Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tips for managing exam stress

With exams now under full swing I thought it would be a good time to share some tips to help you get through the season and minimise stress. As NEC’s Student Services Manager, my team and I talk to many students who are happy to share their best tips for getting through the exams. Last year I took a GCSE in Maths, so I can really appreciate how stressful it can be to juggle exams, revision and worklife!

First things first: don't put off getting started. Rushing around and trying to fit everything in at the last minute not only adds avoidable stress, but won’t sufficiently prepare you for the exam. Allow yourself plenty of time to cover everything you need to, and make sure that you not only remember it all but also understand it fully. Being able to memorise everything doesn't guarantee you'll pass with flying colours, and neither does parroting back practised answers - sometimes the questions will ask you to think on your feet and use what you know in a way you haven't pre-rehearsed for.
Remember to factor breaks into your revision schedule when planning your time, even if just to get up and walk around for a few minutes to clear your head. There will be times when your brain has simply had enough, and you may find yourself wanting to do something else for a little while (checking Facebook or Twitter is usually my choice!). Giving yourself enough time for occasional forms of procrastination means they won't become a nagging distraction during your studies, as well as giving your mind some much-needed breathing space.

If you find listening to music helpful to relax you while you study, go for ambients and instrumentals, and avoid music with lyrics. Your mind may become distracted by the words of the vocalist without you even noticing, preventing you from concentrating fully on what you're revising.

You've probably heard this one a million times before, but your diet can have a surprisingly large impact on your state of mind. Eating the right amount of the right things helps you sleep better, concentrate more, take in what you revise, and ensure that by the time you get to the exam hall and sit down to do your exam, your brain is sufficiently active to give you the best chance of tackling the questions - something that will be especially useful on those early morning slots you might end up with on your exam timetable!

Try some of the following:

- Drink plenty of low-calorie fluids
- Eat fresh fruit instead of a pudding
- Save high-fat foods for treating yourself
- Avoid processed foods where possible

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with a balanced diet. When you're busy revising for exams, taking a couple of hours to go out for a walk or bike ride can sound like it will eat too far into your study time. But there are always little things you can incorporate into your daily routine that take up less time and still make a difference. Using the stairs instead of the lift is a well-known example, but why not also try running up the steps instead of just walking?

Another immensely helpful thing to get plenty of is fresh air. Open a window to let the breeze in while you revise. During a break, try standing by the open window and simply breathing in and out slowly and deeply. It sounds rather basic, but it's nonetheless a surprisingly effective way to lower stress levels very quickly.

And of course, it goes without saying that a good night’s sleep before exam day will definitely help. Try to get into the habit of going to bed in good time in advance, and avoid staying up late, so that your body gets into the routine of falling asleep early. This should mean you’ll wake up on exam day feeling fully rested, refreshed, and ready to tackle the challenges ahead.

I hope you’ll find these tips useful in reducing stress and getting through the season. To all students out there who are taking their exams this summer, everyone at NEC would like to wish you the very best.

Good luck!

If you would like to take your exams next year, take a look at our range of courses.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Learning at Work Day and 50 Hours For Free

Today is Learning at Work Day, a part of the ongoing events taking place to celebrate Adult Learners’ Week. LAW Day aims to promote awareness and support for the importance of learning and development in the workplace, by inviting organisations and individuals to participate in a range of activities which encourage people to take up the challenge of learning something new.
Each year, LAW Day focuses on a different theme to highlight different aspects of workplace learning. This year’s theme is ‘Many Ways to Learn.’ Here at NEC we are no strangers to variety when it comes to learning methods – many of our students come to us looking for something different. They often find that the flexibility offered by our distance learning courses allows them to learn in a way that fits in with other aspects of their life, such as work.
In the spirit of Adult Learners’ Week, LAW Day, and NEC’s 50th anniversary, today we are launching our 50 Hours For Free campaign, offering 50 hours’ worth of distance learning for absolutely free! Over the following months we will be covering a series of topics ranging from economics to counselling, so there will be something to interest everyone.
Each topic is a self-contained extract from a full NEC course. The materials you receive will provide full details on what you can expect to gain and the approximate time it will take you to study, including activities, self-assessments, opportunities to reflect, and an example assignment at the end. Information is also included about the wider courses from which each of our topics are taken, if you would like to know more.
50 Hours opens with our first topic, Children’s Growth and Development. We have taken from our wide range of childcare and early years courses in order to create a neatly self-contained topic, providing a fascinating insight into how to understand and support a child’s development through the earlier years of their life.
Bringing up or working with children can at times be hugely challenging, but it is also equally hugely rewarding. The early years of a child’s life are a crucial time in their development, and the experiences they have at this time will play a large part in how they view the world as they grow up. Gaining an understanding of how to support their development will be invaluable to any childminder, pre-school practitioner or parent.
If this sounds like an area that you would like to learn more about, or if you would like to find out more about our 50 Hours campaign, visit our website and get in touch for further details on how to get involved.
Distance learning is a great way to fit learning in with your life and worklife – one of many ways to learn. Why not take up the challenge to learn something new with 50 Hours today?

