Mind Mapping - A Guide
April 16, 2019


Tony Buzan, the creator of the modern Mind Map, says, “Mind maps utilize all our cortical skills and activate the brain on all levels, making it more alert and skillful at remembering. The attractiveness of mind maps makes the brain want to return to them, and again encourages the probability of spontaneous recall.”

In other words, mind maps awaken all our mind’s capacity to learn and our brains love it! 

What is a mind map? 

When you create a mind map, you take a bunch of information and draw a diagram. It works with your brain’s natural way of relating many ideas to a single main topic. First, you place your main topic in the center of the page. Then you think of the main themes of that subject and draw them like branches radiating from the center topic. Smaller ideas and concepts attach to the branches like twigs on a tree as they relate to the branch. You use lines, symbols, words, color, and images as they come to you to draw your mind map. The seemingly random way you hear, think and associate pieces of information goes onto the page in way that relates those pieces to each other, and to the main topic. 

So, how to build a mind map? We’ll try to describe in words how to do this, but why not grab a piece of paper and draw one as we guide you through? 

First: The main idea, subject or focus—crystalize it in a single word or image.

Let’s pick a topic—something we all can relate to. Food.

Okay, write the word FOOD in the center of your paper—turn it so it’s in landscape orientation. Make it big and bold! Draw a circle around it.  

Second: The main themes will now radiate from the central word/image as branches 

From your circle, draw your first branch—a line—straight or bent. 

Third: Define a branch with a key image or key word.

Write the word “Protein” along the line, fairly close to the center topic. 

Fourth: Topics related to your branch are represented by ‘twigs’ on the branch.

Draw a few twigs on the branch. Add some protein names on the twigs—eggs, tofu, fish, beef, etc.  

Yes, you now have the start of a mind map! Your twigs could have twigs, too. Eggs, for example could have twigs that are labeled ‘scrambled’, ‘fried’, etc. This goes to show you how you can keep adding information to topics on a mind map. Maps can be as large and branching as needed. 

Choose another branch and draw it out—vegetables, fruit, dairy, grains, snacks, drinks. Have a little fun. 

WORDS: Mind Maps use single words to identify branches and twigs.

Branches and twigs should be identified by just one or maybe two words. That single word that will trigger all of the things you know about it. As you review your mind map, your memory will supply everything you know about each item in a way that works for you.

IMAGES: Mind maps need pictures.

You may have noticed that the graphic on this blog entry has some images on the ‘twigs’. Mind maps need pictures. Our minds really ‘see’ in images. It’s crucial to the way we think. 

What comes to mind when you think of “Protein”? Bulging biceps? A chain of amino acids? Try sketching it next to your protein branch. (You don’t have to be Rembrandt to do this…it’s your mind map, after all.)

COLOR: Mind maps use color to organize and define topics.

Define your branches and images with some color. It stimulates the brain. If you have some highlighters, markers or crayons nearby, color something—one of your images, a branch, anything. Color your central topic circle. 

Is your mind map taking shape now? How many food categories and specific foods crossed your mind with this exercise? The only limits to mind map creation is time and the size of your paper!  

Here are some great applications for mind mapping as a student.

Lecture notes – Mind mapping for lecture notes will free you up to listen and distill information. When you write a word on a branch or twig, you will be hearing and associating the professor’s information about it.

Study notes – As you read your textbook, your notes can be maps instead. Mapping will keep you engaged while tackling those long chapters. 

Essay/Report writing – Organizing your writing will be easier in map formation than outlines.

Exam review – You can use all the maps you made to study and zero in on the facts you may have forgotten. If a twig has a word on it you don’t remember, you’ll know you need to learn why it was important enough to write down. 

There are software programs to create mind maps that you can use; however, the tactile experience with paper, pen and color will engage more of your mental activity and help you learn. You can look up examples of mind maps online to show you how they look. But, remember, your mind map is your own creation and it doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

So, grab some paper, pens and colors and give mind mapping a try. Even first timers have great learning success with this technique. We think you will too.

What is CLEP? Your CLEP Questions Answered
April 4, 2019

An Introduction to CLEP 

First—they are exams that award college credit when you pass them. Second—they cost less than taking a college class. Third—you spend less time preparing for and taking a CLEP exam instead of a class with its lectures, assignments, papers, projects, quizzes and tests.

CLEP is short for College Level Examination Program. The College Board created a series of standardized exams over 50 years ago to award college credit when people pass them. There are now 33 different CLEP exams. They cover five academic disciplines—Mathematics, Social Sciences and History; Literature and Composition; Business; and Foreign Languages. 

