Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo?

For all budding writers out there, we are only 4 full days away from one of the greatest events ever: that’s right, NaNoWriMo is almost here.

What is it?

NaNoWriMo stands for: National Novel Writing Month, and that month refers to November where people from all over the world join together and take a bid to write 50 000 words in just 30 days. Write like mad, write like crazy, write like you’ve never done so before and unleash that story inside you.

Have you ever wanted to write a book? Do you feel like you have a story inside you to tell?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, join me and over 300 000 other people, and sign up now to take part in this extraordinary event.

This year will be my third participation with this scheme and I have to admit that it is a lot of fun, all it takes is to write around 1667 words each day, and you’ll end up with 50 000 words of a novel by the end of the month.

Leave a comment if you’re taking part.

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How to Revise for your Exams

Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom.
– Clifford  Stoll

Sometimes it can be difficult for us to start revising, it could be because we procrastinate: we put it off for as long as possible or because we aren’t exactly sure how to process and absorb the mass of information. Don’t fret!

Below are some tips to help you get through it all.

1. The Specification is your best friend

This is the most valuable piece of advice that I can give you. Do not underestimate the power of the specification. Learn the specification if you can. Why? Because the examiner can’t ask anything that isn’t mentioned on the specification, but he is well within his limits to expect you to know what is in it, so get yourself a copy of the specification as early as possible. This helps you get through your course as well as revise because you’ll know which direction you are going. You can find a copy of your specification on the exam board websites: AQA, OCR, WJEC, Edexcel, if you don’t know which exam boards you are doing, ask your teacher, you need to know these things.

Tip: It’s not a bad idea to find out the dates of your exams in advance just so you can plan ahead and see if there are any exam clashes etc.

2. Make a list of key terms and definitions

Often in the specification, they will say something along the lines of: candidates must be able to define atom, molecule, relative atomic mass…  What I recommend you do is when you go through the specification, open up a Microsoft Word Document and make a table with two columns. The first column is the word that you need to be able to define, and the second is the definition. You can then print it out and take this wherever you go and learn the definitions. This is something that is really easy to do, and can get you those extra few marks that could make a big difference if you are on the boundary between two grades.

3. Make your own notes

When you first start a course making your own notes helps you consolidate what you have learnt in lessons and you can condense the information whilst putting them into your own words. Use the textbook, and read your class notes first, if you think you don’t have excellent notes, you can always go on sites like the student room where kind souls have uploaded their own class notes which you might find helpful.

As it gets closer to exam time, you then want to condense your own notes even further, what I do is have the specification right next to me when I do this, and then make sure I have notes for each bullet point, key term, concept that I am expected to know to make sure that nothing has been missed off, and that I’m revising the right thing.

If you want, you can make little revision cards with a question on one side and the answer on the other, this way you can test yourself or get family and friends to test you.

4. Don’t start revision too late

Don’t start too late, but don’t start too early either because you’ll end up forgetting the information that you’ve learnt altogether. However, after each lesson, it’s quite useful to read over your notes again just to make sure you understand it, and again before your next lesson so that it’s fresh in your mind when you start learning things that add on to the previous knowledge. Proper, solid revision for each individual varies depending on what type of person they are, but starting early means that you can pick out anything you don’t understand before it’s too late.

5. Ask your teacher if there is anything you don’t understand

Don’t be afraid or reluctant to ask your teacher for help if you find that you are stuck on something or something isn’t quite making sense. They should be glad to help you. Get everything cleared up before you take the exam, because understanding rather than just memorising will get you a better grade.

6. Plan your revision

Make a revision timetable, it doesn’t have to be really detailed, it just needs to state what subjects you are going to revise on what day, and then stick to it. Colour code it if you must, make it as pretty as possible, just don’t spend ages on it.

7. Find a place where you are away from distractions

When it comes to the point when you need to start doing serious revision, find an nice isolated place in the house, or go to the library. Make sure you have lots of space to sprawl your notes and books everywhere. Have lots of black pens, sharpened pencils, a ruler, calculator and all your stationery ready and at hand and have a bottle of water with you because it’s important to stay hydrated whilst revising.

I don’t recommend revising for ages without any breaks at all, but the advice of taking a 5 minute break and then going back to revision never works for me. I do 2 – 3 hours solid revision, then take a toilet break, go eat something, talk, not stress or worry for 40 minutes before going back to revision.

8. Turn off your mobile phone.

If you have your mobile phone with you, it is just so tempting to text your friends and ask them about how their revision is going and then that’s the end of your revision. You’ll constantly be interrupted and your revision will end up being a waste of time. Concentrate for a set amount of time with no distractions at all, process the information, absorb it, make sure you understand it. Don’t even think about your mobile phone.

