The Learning Centre

10 Tips for Writing Essay Exams
Thursday May 30th

Essay exams can be difficult since you are required to recall and recreate the information from memory without clues. Essay questions have the added difficulty of forming an academic essay for your response. Use the following tips to help you:

Tip #1: Make a Basic Outline: Brainstorm your ideas and then decide on the order you want to discuss them. Your response must be organized and easily understood.

Tip #2: Fit the Space Provided: Focus on quality opposed to quantity. If allowed, use point form to avoid unnecessary wordiness.

Tip #3: Use Examples As Support: Rather than multiple explanations, use examples to clarify your point.

Tip #4: Write Neatly: Your teacher cannot give you the marks if they cannot decipher what you have written. Your essay should be double-spaced and grammatically correct with few spelling mistakes.

Tip #5: Consider the Weight: Look at the worth of the question to determine how much you should write. The more points, the more details you should include.










Tip #6: Read the Question Carefully: The format for essay questions can differ. The question may require you to choose a topic, choose from a list, or have one mandatory topic.

Tip #7: Underline Key Words: Underline key words to be sure that you are answering every part of the question required. Rephrase the question into your response to get you started.

Tip #8: Use Standard Essay Format: Unless directed otherwise, include an introduction with thesis statement, typically three body paragraphs, and a brief conclusion.

 Tip #9: Note the Directive Word: Directives state what you are to do.

Directive What it Means
Compare / Contrast Similarities and differences between two or more items
Describe A detailed description of the topic & examples
Discuss Identify the main idea, expand with supporting details and examples
Define Provide a specific and detailed definition
Explain / Justify Highlight outcomes / relationships and provide reasons
Outline Discuss the sequence of events in a logical / chronological order
Summarize State only the main idea and key points
Evaluate / Critique Discuss both sides of the topic and support with facts and details

Tip #10: Proofread before submitting: Start by rephrasing the question


Write things down in point form instead of dwelling on well-written sentences. Get the content onto the page; in most cases it is more important than the format/writing


Ridley College Exam Prep: 10 Tips for Writing Multiple-Choice and True/False Exams

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Exams begin in one week and everyone might be starting to feel the pressure.  You may encounter multiple choice and true or false questions on your exams and these questions can be tricky, so here are some helpful tips from the Learning Centre:

Multiple-Choice and True or False are used to test your knowledge on factual details of a subject. Making time for weekly review is the best preparation strategy. The best approach is to understand the facts and the concepts underlying them.

Multiple Choice tends to be more difficult with several options to consider and choose from. It is important to approach these questions strategically.

True or False consist of statements which are true, partially true, or false. Loss of marks is often attributed to not reading the question carefully enough.

Tip #1: Use Previous Tests to Study: Previous tests are a good indicator of your understanding of the material and also indicate the types of questions your teacher may ask.

Tip #2: Read the Question Carefully: Don’t make assumptions about the directions. Questions sometimes ask for the best option. There may be more than one correct option.

Tip #3: Underline Key Words: Underline the key words of the question as you read it.

Tip #4: Watch for Modifiers: Modifiers influence the meaning of the statements, which may impact your answer. Watch for extreme or absolute modifiers including: all, always, only, best, never, worst, etc. Things are rarely this absolute.

Tip #5: Watch Two Part Statements: Both parts must be correct for the entire statement to be true.








Tip #6: Watch for Lists of Facts: In questions that list facts, be sure to read all of the facts listed very carefully. If even one of item is false the entire statement becomes false.

Tip #7: Watch for Negative Words: Negatives can be confusing since we are taught about what things are. To avoid confusion, try taking out the negative and decide if it is true in its positive form.

Tip #8: Watch for Definition Clues: Definition clues are words such as means, defined as, referred to, etc. Make sure that the definition is accurate in order for it to be true.

Tip #9: Watch for Relationship Cues: Relationship cues include words such as increases, effects, result, causes, reason, etc. when you see these, think carefully about the relationship being described and the order in which they are being described.

Tip #10: Strategies when Stuck: Treat each multiple-choice option as a true or false question. Each option that is false can be eliminated. This strategy stops you from becoming overwhelmed by multiple options.  Skip the question and come back to it, other information from the test might assist you. As a last resort, make an educated guess. Never leave a multiple-choice or true/false question blank!

*Review your marked exam. Determine the root of your performance; adjust your studying and exam writing strategies for improved performance in the future.