How to get started with CLEP

First, you need to find out your school’s CLEP policy. Every college or university has its own policy for accepting CLEP. You don’t want to take an exam only to find out your school won’t accept it! However, since more than 2,900 institutions accept CLEP it is likely your school will too. 

Check with your advisor to find out what CLEP exams you can take and apply to your requirements. 

Once you have a list of exams you can use, do some research about them. You can go to the College Board website and search for your exam and read what the exam will cover—in other words—what you need to know to pass!

Find where to take your exam.

There are thousands of CLEP testing centers around the country and worldwide, many of which are located on-campus at colleges and universities for your convenience. Military bases often have testing centers as well. Find a test center near you for the easiest CLEP experience.

Register for your exam.

You schedule your exam online with the College Board. Registration is easy and you will be given all the steps to follow. You’ll pay your exam fee up front. You can choose your testing center on the website, or you can contact the testing center directly if you prefer. Be sure to print your registration ticket so you can bring it to your testing center when exam day rolls around.

What you can expect to save.

At the time of writing, a CLEP exam costs $87. There will be a fee charged by the testing center, usually $20-$35. Compare that to the tuition you would expect to pay for the class and include the costs of textbooks and other supplies to calculate your savings.

What to expect when you take your test.

CLEP exams are 90 minutes long. Most exams have 90-120 questions although the mathematics exams have fewer. If you take an exam with an essay requirement, the exam time is longer, 120 minutes. Mathematics exams allow the use of a calculator which is built into the exam. Foreign language exams have a listening component to the exam where you listen to a statement and then answer questions about it.  

CLEP exams are multiple choice (except for any essays, of course). They are graded on a scale of 20-80 with 50 being the ACE recommended passing score. Your school may have a different score requirement to accept an exam, so be sure you know what that score is. Most schools, however, use 50 as the requirement.  

You’ll get your CLEP test results right at the end of your exam. If there is an essay portion of your exam, the scoring of the essay takes about three weeks. 

Anyone can take a CLEP exam.

Whether you are 8 or 80, you can take a CLEP exam! You don’t have to be enrolled in a college or university to test. The College Board will hold your CLEP results for 20 years until you decide where to have your credits sent. 

Parents or guardians have to register minors and accompany them to the exam. All of this information is shared with you during the registration process. 

Many high school students take CLEP exams to earn college credit before they set foot on a college campus.

Military service members and veterans can have their CLEP exam fee paid for by the military for a first attempt on any exam. Check with your benefits advisor about how to have your test fee covered.

Make a plan to pass your CLEP

Yes, some people just wing taking a CLEP exam. The ones who pass usually had some classes in the subject or have learned on their own because the subject is of personal interest to them.

Most people, however, should plan on studying for the exam. You can check out textbooks or cobble together online resources from here and there. 

If that sounds like too much hit-and-miss, how about comprehensive, current and guaranteed CLEP preparation materials? courses guide you through the material you need to know for 25 different CLEP exams, and allow you to learn and study at your own pace. 

Complete your CLEP study guide through SpeedyPrep, and you’re protected by a 100% Pass Guarantee. If you finish a SpeedyPrep course and fail your CLEP exam, SpeedyPrep refunds your subscription fee.


If your goal is to get your college diploma and you haven’t already completed classes for your general education requirements, consider the CLEP option to get those credits. The CLEP’s 50 year history shows no sign of letting up as more and more people learn about it. You can join those who save time and money on their degrees with CLEP.

Time Boxing or Time Blocking—The Benefits, pt. 2
March 14, 2019
Last week, the education experts at CNA Nursingprep discussed time boxing or blocking as a way to tackle your responsibilities and get them done. We discussed the benefits of this easy, highly effective practice.

This week, we want to share some tips on how to time block/box so you get the most from it. We hope that you will try this approach to your task organization and enjoy the same benefits we have.
Time boxing can be used on big tasks, like a work project or term paper. It can be used on little tasks, too, like chores around the house. Whether your task is large or small, how you box or block it will be the same.  

First, think through your task and estimate how long you think it should take. Then decide at what time you will do it and write this time down. When you write the task down include the name of the task, the start time and end time. Many people use their calendar or planner to record their time boxes.