9. Say goodbye to all social networking sites.

When seriously revising, it’s a good idea to do it away from a laptop or computer where you can access sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, the list goes on. These are great ways to procrastinate, but that’s not your goal. You can tweet people as much as you like once your exams are over, but when revising, it’s just not worth it.

10. Do Past Papers Questions

This is such an important piece of advice, I can’t stress it enough. Doing past paper questions is the key to success. Not only will you get a feel for what your exam will be like, you’ll also be using the information that you have learnt and then your brain will remember all of the information easier. You’ll come across most if not all of the tricks that examiners have come up with to basically ask the same question, and you’ll get a feel for what exactly you need to focus your revision on, what’s important and what’s not. You can find past papers on the exam board websites and also from the studentroom, as well as other websites such as www.freeexampapers.com

11. Do More Past Papers

If you run out of past papers for your own exam board, do other exam board papers just for practice, they won’t be exactly the same but they are really good practice anyway and basically test the same subject matter, if you come across a question that you completely don’t understand, it’s likely that it’s because that part isn’t part of your specification and you haven’t learnt about it.

12. Read Examiner’s Reports

Reading examiner’s reports enlightens you to the common mistakes that students make every year when doing their exams, and you can be in a position where you are able to avoid doing the same thing. You don’t have to read the reports from 1996 or something like that, the most recent ones will do.

13. Practice, Practice, Practice

Memorising facts is one thing, understanding is another. Constantly practicing questions kills two birds with one stone. It’s the best way to revise. Period.

14. Practice under timed conditions.

Don’t let the actual exam be the first time you have ever done that under timed conditions. Sometimes, in an exam you can understand everything, but timing issues will let you down. To avoid this, practice doing questions under timed conditions and in exam conditions so that you don’t find the exam experience as patronising as if it was all completely new to you. Have a timer or alarm that is set to the amount of time that you are allowed and use that to practice getting faster and faster at answering questions.

Later on, I will write a post about the different revision techniques that you could try, but hopefully this post has covered the most important aspects of making your revision as efficient and worthwhile as possible. Good luck!

If this has helped you in any way, or if you have any other suggestions: leave a comment below.

Short Story: Vampire Diaries F.Fiction

I wrote this a while back and entered it into a Vampire Diaries fan fiction contest last year, got 3rd place. It won’t make much sense to you if you aren’t a fan of TVD and it specifically refers to season 2, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it anyway.

My Lips Are Sealed.

They think I don’t notice what goes on around here. Of course I do. I live here. I have seen it all, and yet I cannot say a word. He will not let me.

He is the one that is causing all the chaos. It is not Katherine, not Elijah, not even one of the Originals. Klaus is only a puppet in his grand scheme of things. He’s playing with them, toying with their perception, turning them against each other. I know. I saw him do it and that is precisely the reason why I cannot tell anybody.

I want to though.

Every day the need to tell becomes heavier, the truth becomes harder to bear, but I cannot break the spell. Until I find a way to break the spell he cast upon me, my lips are sealed. But I know so much.

Jeremy’s parents were not in a car crash by accident. He had planned it all along. Stefan did not just happen to be there to save Elena. It was already planned to be that way. The Salvatore brothers returned to Mystic Falls for reasons even they are unaware of. But what can I do? He enjoys my pain of knowing. He thrives in the suffering it causes me.

He is my soul mate and I am bound. I am bound to him as I am bound to remain silent.

~*~

The front door opened and closed with a slam. Trudging into the kitchen was Jeremy. With no greeting to me, he opened the fridge and took a carton of juice. “How was school today Jeremy?” I asked just to lighten the mood.

“Fine,” he stated as he walked away. My heart ached for him. The poor boy, if only he knew the truth. His parents were not even dead – not in the literal sense anyway. Anna was not dead either. They had been converted onto his side. They were part of his army, his ever-growing force, lurking within the shadows. They were part of his plan, and so was I. I have tried to warn Jeremy, giving him the smallest of signs but he is always watching me, so I have to be careful.

“Let me join you,” I had pleaded once when the guilt was too much. I wanted him to convert me so that I could forget, so that I would not feel. But no matter how much I begged he refused. “I need you to stay with them. We cannot have them getting suspicious. Besides why would you want to abandon them? Who would they have to care for them?” he had said to me. He knew I loved them. I loved them like they were my own. I wanted to protect them, but he was stronger than my wants and my love.

There were footsteps out on the porch followed by a brief moment of silence – young love. Elena entered the house reluctant to say goodbye to Stefan. I stood up and busied myself with the cooking. “Hi Aunt Jenna,” she said routinely.