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Celebrating Adult Learners’ Week and 50 years of NEC

Adult Learners’ Week

Adult Learners’ Week 2013 takes place this month, and to encourage more people to get involved by learning something new we’ve launched a very special offer.
Running from 17th to 24th May, Adult Learners’ Week is a seven-day celebration of adult education, promoting the work of education providers. It’s designed to remind adults that even if you’re working full-time, it’s always possible to find a way to fit more learning into your life.
This year we’re encouraging learners to improve their prospects by gaining GCSEs and IGCSEs – core qualifications that are becoming increasingly necessary in the world of work.
Not having five GCSE passes at grade C or better can be a real hindrance to progressing in your career – more and more jobs and employers now require passes in at least the core subjects of maths, science and English.

A very special offer
To make gaining these essential qualifications as manageable as possible, we’re offering a discount of 15% on all GCSEs and IGCSEs when you enrol online, or 10% when you enrol over the phone. We want there to be as few obstacles as possible in the way of you achieving your learning ambitions.
NEC is proud to be part of Adult Learners’ Week in 2013 – we’ve been helping adult learners ever since we were founded, creating new opportunities and breaking down educational barriers.
There are hundreds of events taking place across the country to mark the occasion: you can find out what’s happening near you by visiting the Adult Learners’ Week website.
Future 50
Another cause to celebrate this year is NEC’s 50th anniversary, for which we have lots of activities planned within our Future 50 campaign, looking forward to the next 50 years as well as celebrating the previous. Look out for our 50 faces of NEC, who will be sharing their stories.We want to bring together 50 faces from NEC’s history – we’re hoping to get in touch with all sorts of people who have worked with NEC over the years, to tell some of the stories that NEC has played a part in.
We want to hear from every type of person NEC’s been in touch with: tutors, trustees, staff, and of course the most important people of all – our learners.
If you’ve worked with us in the past we’d love to hear your story. Maybe you gained an essential qualification that enabled you to go on to get a job you’d been after for some time. Perhaps you learned something new that caused you to see things in a completely different way. Or maybe you turned things around for yourself through education, with the help of one of our courses.
Whatever your story, we’d be delighted to hear from you and involve you in our celebrations. Get in touch with us by emailing Carly Mason or give us a ring, free on 0800 389 2839, or on 01223 400200.

50 hours of free learning
Launching next week - on ‘Learning at work day’ - In honour of our 50 year of history, we will be launching  50 hours of free learning to anyone who wants to accept the challenge to learn something new. A range of subjects will be covered, from childcare to law – there will be something for everybody. Keep a look out on our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed for more information.
To find out more about our special offer and our courses, visit our homepage.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Getting ready for your exams

Not long now until GCSE and A level exams get under way for 2013. Students everywhere will be revising and preparing for their exams. This year, we expect more NEC students than ever to be sitting exams either at one of our partnership centres, a local school or college or even on board ship if they’re serving in the Royal Navy!

With 50 years experience and hundreds of thousands of successful students, we wanted to share with you some of our best exam tips.

Liz Shiner, NEC tutor, says “ It's well worth finding out your own Learning Style.  This will help you to decide how  to commit information to memory by 'helping' your brain to deal with material in the most effective way.Try the questionnaire on this site:

Another NEC tutor, Josie Briggs, agrees and says “there are different ways and it is a case of finding the best ones for you. One is to write down the main points of a topic, then do that again without looking, check if you have it right and do it yet again if you haven't. This is also useful for diagrams and flow-charts. Writing things down several times is an active process which helps you to remember.”