When the time box starts:
  • Set a timer for your chosen time length—no longer than 45 minutes. (More on this a little later).  
  • Turn off text messaging and notifications on your phone. Turn off any other potential interrupters—television, music, etc. Time boxing does not do interruptions!
  • Work the task. Focus on it and only it. Stay aware of your time and keep on task. Do not get side-tracked by low-value details.
  • Did you finish early? Great! If you do a similar task later, you can adjust the time you set for it.
  • Did you not finish? Figure out why. If the reason was unavoidable, that’s okay. If not, did you underestimate the time you needed or were you unprepared to really complete the task for some other reason? Knowing this will help you plan future time boxes better. 
This is basically it. It’s simple. Its value is in its simplicity. Your work may be complicated but structuring it into time blocks is easy. As you use time boxing, you’ll get better at estimating the time you need for tasks. Prepare to enjoy a great sense of accomplishment with every completed box—a real plus for staying motivated and lowering your stress.  

Did you see the image at the top of this blog? If you have a large work project, time blocking will help you start and then build on each finished task until the job is complete...just like the picture.

Here are some specifics for boxing/blocking large tasks:
  • Break large tasks into boxes of 45 minutes or less.  
  • Start with an outline of steps in the order you think you need to do them. Identify your first block and then start.
  • Take a 5 - 15-minute break after you finish a time block. It should be a real break. Doing another task in this interval isn’t a break and does not reset your focus for another 45-minute round of work. Get up, move around, get some air, look at something different and don’t think about the work at all. This is a reset time—let your mind rest for these few minutes!
  • If you have several 45-minute time boxes planned, take a longer break between every two, at least 15 - 20 minutes.
  • Time boxes can be moved around as you need. If your planned time box #5 is better done after #2, you can do that! 
45 minutes is generally the upper time limit of our ability to really concentrate on something. That is why we encourage you to keep your blocks no longer than this.

Is there a limit to how short a time block can be? Not really. In fact, people find short time blocking is very beneficial for pesky tasks that must get done. 

Let’s say you walk into the kitchen and it needs a good cleaning. You don’t have it in you to clean it all, but what about a 15-20-minute time box? Choose a couple of chores—sweeping the floor and loading the dishwasher, for example. Concentrate on the job and you’ll probably finish with time to spare! (This author tried this with their family and the entire kitchen was cleaned in a 20-minute time block. Everyone had their task and 20 minutes was all it took…well, 25 minutes actually. We were so close we just stayed to finish!)

Closing Thoughts

Most people can concentrate on something for up to 45 minutes, which is why using time blocks is so effective. When you’ve completed one, you can walk away, having accomplished what you wanted within the time you set. If you’re like this author and many others who use time boxing, you’ll return to this task organizing technique again and again.
Time Boxing or Time Blocking -- The Benefits
March 7, 2019
Have you ever sat through an entire two-hour movie, even though you didn’t like it from the beginning? 

It’s an interesting phenomenon of human behavior that, once we start something, we tend to want to finish it. Even tasks we find unpleasant will be completed if we just start them.

The same goes for the work of fulfilling your work, school and life responsibilities. If you start, you will most likely finish. Time boxing is a life hack to help you with both starting and finishing your work.

At its heart, time boxing (or time blocking) is very simple. First, assign a fixed time for a task, schedule it, and then start and finish the task within the time you scheduled. When working on a time box task, you focus only on that work—no social media, no calls, no multi-tasking. When you set strict limits to keep track of all your responsibilities, you meet them and save your sanity.


It demands you to single-task and focus on one activity, thereby achieving it in one stretch of time. When you’re done, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment and feel less stressed.

You prioritize your work based on when it needs completion. Large, multi-step tasks can be broken into smaller pieces, each with their own box. Each completed step (box) will lead into the next, allowing you to successfully complete a project on time.

If you procrastinate, time boxing will benefit you tremendously. A time box has 1. a defined task and 2. a time limit, and it requires you to focus on that task. You are forced to start the task, which is often the toughest hurdle for those who procrastinate. Once you’ve started, continuing and finishing something get easier.

You do not get bogged down by every detail. Time boxing will be a life saver if you tend to spend too much time over tasks and put too much of your hard work into low-value details. When you assign a time limit to a task, it forces you stay with the work if you want to finish it during the box. As you hone your time boxing skills, you stay on task and complete more of them within the time limits you set.

Your concentration is required to complete a time box. If you multi-task or follow every interruption that pops up, and don’t finish tasks because of that, time boxing will get you on track. You must narrow your focus—turn off all potential interrupters and work on just the time box assignment. 

Your productivity goes up. You’ll figure out when your peak productive times are and can schedule your high-priority tasks during them. You can assign easier and less important tasks during times you’re more likely to be interrupted or are past your peak mental energy.

