The Dos and Don’ts of Standardized Testing

lsat_Los_angelesFrom MCATs to LSATs to RN certs to writing requirements, testing in college isn’t always limited to what’s seen on the syllabus. Students who wish to become certified in their industry, for example, must first do wellon rigorous, nationally standardized tests, and many colleges even have their own standardized tests that are required for graduation.

But it’s all much easier said than done. Especially when students try to pass these tests alongside a full class load and even fuller life load. To help get you started, here are some of the major dos and don’ts of standardized testing, from the planning phase to test time.

Do schedule heavily. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can squeeze in studying for your standardized test on the bus, during meals, or as a “break” from your regularly scheduled studying. Doing well on standardized tests when you’re already extremely busy starts with careful and written-out planning.

Don’t set a numerical goal. Tests differ every year. As such, historical scores, percentiles, and averages never really mean anything for your particular testing year. So rather than setting numerical goals and getting caught up in the statistics, ease the pressure and up the motivation by simply setting study goals.

Do make a study guide. Chances are you’ve been preparing for your standardized test long before you even signed up for it. So separate what you already know from what you still need help on by making a brief list of topics. Then, find old class notes and read up in review books to freshen up on material and address weaknesses.

Don’t do it alone. These days, there are endless resources to help students study for certifications and tests. Check out local study groups, tutors, online videos, forums, and practice tests. If you need assistance in locating the very best and the most affordable resources for your test, contact your Student Assistance Program.

Do strategize. A good test strategy starts with researching the ins and outs and “rules” of your particular test. If there are sections you know you’ll be better at, for example, plan on answering those questions first. If you know that there is no penalty for wrong answers, be prepared to take educated guesses. Any information you can get on the test can be turned into an advantage for you.

Don’t forget to relax. It can’t be overstated how hard it is to study for standardized tests on top of your classes. Take a break whenever you need to, vent to others, and don’t rule out putting off your test until the next cycle. The last thing you want is for your desire to do well on your test to come at the expense of everything else you having going on.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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Making the Most of Your Entry-Level Job

iStock_000006191773SmallIt doesn’t matter whether you have a doctorate, an associate’s, or are just beginning your higher education. Our careers all get their start in the same place: an entry-level job or internship.

But once you’ve gotten that job, how do you make sure you’re getting the most out of it and not just showing up to work everyday, working, and then leaving? The key is being open and ready to learn, not just to complete assignments. Here are the 5 best tips to getting more than just another line on your resume out of your first job.

Put no work beneath you

When you land your first internship or entry-level job, it’s natural to feel that you’ve made it big. But that doesn’t mean you’re too good to do certain tasks. Realize that filing, assisting, and runner duties are a common way for companies to gauge your enthusiasm, and that having the right attitude can go a long way in making your impression on coworkers.

Ask questions

Asking questions will not only increase the rate at which you learn about your company and your field, but it will show supervisors that you’re truly interested. Come to work each day with 3-5 solid questions (anything that requires more than a “yes” or “no” answer) and don’t be afraid to clarify instructions when you get assignments. It beats having to redo them because you misheard one step.

Plan your next steps

As you begin to learn more about the hierarchy within your company and industry, begin to ask coworkers about the paths they took to getting where they are now. Then, start to analyze where your personality, experience, and education fit into all of this and begin to plan your next step to getting into your dream job, area of education, or career field.

Take notes on what you’re doing

Your time at your first job can fly by. So when it’s all over, it can be difficult to recall everything you did while working when it comes time to update your resume. Make sure that with every new task you take on you are taking detailed notes of what you’re doing, what skills you’re acquiring, and what keywords you’re hearing.

Never say “no”

Beyond just assignments, it’s good policy to never turn down an opportunity to sit in on a meeting or join coworkers for lunch. Networking and hands-on experience are some of the biggest things a first job can offer you, and you’ll find that it isn’t really possible to suceed without putting yourself out there.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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Your Fall 2014 Bargain Textbook Guide

textbooksThe start of August means that for most students a new class schedule is just around the corner. And for those who want to avoid paying bookstore prices for their textbooks, it also means it’s time to start doing your homework. So to help you save the most money that you can on textbooks, we’ve compiled some of the best tips and sites for getting cheap textbooks.

Finalize your classes To avoid paying a premium to get last-minute textbooks, register for and finalize your class schedule as soon as possible. Once you have your classes, you can begin making a list of the books you’ll need and start cashing in on options that will become less available the longer you wait.