“Hello. How was your day?” I asked. She replied quite systematically, “Fine.” It was obvious she was trying to hide something from me. I already knew though. Isobel had come into town. He had told me that was going to happen. “Is there anything you want to talk about?” I pressed on, wanting to warn her about who Isobel was.

“No, I’m tired so I’ll just go to my room to rest,” she replied hastily and then hurried upstairs. Sighing heavily I rubbed my temples and temporarily closed my eyes.

I felt a chill in the room.

“Jenna, Jenna, Jenna,” he whispered in my ear, “what were you trying to do just now?” I opened my eyes, “Nothing,” keeping my face devoid of all emotion.

“You know you can’t lie to me, my dear Jenna.” He paused and walked towards me, looking at me straight in the eyes. “I know what you were doing, how very naughty of you.” He reached out and placed his hand on mine. “My dear, she must find out on her own. It’s for the best. Do you understand?” I nodded my head. “Good.” He pulled a chair and sat down.”You might want to sit down too Jenna. There are some things that you might be interested in,” he smiled cruelly. “I’ve been thinking and it was about time something more exciting happened.” He stopped and waited for my reaction, something he took great pleasure in.

“Like what?” I asked hesitantly. His smile broadened, “Oh, well you know, a few deaths and all that, nothing drastic.” I jumped from my seat immediately. “What?”

“It’s nothing to worry about my dear. Death is inevitable. I was just thinking perhaps it was about time one of the Salvatore brothers, you know, had to go.”

“No,” I replied exasperated. Although I knew that the value of my words was close to nothing.

“Yes. It’s just the matter of which one, and how.”

“But why?”

“It would less complicate matters of course.” He rubbed his chin and sat in deep thought, “Now, if we get rid of Stefan, Elena and Damon can live happily ever after. Well not really but if I get rid of Damon then, well, then there wouldn’t be much fun left in Mystic Falls. Stefan it is then.”

“You can’t do that!” I shouted. His black pupils glowed with flames and soon I found myself pinned against the wall with his hands around my neck. It hurt. His eyes glowed brighter. “Now listen Jenna, I can do whatever I want.”

“I’m sorry, I know.” I spluttered.

“But since you are my future bride, if you don’t want me to kill Stefan then I won’t.” He released me. I managed to choke a “Thank you.” He leaned over to give me a peck on the cheek. Then he leaned in closer to whisper in my ear, “No problem, I’ll just kill Elena instead.”

Finding Your Career Path

Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life
Confucius

For some people, they already knew what they wanted to be when they were 5 years old, however, some of us are not so lucky and can go through life never really knowing exactly what we want to do.

It might be nearing the time when you need to start making some decisions about what career choices you should make, as the courses you take at A-level (or equivalent) and similarly at university, or the apprenticeships that you take, will have an impact on what is available to you. Below, are some tips to help set you in the right direction and maybe make this decision a little easier.

1. Know yourself

This is by far the most important aspect to consider when thinking about what career suits you. Why? Because this is about you and finding a job that suits you. No one can make your decision for you, it ultimately comes down to your decision and what you think is best for yourself.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How would I describe myself?

What makes up your personality, what abilities and skills do you have, what qualities do you possess? This is important because many jobs require certain skills and abilities, and we want to find something for you that you’d be comfortable doing, or at least enjoy. For example, if you wanted to be a lawyer, do you enjoy public speaking? Have good analytical and interpersonal skills?

Tip: If you find it hard to describe yourself, you can always ask your friends or family what they think too – but no one knows you as well as you do.

  • What do I want to achieve?

 What is your ultimate goal or objective? Do you want a job that will make you the most money? Or one that allows you to help people and involve life-long learning? Perhaps you want to put your writing skills to work?

  • What do I hate?

Sometimes, it’s easier to rule out the things that you definitely don’t want to be, for example, if looking at peoples’ teeth really does not appeal to you then dentistry is not for you. One of the ways to choose a career is to work backwards: print out a long list of possible careers out there and then cross out the ones that you are definite you don’t want to do. With the remainder, research more into them: what are the requirements, what does a typical day involve etc; then at least you have a clearer idea of what you want to be.

2. Subjects that you enjoy

Are you still completely oblivious? Don’t worry, the next step is to think about the subjects that you are good at, and the subjects that you enjoy. There is a difference between being good at something and enjoying something, because without enjoyment it can be hard to stay committed and motivated at something that you could be potentially doing for a long time.

The subjects should give you an insight into the overall area of work that you should enter, for example, a flair in chemistry, maths and physics might suggest engineering as a possibility for you or it might tell you that you definitely don’t want to go into languages because you never particularly enjoyed learning French or something. In this way, looking at GCSE results and AS grades can be beneficial, and help you with your decision making.