At the beginning of this article we shared the basics of time boxing. Next week we’ll share some tips about how to time box how to get the most from this easy, but effective life tool.

How to Study for Your Learning Style
Feb. 28, 2019
Not everyone learns the same way. People have different learning styles—based primarily on the way their minds process and absorb information. 

In a previous post, CNa nursingprep covered various learning styles. In this article, we’ll cover study strategies for your learning style so you can make your study time more effective.

Study Tips for Visual Learners

Visual learners need to see or read information in order to learn it. Learning by just listening is difficult. Visual learners use mental imagery to remember things. If you are a visual learner, give these study tips a try.  
  • When you sit down to study, write a note with your goal. Put it where you can see it. “From 7:00 to 8:00 I will read Chapter 12”.
  • Preview a chapter first by looking through the pictures, graphics and topic headings.
  • Study where it is quiet. Noise can distract visual learners.
  • Use highlighters to color code your notes, flashcards, even your textbook. Write in the margins, doodle pictures, and design graphs that relate to the topic.
  • Watch online videos on topics you are studying.
  • Sit near the front of class and watch your professor while you take notes.
Study tips for Auditory/Verbal Learners

Auditory/Verbal learners remember what they hear and can follow spoken directions easily. They often participate in class discussions and can solve complex problems by talking them through. Try these tips if you are an auditory/verbal learner.
  • Record your class lectures. Listen carefully during class, not on extensive note taking. Your recording will help you fill in the details later.
  • Study with someone. You can quiz and summarize topics for each other. Speaking and hearing will help you learn.
  • Participate in class discussions, both listening and speaking.
  • Read your textbook out loud. Try this when you write papers, too.
  • Make your own audio ‘flashcards’. Record yourself reading key terms or vocabulary with their definitions. Listen to the recording when walking to class or other activities. 
  • Use mnemonic devices, acronyms or rhymes to remember concepts. All are verbal-based techniques that will help.
Study Tips for Kinesthetic/Physical Learners

Kinesthetic/Physical learners have lots of energy and process information best when they are physically engaged as they learn. Lecture-based schooling is difficult for these learners because there is no outlet for engaging the body during class. Here are some tips for Kinesthetic learners.
  • During lectures try taking notes with pen and paper. Keep a stress ball in your free hand and squeeze it occasionally. Use tension/relaxation—make a fist or tighten another muscle and count five to ten seconds, then release. This eases pent up energy that needs a physical outlet.
  • Take the long way to class. The longer walk will engage you physically before you have to sit and listen for an hour.
  • When you study, stand up for part of your time. Try using a bookstand so you can get your body engaged in the learning.
  • Exercise while you study. If you just read up on a topic, get up and move while you summarize what you just learned out loud. Create some flashcards and review them while taking a walk or run.
  • Use small movements too. Bouncing a ball, twisting a rubber band, passing an object from hand to hand can all help during study sessions.
  • Build something. You are more likely to remember something you create than read. Take your notes and act out a story that explains them. Design a video or draw pictures. Manipulate figurines. 
Study Tips for Logical Learners

Logical (sometimes called mathematical) learners use their skills of logic to take in and process information. They excel at seeing connections, patterns and relationships between concepts. They are investigative by nature and enjoy learning what’s behind things. Here are some ways to study if you are a logical learner.
  • Break large amounts of material into to smaller segments and find the things that link them together.
  • Look for the patterns and relationships between bits of information to maximize your understanding.
  • Relate patterns in the material to patterns you see in real life. If you have a personal experience that mirrors that pattern it will help you make sense of it.
  • Use your lecture notes and rewrite them to line up topics sequentially—especially helpful to you if your professor jumps from topic to topic.
  • Create graphs, charts or outlines of material. Organize them based on the relationships/sequences you have discovered.
Tips for Solitary Learners

Solitary learners are quite independent and enjoy having long periods of private introspection. You enjoy analyzing a topic from various viewpoints and like the freedom of private study so you can follow discoveries without interruption. You are probably a planner and like to set goals for yourself. Try these tips for solitary learners.
  • It’s seems obvious, but you’ll want to have places to study so that you can be alone. Identify several options for yourself so if one spot is busy, you can try another. These places will put you in the right mind frame for studying.
  • Keep a set of earplugs handy. Often solitary learners find outside noise distracting. Play quiet instrumental music or even white noise through earphones if there is outside noise.
  • Make an agenda. You are a planner so use that strength every time you sit down to study. You might even make a plan for an entire unit or the semester. Just doing that will put you in control of your work and you’ll always know where you are heading.  
  • Try a few approaches from the other learning styles to give you study options while alone. Watch videos or listen to podcasts on a topic to deepen your understanding. Make outlines, flashcards, graphs or drawings that allow you to exercise your natural tendency to organize and plan.  
Closing Thoughts

Most people find they have a couple of learning styles. Don’t limit yourself to just one—you may find tips from another style that helps you learn too.