Check the library It makes sense to start with the options that require no payment at all. So before you do anything, check your school’s library to see if they have the book you’ll need available for check-out or on reserve. If you aren’t near a campus library, check your local library. If they don’t have it you can ask about getting a copy shipped there at no cost to you.

Check the internet If your local library system doesn’t carry your book, the virtual library – the internet – may. Do some quick searches for tablet versions and PDFs of your books that may have been uploaded by professors or schools. At the very least, there may be cheaper ebooks available to download.

Consider sharing If you know you’re going to be taking a class with a friend, or that he/she will be taking the course soon after you, consider splitting the cost of the book and taking turns using it, or studying together.

Ask about earlier editions When cheaper options for certain books are running thin, ask your professor about using an earlier edition. Chances are, the newest edition of the book has only changed slightly from the last so that you could get away with purchasing an older edition of the book and following along just fine.

Rent More and more every year students are turning to book rentals as a cheap textbook option. Renting is substantially cheaper than buying, and at the end of the year it’s one less book you have to worry about selling back to some third party. Make sure, though, that the book you rent is not something you’ll need for future classes in your area of study.

Buy used If your only option is to buy the current edition of a required book, buying used is your best option. Used books are available through many sites such as half.com, amazon.com, and chegg.com, and you can even compare prices by shopping through Google Books.

Need more advice on cheap school supplies? Ask ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, orYouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or emailinfo@acispecialtybenefits.com

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How to Nail Your Next Phone or Video Interview 

video-confrence

Video interviews can be intimidating if you’re not prepared.

Some people are relieved to find out their next job interview won’t be held in-person. Some become that much more petrified. Some take it as an excuse to not wear any pants.

Others, though, use the occasion as a chance to get a leg-up in their interview — a chance to use new media tools to separate themselves from the competition by being extra prepared. And, aside from being fully clothed in case you’re asked to stand up in video interviews (which does happen), there are many ways to do this. Here are a few of them:

Be extra attentive Don’t fall victim to approaching phone or video interviews with a more relaxed attitude. Instead, understand that being in a different location than your interviewer will require you to be even more alert. Be ready to anticipate lag time in your responses so that you don’t interrupt, observe interviewers’ facial expressions and body language, and look up files or answers your interview may expect you to have access to.

Check 1, 2 Unfortunately, just because your technology works most of the time doesn’t mean it will when you need it most. To combat technical difficulties, ask your interviewer which video software you’ll need and test it with a few calls to a friend. Also make sure that you know where you’ll do the interview so that you can test the reception or Wi-Fi connection.

Make a cheat sheet Phone and video interviews are here to stay. So you may as well take advantage of your so-called “invisibility” — the fact that interviewers can’t see your full environment. Before the interview, jot down a few notes about the company, what you would say to certain questions, and even an annotated resume so that you know exactly how you want to explain your skills.

Choose a fit environment Don’t just assume that you can do your interview in your room or usual workspace. Instead make sure that your interview area will provide a professional background, good lighting, and that your roommates or family will know when you need a certain space so that there isn’t any background movement or noise, which can turn off employers.

Follow-up With a firm handshake and other body language techniques out the window, it can be hard to stand out in remote interviews. That’s why following up your with your interviewer is so vital. Be sure to thank your interviewer for the opportunity following your meeting and also note that you’d welcome the chance to meet in person to make your enthusiasm felt, rather than just becoming another resume in the stack.

Need interview help? Ask ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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4 Steps to Better Listening

listening-1The world is a loud place. With constant web contact, advertising distractions, and noise just about everywhere, it’s hard to know what’s worth listening to. So how do you avoid tuning out conversation after conversation?

The answer is active listening — not just smiling and nodding, but listening closely so that you pick up the important things, remember them, and dismiss the things that aren’t as meaningful. Here are 5 steps to become a more active listener.

Step 1: Eye contact - Making eye contact with the speaker means you’ll hear everything — including what isn’t said, but gestured. By facing whoever you are listening to, you’ll naturally become more focused on what your professor or friend is saying, and be more keen to pick up nonverbal cues, which are often just as important as verbal ones, especially in the classroom.

Step 2: Welcome lulls – When studying in groups, forming questions, or even when engaging in everyday conversation, don’t think of pauses in talk as awkward. Instead, use the time to process what has just been said and how it relates to the bigger picture. This technique will allow you to form more substantial opinions and responses, and will prevent the conversation from becoming a “talking for talking’s sake” kind of dialogue.

Step 3: Don’t interrupt – It’s a lesson we’ve been told to follow since we uttered our first words, but one that can take decades to perfect. Waiting your turn to speak can become a vital part of making a good impression on professors, fellow students, and even employers. And aside from being a key factor in looking like you’re listening, the habit of not interrupting can make you less anxious to say your piece, and therefore more attentive.