3. Talking and asking questions

Talking to your teachers, family and friends and especially your career advisors can be really helpful. Career advisors have a wealth of knowledge and resources at their fingertips, and they’ll gladly help you through making your choices. But don’t stop there.

Talk to the people you meet, people who you admire, ask them about thier jobs, what is it like? What does their typical day involve? What do you have to do to get there? What are the highs and lows of their careers? What qualities are necessary? Ask yourself, is this something that I can imagine myself doing? Do I want to be in their shoes?

4. University websites and prospectuses

If you are in GCSE year, you might think it’s too early to start having a look at university websites and prospectuses, however, it can prove to be a really useful tool, and ideally you should have a look in year 8/9 before you make your GCSE choices. This is because some courses have specific subject requirements and you can check that the GCSEs you take allow you to apply for the courses that you want to.

Ordering university prospectuses can be quite exciting, alternatively career offices should have a copy of the latest ones or you can view them online on the university websites. They always come with a description of the course and what is involved and you can decide for yourself if that seems appealing to you. Also, many of them, if not in the prospectus due to limited space, but on the website, tell you what the degree can lead to career wise, and some universities have videos to show you what is available.

Tip: YouTube can be really useful because there are videos showing a day in the life of… or something similar that could give you an insight into what is involved. Also when applying to university, check that you meet the minimum requirements, subject wise and grade wise, you don’t want to waste an application for such a simple reason.

Caution: Do note though that the media portrayal of certain jobs can be far from realistic!

5. University Open Days and Taster Courses

Universities host open days every year usually in the summer: July/August and again in September. Going to university open days can be very beneficial to you, as there are information stands, professors and students that you can talk to and consult, giving you the opportunity to ask as many questions as you possibly can. Universities have lectures and presentations for specific courses, and this will give you more detailed information about what you could be doing.

Tip: Talk to university students, ask them why they chose their courses and anything and everything that you want to know. If you can, get an email address so that you can always ask a question later if you think of some more.

Taster courses are like open days in a way except that they are specifically focusing on one subject, for example, the University of Lancaster often hosts taster days about Law and Medicine, so if you’re interested in that, keep an eye out for that.

Tip: Some university open days require you to register, and specific subject talks may require you to book, this is very important because sometimes you will need receipt of a booking to be able to attend the talk, therefore some advanced planning would do well.

6. UCAS

If in doubt turn to UCAS. UCAS offers a wealth of information about courses, and their books are extremely useful, so look out for: THE UCAS Guide to …. as they contain case studies of what people have said when they had applied to a certain job and what they think about their courses etc. They also provide a lot of useful links to places where you can find more information.

7. Further Reading

Further reading means reading books that talk about possible career choices, for example, there are a lot of books to do with Medicine e.g. Getting into Medical School, The Essential Guide to becoming a Doctor etc. These can help depict a more realistic view of the demands of a career, and can either cement your wishes to become whatever or completely deter you from it. Many books also offer alternative careers that you might consider, for example, if you like the science of human biology more than meeting, diagnosing and treating  people, you could be more suited to a degree in biochemistry. Researching into a career is vital if you are going to make a fully informed decision. You don’t have to read loads about it, but getting a clear idea of what you’re getting into would be a good step forward.

8. Work experience

Even if you don’t know what career you want to go into, work experience can be very useful to you. You can see what it is like to enter the working world, whether that means you’ve worked in a restaurant or helped at a school for disabled children. These will give you more experiences and help you develop as a person, they can help widen your perspective on things and give you a more realistic insight, a true view into what it is like to work as a teacher or a journalist etc.

A polite email or phone call can go a long way, and forward planning can prove helpful, especially for competitive work placements and/or placements that require contact with vulnerable people as you might be required to have a CRB check done which can take some time.

9. But ultimately: follow your heart

At the end of the day, no matter what anybody else says you should do or shouldn’t, it is your life and so it’s your decision to make. So follow your heart, do what you were born to do. If you were meant to be a writer, write; if you were meant to be a dancer, dance. Don’t let anybody stand in your way, and don’t fret over this decision by yourself, there is help at hand. If you are still struggling, you can leave a comment below, Ask Anonymous, or send me a message if you really need someone to ask.

I wish you the best of luck with finding your career path and don’t forget…

[10. If all else fails, take this career quiz:]

 http://www.ucas.com/students/choosingcourses/choosingcourse/stamfordtest

(I would also recommend looking at the Student Room.)

Work is not man’s punishment. It is his reward and his strength and his pleasure.
~*~
If this has been helpful to you, or you have any suggestions to add: leave a comment below.