The goal of excelling in your college courses is to thoroughly learn your subjects in the most efficient means possible. Strategies that sync with your personal way of learning will help you immeasurably toward that end.

Tips for Overcoming Test Anxiety
Feb. 21, 2019
On your way to a degree, license or certificate,  you will face tests and exams—those few minutes to prove what you know. Many people feel anxious before an exam—the butterflies in the stomach, an outbreak of sweat, the total mind blank when all knowledge vanishes. “anxiety” seems like too small a word to describe the experience. 

Jitters before taking a test is normal. In fact, that little burst of adrenaline makes the mind sharper, ready to tackle those questions. You may have test anxiety if symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your ability to read, understand, and correctly answer test questions. 

If you’ve experienced symptoms of test anxiety, take heart. Read on to learn ways to manage your test anxiety before and during an exam.

Learn about the exam. It's is a perfectly legitimate question to ask your professor how the exam will be set up. Will questions be fill-in-the blank or multiple choice? Any essay questions? How long is the exam? How will different parts of the exam be scored? Having this information can remove unwanted nerve-inducing surprises on exam day. 

Practice basic academic discipline. Attend class. Take notes. Read your textbook. Complete and turn in all assignments on time. Nothing conquers exam nerves like knowing your subject and knowing it well!

Make a list of your academic progress and add to it every time you accomplish a study task. Watch this list grow throughout the semester. It is a visual reminder that you are learning what you need to know—reviewing it can help reduce test nerves when you see what you have accomplished.  

If you don’t keep up your learning progress, you can expect more test nerves and poorer grades on those exams. Day-in/day-out academic work is your foundation for good exam experiences.

Banish negative thoughts.  Do any of these kind of thoughts run through your mind? 
“I’m not good enough.”    “If I don’t pass this test, I’m a failure.”    “There’s no way I can learn everything that will be on the test.”  

It’s time to replace those messages with new ones. 

Try this: When one of the negative, defeating thoughts about an exam creeps in, jot it down on a piece of paper. Then write a positive thought next to it. Practice saying them when the negative thoughts creep into your mind.

“I can do this!”    “I don’t have to get a A+, I just have to pass!.”    “I know the material and studied hard, so I will be prepared for this test.”


Get sleep the night before. If you are well-rested before exam day you will have the mental capacity to focus on your test and manage your nerves about it.

Be sure to eat. You can’t think effectively if you haven’t eaten. The brain needs balanced nutrition to work at its optimum. Be sure to have some protein, whole grain carbs, a little fat, and a little sugar source (fresh fruit is great) so your mind is sharp, and your energy is sustained.

Exercise a little. You don’t need a full workout, but a short brisk walk or dancing to some favorite music are a couple of easy ways to get your circulation going and oxygen into your system. A little exercise will also help release the tension that can trigger more test nerves.

Do a pre-test “Pep Rally”. You know how athletes psych themselves up before a game? The coach gives them a talk to rev them up. They shake out the nerves and hype up by chanting and jumping. You can do a little of this yourself. If there are other students in your class, you can try it together.

If that’s too out there for you, before you leave for your exam, you can give yourself a pep talk in your car or your room. Maybe even record a “You’ve got this and you’re going to have a great exam” message and play it back to yourself. 


Stop and focus before you start. Remind yourself to take on the questions one at a time.

Scan the exam to see how it is structured before you begin.

Smile. Smiling triggers a powerful chemical reaction in the brain that lifts your mood, lowers stress, heart rate and blood pressure. (Try this out as you read this. Feel what a smile can do!)

Breathe. If you start to feel the nerves growing, breathe deeply to relax and regain your focus.

Read directions carefully. Be sure you understand them before beginning. 

Read questions carefully, too, so you know exactly what they are asking.

Prioritize. If you come to a question that you don’t know and your anxiety rises, skip forward and find questions you do know. Go back later to the questions you’ve skipped and try them again. Be careful to understand exactly what they are asking. More than likely, they will make more sense the second or third time through.

Congratulate yourself on your effort. If you prepared well, and put some of these tactics to use, your next test experience should be better. You’ll continue to build on that success in the future.