How Does Mental Illness Impact Youth?
Monday, May 6, 2013

The Canadian Mental Health Association has published the following statistics in answer to the question, “How Does Mental Illness Impact Youth?”

(1) It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide;

(2) Today, approximately 5% of male youth and 12% of female youth, age 12 to 19, have experienced a major depressive episode;

(3) The total number of 12-19 year olds in Canada at risk for developing depression is a staggering 3.2 million;

(4) Once depression is recognized, help can make a difference for 80% of people who are affected, allowing them to get back to their regular activities;

(5) Mental illness is increasingly threatening the lives or our children; with Canada’s youth suicide rate the third highest in the industrialized world;

(6) Surpassed only by injuries, mental disorders in youth are ranked as the second highest hospital care expenditure in Canada;

(7) In Canada, only 1 out of 5 children who need mental health services receive them.

(Fast Facts About Mental Illness, Canadian Mental Health Association. May 6, 2013.

When reading these statistics, it is difficult to know where to begin when addressing the topic of adolescent mental health and its impact on learning. For example, I have found at least nine anxiety disorders alone that are relevant to children and adolescents: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Phobia, Separation Anxiety, Acute Stress Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, and Specific Phobia. Other diagnoses include, but are not limited to, Disruptive Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders, Mood Disorders, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Depressive Disorders.

booksWe are teachers, we are parents, we are nurturers but we are not all trained in the complexities of teaching and raising children who see the world through a modified lens. However, there are a number of intervention tools and strategies that we can use to help students with mental health needs be more successful in school. Rick Auger, author of The School Counselor’s Mental Health Sourcebook, has identified 9 principles of intervention and recommendations for implementation.

1. Do something different; one strategy doesn’t work for everyone.
2. Take a problem solving approach.
3. Be faithful – but not rigid – when implementing interventions.
4. Get teacher buy in.
5. Get student buy in.
6. Begin with positive interventions.
7. Give new interventions a chance.
8. Have a way of knowing whether the intervention is effective.
9. Don’t give up.

As teachers and parents, we have a responsibility to develop programmes that will enable students with mental health needs attain success within the classroom and beyond. We must listen, empathize, reassure, and acknowledge that, “unique children may need unique interventions.”

Below are some resources to help get started in understanding and planning for students with a variety of mental health disorders:

Auger, R. The School Couselor’s Mental Health Sourcebook: Strategies to Help Students Succeed. London: Corwin Press, 2011.

Cizek, al Addressing Text Anxiety in a High-Stakes Environment: Strategies for Classrooms and Schools. London: Corwin Press, 2006.

Dacey, J. et al Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, 2000.

Merrell, K. Helping Students Overcome Depression and Anxiety, A Practical Guide. New York: The Guilford Press, 2008.

Oehlberg, B. Reaching and Teaching Stressed and Anxious Learners in Grades 4-8: Strategies for Relieving Distress and Trauma in Schools and Classrooms. London: Corwin Press, 2006.

The Learning Centre
April 5th, 2013
As I look around the Learning Centre, I can’t help but reflect on how this area of the school has evolved over time. The Learning Centre is a space that means different things to different people. However, the overriding theme is that it is a place where students feel safe and supported.


Each Learning Centre experience is individually packaged and managed by a specialized team of professionals in partnership with students, parents, teachers, and community support workers. This collaborative model is meant to provide students with a support network upon which they can build, manage and reflect on their own student success plan.

This diverse group of learners includes:

  • High achievers
  • Students struggling with mental health issues
  • Students recovering from illness or physical trauma
  • Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Students deemed “At Risk”
  • Students requiring organizational and time management support
  • Online learners

In addition, we offer a robust tutoring programme that provides additional learning support beyond the classroom. All tutors go through an extensive screening process to ensure that they meet the expectations of our learning environment.

Our goals are threefold. We hope that within the Learning Centre framework students will be able to identify their learning strengths, focus on strategies to manage their learning challenges, and develop effective self-advocacy skills that will be relevant long after graduation. Part of this process may include participation in our Life Strategies programme. The primary goal of this programme is to provide students with fundamental tools to navigate and plan for their personal, academic and professional lives.


The Learning Centre is comprised of a dedicated group of individuals committed to lifelong learning, creative thinking, and action!  Please join us as we embark on an exciting journey of exploration, discovery, and self-actualization! We look forward to providing information, updates, editorials and resources to help you on your journey.  For more information on the Learning Centre and what services they provide, please click here.

Written By Mrs. Elizabeth Clarke, Learning Strategies Coordinator

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