rejoice! No matter your score, you should feel proud of yourself; you have just completed a necessary step on the pathway to college.

 

Glossary
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

Accrue: to accumulate

24 Jul 2012

Should you study while listening to music?

Imagine that it’s late at night and you’re driving down an empty, abandoned road. You’d really like to accelerate to 60 miles per hour and go for a joyride, but there is literally a stop sign at every corner. You can’t gain speed because you’re constantly coming to a complete stop.

This is basically what happens when you listen to stimulating music while studying. Music—filled with changing notes, fluxing tempos, and passionate lyrics—periodically begs you to pay attention. Every time the music catches your ear, you are interrupted from your studies. As a result, it becomes harder to achieve that state of deep, meditative focus necessary to painlessly, efficiently and meaningfully complete your work.

In this blog entry, I will explain the drawbacks and benefits of studying while listening to music. Following this, I will provide suggestions for creating a playlist that is appropriate for study.

Multitasking… it’s a myth!

True focus requires total absorption in the assignment at hand. When engrossed in a task, we become completely ignorant of irrelevant information. We forget our bodies, our surroundings and we lose sense of time. This is because the brain is simply incapable of paying attention to more than one thing at once. Multitasking, in other words, is an urban myth.

Eric Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, explained this concept in an interview for NPR. According to Miller, when we think we are multitasking, we are actually quickly but completely switching focus between different things. Attempting to do two things at once thus does not heighten your productivity; it slows you down because each task is to the other a distraction.

And so, the verdict is in…
Listening to music while studying is distracting!

A 2010 study confirms that the pitfalls of multitasking apply to studying while listening to music. The study assessed the impact of different noise climates on young adults’ ability to memorize and recall a list of letters. Subjects were tested in silence, while listening to music, while listening to a voice repeat the number three, or while listening to a voice recite random numbers.

The study found that participants were best able to memorize the list when studying in silence or while listening to the voice repeat the number three. By contrast, participants did poorly if they had studied while listening to music or to a voice reciting random numbers. In short, the study suggests that predictable noise conditions nurture concentration. Whereas monotonous repetition is easily tuned out, stimulating and interesting sounds are distracting.

…But are there any benefits to hitting the books with headphones on?

Because we learn best in predictable, un-stimulating noise conditions and we’re fundamentally incapable of concentrating on two things at once, we can safely conclude that studying to music is a bad idea. So, why do many students still do it?

Just as white noise can help the sleepless rest, music may bring focus to students who are bombarded by disruptive thoughts. In addition, music can help us tune out chaotic surroundings. For such students, music is an agent of seclusion and a shield against distraction.

Research from the 1990s has also suggested that listening to music—especially classical music—helps the brain transfer newly learned information to long-term memory. Such research proposes that the brain processes information more effectively when both the right and left hemispheres of the brain are activated. Whereas studying excites the left hemisphere of the brain, classical music activates the right.

This research further submits that listening to music excites the senses, elevates mood and reduces blood pressure, heart rate and stress. In short, listening to music primes the mind for methodical study.

So, listening to music while studying is distracting AND beneficial?! What should I do???

To increase motivation and avoid distraction, students should assemble a study playlist that consists mainly of pleasant but monotonous sounds. These sounds will readily fade to background noise while also blocking distracting thoughts and surroundings. Some suggestions include:

Exciting music has a place in our study playlist too. As we saw above, stimulating music simultaneously reduces stress and energizes the mind; in short, it prepares you to study. Therefore, for maximum results, students should BEGIN their playlists with ear-catching instrumental songs. Listen to these songs before you begin to study in earnest. Including one such song to mark every hour of your playlist will also signal your mind to take an occasional rest.

Some awesome and exciting (mostly) instrumental artists to check out:

You are now prepared to create the ultimate study playlist! However, don’t forget to experiment by studying to different artist and songs!

17 Jul 2012

Seven Great Foods for Stressed Students

Worried about schoolwork, college apps, or standardized tests? Why not eat your way to a calmer, more focused state of mind?

Studies show that eating certain foods can reduce stress and boost students’ performance on tests and in school. In this blog entry, I will provide information on seven such foods. Get ready to get snacking!

1. Carbohydrates!

 Ah, carbs—our kindest, most empathetic food. Eating a bunch of carbs when you’re stressed or sad is like getting a big hug from Mother Nature. This is because carbohydrates encourage the brain to produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical that regulates depression and anxiety.