Closing Thoughts

We hope that you find these approaches help you overcome test anxiety when it arises. 

Not all test anxiety is easily managed. If your test anxiety symptoms are severe and you are incapacitated by them, please reach out for professional help. Your school counselor will have advice and resources to help. 

Benefits of Study Groups
Feb. 12, 2019
When learning in SCHOOL, many students enjoy the benefits of study groups. In a well-run study group, members accelerate their learning as they talk through their subject, quiz each other and compare notes. 

Read on to learn advantages of group study. 

1. Procrastination Solution

Because study groups meet at regular times, attending students cannot procrastinate.

If alone, a student might postpone studying until the night before class. When in a study group, however, students must be present at a specific time and prepared to contribute to the study session.

If you struggle with procrastination, a study group might just be the solution for you!

2. Learn Faster

Working together, students in study groups can generally learn faster than students working alone.

For instance, some part of the textbook that seems completely confusing to you could be quite clear to another student. In a study group, instead of spending valuable time puzzling over the difficulty, you can learn quickly by simply asking a question.

In addition, you can help your fellow students when they have difficulties understanding something that you do understand.

3. Get New Perspectives

If you study by yourself, you will always see your material from the same perspective-- yours.

While this may not be a problem, getting some fresh perspectives on a topic can help you learn it more thoroughly. In a study group, as you listen and ask questions, you will soon start noticing a variety of different viewpoints on the same idea.

This will force you to think more about your position and will, therefore, develop your critical thinking skills while helping you study.

4. Learn New Study Skills

In addition to learning new perspectives on a topic, you can also find new study techniques.

During the college years, each student develops their own study methods. While yours may work excellently, you probably can still find ways to improve your learning abilities and sharpen your mind.

By joining a study group, you will have opportunity to observe a wide variety of study methods in action. After considering the pros and cons, you can improve your own study regimen by incorporating the best methods with your own.

In addition, you can help other study members improve by sharing your favorite study tricks.

5. Breaks The Monotony

Studying by yourself, especially for long periods of time, can become a monotonous activity. By joining a study group, you can break this monotony and learn faster!

6. Fill In Learning Gaps

Study groups provide an excellent opportunity to fill in gaps in your notes.

By comparing notes with other students, you can evaluate your accuracy, fix any errors, and get ideas for better note taking.

If, on the other hand, you are a great note taker, you can help other students who had note taking problems fix their mistakes and learn better techniques.

7. Practice for the "Real World”

Working with your peers in a study group gives you an excellent opportunity to hone your people skills. When you are in the workplace, you will often find yourself working with colleagues on projects in a very similar group dynamic. 

If you come across a difficult situation in your study group, you can use it to practice your collaboration abilities.


Before you go and join a study group, remember that all groups are not created equal. Choose a group that spends its time studying and is not just a social club. 

Are you taking an online course and you don't physically meet for class? A study group option may still be available to you. Check if there is an online study group, often on Facebook, for your course. 

Here at CNA NursingPrep, you will have access to our Facebook study group when you start your CNA NursingPrep course. There, you can ask your questions, answer the questions of others, and enjoy the support of others who are preparing for their CNA state exam.

Tips to Improve Your Memory
Feb. 1, 2019
Of all the tools in a student's mental toolbox, memory is one of the most often used... and least considered for improvement.

Think about it. You’re working to develop solid study habits and techniques so you can learn. Where does everything you learn get stored? Your memory! You can improve this all-important mental capacity with a few techniques we’ve outlined here.

1. Turn Off Your Music

If you're like most people, you enjoy turning on music when you study. As much fun as music is, studies have shown that playing any kind of music - whether you enjoy or hate it - actually decreases your ability to focus and memorize.

Science has shown that music has the same effect as any other type of noise. While complete silence will probably seem strange at first, you will be rewarded by a better memory.

However, don’t skip music in your life. When playing music you enjoy, your mood is enhanced, making mental processes more effective. Listening to music can be a real mood and energy boost before hitting the books.

2. Exercise a Little

You don't need to become an Olympic athlete to realize memory benefits from exercise. If you find your concentration dwindling or if a knotty problem is foiling your solutions, try going for a short jog or walk. The time away from your computer will give your brain time to subconsciously process everything you've learned, and the blood flow will encourage greater thinking abilities.

Even better, though, this exercise will improve your ability to remember what you learn both before and after the exercise. If you maintain regular exercise for six months or more, studies have shown an additional boost in brain power.

3. Make a Fist

As unbelievable as it is science has proven that squeezing your right fist for 45 seconds or more will improve your ability to remember the material you study just afterward. When it comes time to recall these memories, make a fist with your left hand to improve your recall.