“Get your timing right so you finish all questions,” says Steve Waugh - NEC tutor “practice timed answers before you do the exam”

Maths is one of the most popular subjects at NEC, we asked NEC maths tutor Alan Stancombe what advice he would give to anyone sitting a maths exam this summer “Maths is a practical subject which requires the use of a pen. Don't just sit and read it in books. Do questions, questions, questions. First of all make sure you can do all the assignment questions correctly”

Of course as well as making sure you know the subject well and that you’re prepared for any questions that you might be asked, you need to think about other ways to prepare yourself for the big day. Some things to consider are:

  • Check your exam arrangements - make sure you know the time, date and venue
  • Familiarise yourself with your journey - make sure you know where you are going and how long the journey will take
  • Get a good night’s sleep - this might be easier said than done, but an early night rather that last minute revision should help
  • Pack the night before - make sure you have everything you need ready the night before, don’t forget

So, you are now confident in your subject, well rested and ready to go - time to sit the exam!

Colin Pagent, another of NEC’s expert tutors, says “Don't automatically go for a question because it has a word, phrase or topic that you think is easy; you may run out of things to say or finish it too quickly. Appraise each choice and then make a cool-headed decision, bearing in mind that the question which seems hardest at first glance may actually give you more to get your teeth into.”

“When you are in the exam,” General Education co-ordinator at NEC, Sarah Barrett says, “ read all the questions and instructions thoroughly, think about how you’re presenting your answers and check your answers before you hand in your paper. Don’t forget to check the back page for any more questions!”

If you are sitting exams this summer, good luck from all the staff and tutors here at NEC. We’ve passed on our best advice and hope it helps you to achieve the grade you want, the rest is up to you!

Have a look at our wide range of A Level and GCSE courses and you could be sitting and exam next summer.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

A Day in the Life of NEC's Newest Recruit

Meet the newest member of the NEC team: 18-year-old Debora Cascalheira, who’s just joined the organisation to complete an apprenticeship in business and administration.

Debora, who’s originally from Portugal, enrolled on the NVQ through Cambridge Regional College and will be working closely with both the course advice and sales and marketing teams for the 18-month duration of her apprenticeship.

Now in her third week at NEC, she’s spent most of her time getting to know the different departments and familiarising herself with the range of courses on offer, as well as contributing towards work for the College’s 50th anniversary project, Future 50.

‘I chose this apprenticeship because I’m interested in business and admin,’ Debora explained, ‘and because it’s a really good qualification to have.

‘Also, when I came to visit NEC for the first time I noticed that everyone was really friendly and close – it’s sort of like a family, with a really positive atmosphere.’

Debora has an assessor based at Cambridge Regional College who she’ll be in regular contact with as she works towards her qualification. As well as meeting in person, they have regular video chats using an online learning system that also allows Debora to upload completed work.

The apprenticeship is a great way to combine gaining a recognised qualification with receiving valuable experience of the world of work – picking up useful skills and applying learning to real work situations.

For Debora the system works really well; she’s very much enjoying her apprenticeship and has learned a lot already.

‘My favourite thing about the work I’ve done so far is the customer relations training I’m getting – I really enjoy speaking to enquirers on the phone and helping people find the right course.

‘I’ve also had some fun working on the Future 50 campaign, scanning old course materials covers. Some of them are pretty different – especially those from the '70s!’

Getting to know NEC’s many courses is a big job, so Debora has been spending a lot of time with the Guide to Courses, getting to grips with the many options on offer.

One course she’s likely to get more familiar with than most is NEC’s Critical Thinking A level – she enrolled on it last week.

‘I’ve only just started looking at the course materials,’ she said, ‘but they look really good. There are some great exam tips in there and lots of activities too. I’ve done seven so far, and am nearly ready to start working on my first assignment now.’

So what does Debora see herself doing after she finishes her apprenticeship?

‘Well I really like working at NEC,’ she enthused, ‘so I’ll be thrilled if they want me to stay on when I’ve finished my apprenticeship.

‘Everyone’s very personable and has made me feel really welcome. It just feels “comfortable”, if that makes sense – everyone here seems to have a real passion for NEC’s work.’

Debora’s ultimate ambition is to become a psychologist – she hopes to study part-time for a degree in abnormal and clinical psychology after completing her apprenticeship. For the next 18 months however, she’s a welcome full-time member of the NEC team.

For more information on the Critical Thinking A level Debora's studying, as well as the rest of the courses offered by NEC, visit the NEC website.