It’s best to eat complex carbohydrates including whole-grain breads and pastas, oatmeal, brown rice and millet. Because they digest more slowly than white carbs, complex carbohydrates will also boost your  focus without resulting in an energy crash later on.

2. Oranges and Blueberries!

 Fruits like oranges and blueberries with a high concentration of vitamin C help reduce stress hormones like cortisol. In addition, blueberries are chock-full of anthocyanin compounds, which protect brain neurons linked to memory.

One 2010 study found that older adults who drank 2.5 cups of blueberry juice daily for two months improved their scores on learning and memory  tests by 20%. Studies involving rats have also shown that eating blueberries leads to improved learning ability and motor skills.

3. Fish oil tablets!

I could spend about 10 blog entries raving about fish oil’s myriad benefits. In addition to preventing heart disease, clarifying acne, aiding weight loss and promoting healthy hair, fish oil will guarantee your calm and focus.

Fish oil is replete with omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Such fatty acids are not only necessary for our bodies to function, but they also treat depression, anxiety and ADHD. In general, fish oil aids one’s ability to concentrate, calm down and think clearly.

Fatty fish like salmon, anchovies and tuna contain high levels of DHA and EPA, but they also contain too much mercury for us to eat them very often. By taking a daily fish oil supplement, you will ensure your brain’s fill of these delicious fatty acids. Your brain will reward you with its highest performance.

Note: Small amounts of vitamin E are often added to fish oil tablets to prevent them from going rancid. When selecting your fish oil supplement, make sure that it contains vitamin E. Also, be sure to thoroughly research any supplement you consider to make sure all harmful chemicals—like mercury—have been removed.

4. Nuts and Seeds!

 Rich in vitamin E, nuts—especially almonds—spike cognitive acuity and combat anxiety. Nuts’ high fiber and beneficial fat content also makes them an excellent snack when you need an immediate, but slow-burning, energy boost.

Walnuts and flax seeds are also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids—just like fish oil!

Finally, sunflower seeds are a wonderful source of folate, which spurs dopamine production. Dopamine is a reward chemical in our brains that induces feelings of pleasure.

5. Coffee!

It’s true! Drinking 1–3 of cups of coffee each day is a great way to augment mental performance.

According to an article in Time Magazine, drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline—the chemical agent of intense focus. As a result, the well-rested individual who drinks caffeine is more able to concentrate on repetitive, boring tasks for extended periods of time. When you’re sleep deprived, you can count on caffeine to redeem your reaction time, concentration and logical reasoning abilities.

Drinking caffeine also promotes the release of dopamine, the chemical in our brains responsible for feelings of bliss and satisfaction. In keeping with this, drinking caffeine has been proven to improve mood and boost energy levels. Caffeine, in other words, can seriously motivate us to tackle our work!

Bonus: Research shows that drinking 2 cups of (strong) coffee per day helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Beware, however, of consuming caffeine and other stimulants when you’re stressed. If you’re already feeling slightly panicky and overexcited, a shot of espresso will NOT help you slow down, relax and focus.

If you need a boost but recoil at coffee’s taste, try dark chocolate! A generic cup of coffee contains about 130 mg. of caffeine. In comparison, a bar of regular dark chocolate (50–70% cocoa) contains about 70 mg. of caffeine. Dark chocolate is also loaded with flavonoids, a chemical with relaxing properties that is also found in chamomile tea.

6. Avocado!

Avocado is one of the hippest and happiest brain foods in town. The monosaturated fat in avocado benefits blood circulation. In turn, our brains function and think better.

Avocados are also full of potassium (half of an avocado has more potassium than a medium sized-banana!), which helps reduce high blood pressure—one of the symptoms of stress.

7. Water!

Not technically a food, but staying hydrated is essential for maintaining a good mood. Even slight dehydration can increase levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in the brain—a catch-22, since many symptoms of stress (like sweating, heavy breathing and increased heart-rate) cause your body to lose water.

Water also makes you smarter. According to a recent study, college students who brought water with them to an exam scored higher than students that did not. Although the study didn’t address how water spurred this spike, it certainly suggests that constant sipping will help you do better in school.

Glossary:
These Key SAT Words are Expertly Identified by Sentia Tutors

myriad: a very great number of things
acuity: sharpness; acuteness; keenness
augment: to make larger in size
recoil: to draw back in alarm, horror or disgust