If you're left-handed, this fist trick will still work, but you'll need to reverse hands: squeeze your left when studying and your right when remembering.

4. Write in Longhand

If you're like most of our generation, you probably can't read your own handwriting and take all your notes on a computer or tablet. That's all very well for notes you want to review in the future, but longhand notes are actually more effective for long-term memory.

Even if you never read those notes again in the future, the act of hand writing your notes will help commit much of it to memory.

5. Chew Gum

While this one doesn't necessarily directly improve memory, chewing gum helps maintain your focus for longer periods of time. If you're starting to get tired of studying or are feeling easily distracted, chewing a stick of gum will help you focus longer and more effectively.

Interestingly enough, in a study on gum chewing and focus, those who did not chew gum performed better at the beginning of a task. Start chewing gum when you feel distraction setting in to extend your mental sharpness.

6. Sleep on it

Pulling an all-nighter sounds like an impressive dedication to learning. While it certainly does require dedication, studying instead of sleeping is one of the worst injuries you can do to your memory.

Try to study more effectively sleep when you feel tired. Even just taking a short 20-minute nap in the middle of the afternoon can improve your memory abilities for the rest of the day and evening.

7. Doodle in Class

Spending important class time simply drawing sounds like a terrible idea, but it might improve your memory of the class.

While you will definitely want to make notes your top priority, doodling in the boring parts of class will make those parts less mind-numbing. By listening and doodling, you still engage class. When something important is said, your mind will snap to it and your note taking can resume.  

8. Make Time for Social Events

The top students are the ones who spend all their time locked in the library with their nose in a book, right? Actually, no, not so much.

While solitary study is a key to success in college, social interaction is too. Taking the time to invest in others improves your brain health. That boosts your immediate memory and concentration while also building your long-term health.

Tips for Studying with Technology
Jan. 23,2019
As an online hub for nursing aide learning materials, CNA NursingPrep knows a thing or two about how technology can improve the learning experience and make studying easier and more enjoyable. 

In this blog, CNA NursingPrep will give you a few tips on how to properly use the internet for studying, as well as some pitfalls to avoid when using the web for your learning success.

Use the right Internet sources.

Where to start? If your professor/teacher doesn’t give you a list of recommended online resources, you can do your own search for them. Use your class syllabus and/or textbook to choose the topics you want to study online. You might concentrate your search on topics you find harder to master with just your textbook and class lectures. 

When you start to scour the internet for credible learning resources and accurate information, you’re in luck—the internet is packed with the stuff! However, it’s also packed with misinformation, misleading claims, and misinterpretations. The key is to glean information from the right sources—more specifically, sources with established credibility, that are backed by empirical evidence, science, and data. These sources will be experts in their fields—whether individuals or organizations. They are not breezy bloggers or creators of social media clickbait. Reputable education resources are designed to educate, not to drive web traffic.  

Unfortunately, the line between credible and false information grows more unclear by the day. What do you do if you’re not sure the information you find is accurate and credible? In that case, it’s best to make like a journalist and double-check—no, triple-check—the information in question. If your information is corroborated by a few credible sources, chances are it’s the correct information.

Keep off social media when studying online.

We get it—this one is easier said than done. At first, you’re just checking your social media outlets as a “quick study break.” Then, about 45 minutes later, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have sucked you in and your study session is shot. 

Social media is designed to intoxicate you—to keep you engaged so you share, like, comment, and retweet to your heart’s content. Unless you’re blessed with incredible willpower, there’s a very small chance you’re only going to spend a minute or two on social media—so while you’re studying, it’s best to stay off social media completely. 

First, keep that Facebook tab closed when you’re using online study materials. Next, turn off push notifications for social media outlets on your phone, and keep your phone on silent during study time. The constant “ping” sound from your iPhone will only serve as a distraction to your study success. There are a number of apps and extensions that can temporarily block access to social media outlets while you’re in study mode. Install and use them.  

When you’ve had a solid study session and turn back to your social media, you can enjoy it guilt free, knowing you are in control of it rather than social media controlling you. 

Take advantage of study aid software.

If you are using online resources to study, here are a few tips to help your learning permanence.

Read your material out loud. Hearing the information helps reinforce it in your mind. Make your own notes, handwritten with paper and pencil/pen. The act of writing creates a mental connection with what you jot down. If the format you are studying in gets a little boring, do your own web search on a topic to watch a video or read an article about it. When you go back to the program you are using, it will seem a fresher to you.  