Step 4: Picture words – As a student, much of the time you are listening, not actually speaking directly with someone, but rather sitting in a large classroom. During long periods of listening like this, forming mental connections between the speaker’s words with images you have in your own mind can help you remember the material. It may even help to make small graphics or images in your notes to help you quickly jot down memory devices while still keeping up with the lecture.

Find ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

HealthyU_Harry (1)

 

 

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What We Learned From The World Cup

2014-Fifa-World-Cup-final-drawThe 2014 FIFA World Cup has taught us quite a few things about soccer. To name a few, all dynasties come to an end, Lionel Messi is as great as we thought he was, and home-field advantage doesn’t always guarantee you a win.

But beyond sports, the World Cup has also taught us some valuable life lessons. And students, a population on their own four-year journey, are one group that can take away plenty of valuable ideas from the wins and losses and, of course, ties that have all led us to this Sunday’s final. Here are 4 of them:

Confidence is everything

In anything you do, confidence goes a long way to determine your success. Take the U.S. for example. The team wasn’t expected to make much noise at The Cup but, fueled by the mantra “I believe that we will win”, they were able to still advance to the knockout round. Similarly, in the classroom it is important not to spend your time stressing over what will happen if you fail, but instead do everything in your ability to succeed.

Pace yourself

Success in college is a long road. As such, it requires that you pace yourself and get all the rest you can, as well as stay planning for the future. Anticipating the bigger picture will help you have less late nights, more energy in the day, and more time to do the things that make you happy. Plus, tiring yourself out early can put more pressure on you come crunch time, as was the case in many extra-time World Cup games.

Don’t underestimate challenges

As it is often the case in World Cup play, the challenges that are perceived as the easiest end up being the hardest (see: any team that played Costa Rica). And usually it’s for that very reason: when we take challenges lightly, we allow our guard to be let down, or our efforts to even slack off a bit because we feel we can “catch up later”. This is a bad mistake. Don’t listen to those who try and tell you what’s easy and what isn’t and instead approach every challenge with respect and caution.

Celebrate

While college is all about working towards a larger goal, it is, at its core, simply a series of many smaller victories. So, as you set individual goals don’t forget to celebrate them whenever they are reached. Doing this will help you keep stress levels down and spirits high as well as serve as a motivating reminder of your progress.

What did you learn from the FIFA World Cup? Tell ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

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4 July Travel Tips

pocket-guide-fireworks-cool-places-cover

Pictured: the only fireworks you want to experience when you travel.

July is the time of longer days, less classes, and more downtime. It’s also the peak of the summer travel season, which means bigger crowds, longer waits, and higher prices at almost every destination. And if you’re a student, all these things likely strike fear into your heart.

But instead of letting the dog days of travelling derail your fun, anticipate the obstacles so you can better deal with them. Here are four travel tips to start with:

Get a tune-up

Before driving any kind of long-distance trip, perform a basic car tune-up or get one done professionally. Aside from making for a safer trip, having a smooth-running car makes for safer travel and can save you money by getting your car more miles to the gallon. Another road-trip measure that can save you money is to make sure your insurance is set up to allow for others to drive your car if you ever need to take a break.

Think like a local

The best way to avoid tourist traps is to avoid thinking like a tourist. Instead, get the most out of local resources by planning for trips as if you’re already there. Prepare for travel, for example, by checking your destination’s weather, anticipating driving directions, and even looking at traffic reports and be sure to check cities’ “classifieds” websites for Groupon deals or cheaper tickets to events and parks.

Bring a book

A good old fashioned book is a necessity for any summer vacation: It can make flights and car rides more bearable, laying around in the sun more enjoyable, and long wait times more productive. Having a good book on hand can also help you spend your down time unplugged from technology rather than being on a laptop or phone, which is how you likely spend much of the school year, anyway.

Make a budget

Nothing puts a damper on a vacation like having to worry over how much money you’ve spent right in the middle of it. This is exactly why making a budget can be such an important part to having a good travel experience. Predetermine how much money you want to spend during your vacation and split it up into a stipend amount for each day. Then, keep your receipts or make a mental log of how much you’ve spent each day so that you always know where you stand and there are no surprise costs when get home and check your balance.

How do you travel wisely in the summer? Tell ACI on Twitter at @ACISpecBenefits or on facebook, Google+, Pinterest, or YouTube. Also feel free to contact ACI Specialty Benefits at (800) 932-0034, or email info@acispecialtybenefits.com

 HealthyU_Harry (1)

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