Closing Thoughts

Using various online study sources—a quick video, an article, online quizzes and study notes—can really help you learn a topic thoroughly. We hope you feel empowered to find great online sources to help you achieve academic success! 

Working and Going Back to School—Caring for Yourself
Dec 18, 2018
A thousand-mile journey is done one step at a time, as the saying goes. Managing your work, school and personal life during this time will be lived one day at a time. You will be developing, using and mastering new life skills. You will be learning and growing. Never forget that.

Here are some suggestions to help you keep yourself mentally, emotionally and physically healthy during your quest for your CNA certificate or college diploma—especially important if you work full-time and are raising a family.

Take Care of Your Health

Give your body what it needs to get you through everything you are doing in your life.

Get some regular exercise—a quick walk and some stretching for just 20 minutes can really help clear your head before work or studying. Exercise oxygenates the brain (perfect before studying!) and also reduces muscle tension. Your sleep will also improve with regular exercise. 

Eat healthy! You’ll be on-the-go and meal planning may be tough. Make use of the easily prepared foods that grocery stores now offer—make them the healthy versions. 

Carry healthy snacks with you so that you aren’t reaching for candy or sodas which will give you a temporary lift, but make you crash later. You’re in this for the long haul and you’ll want the stamina to make it.

Make time for play and rest. Even plan them into your schedule. 

Find an Accountability Partner

What is an accountability partner? It’s someone who will hold you accountable! 

This person could be a friend, work colleague, classmate or family member. If considering a spouse or best friend, consider whether your relationship can shift for the needs of being accountable. 

Their responsibility is to check in on you and help you stay on track with your studies and work. Your responsibility to them to keep them up-to-date about your classes. Be honest with them about your progress or lack-there-of. They are your cheerleader and can help you work through problems. They should provide you tough love if need be.  

When things get overwhelming (and they will) your accountability partner can listen to your gripes and remind you of the goal—your degree. A half hour over coffee could be just what you need to refresh yourself, so you can get back to the work of getting through your classes.

Nurture Your Relationships

This is your life and you want it filled with love and laughter, don’t you? 

Be intentional about showing affection. Enjoy those you love. Practice ‘being in the moment’ as they say. A snuggle on the couch, talking and listening to each other…it’s all about your life. You may think that Chapter 5 must be mastered tonight or else, but a little time spent with family nurtures your spirit—something that lasts past this semester.  

Really set aside school between semesters. Rest and deepen your relationships when off of school.

If your relationships are strained because of the toll your work/school load is taking on you, seek help. A school counselor, student support group, or your house of faith leader are good resources for you.  

Try to Limit Media

If you work and go to school, you are saturated with information coming at you to be learned and acted on. You are mentally engaged for many hours a day. When you come home, you have family to care for. All of that demands your attention and focus. 

It can be tempting to escape frequently into Facebook, other social media, streaming television, et al. However, spending a lot of time with media can spread you too thin mentally. There are studies that indicate the brain’s circadian rhythms are disturbed by smartphone and computer screens. This disrupts the brain’s sleep mechanism. 

It’s a good idea to stop with the screens a couple of hours before bedtime whenever possible. If you study into the night, switch to a textbook, listen audio files or podcasts about your subject. Read over hand written notes.  

Make your social media time a treat for yourself when you’ve done your studying. Trying to study and text friends at the same time probably means you won’t get very high-quality results with the studying.  

Create Rituals

How you start your day and end it can create peace of mind and focus. 

At the beginning of the day, give yourself a few minutes to think and prepare for the day ahead. Anticipate the things that will require the most of you. You’ve got this!  

In the evening, do the same to slow your mind down. Give yourself credit for a day well-lived or let go of the things that were troublesome. Tomorrow is a new day.  

Adapt and Apply What You Know 

You wear many hats when you are pursuing your degree, working, caring for your family and managing day-to-day responsibilities. 

Take a look at the steps or structures you follow to complete your tasks at work. Can you adapt them to planning your schoolwork or home chores? If you get your job done by following a series of tasks, you can break down that term paper into a series of tasks. Each completed step will lead naturally into the next and make everything manageable. It also lets you build from success to success!

Share Your Success

Were you able to have a good study session at home because your kids were quiet and didn’t disrupt you? Thank them and let them know how they helped you. 

Did a co-worker swap a shift when you had a class final? Let them know that you passed, and they helped make it possible.

Learn Your Limits

This may be the toughest lesson to learn. For most people, it’s a lifelong challenge if they choose to take it on.

We live in a society that praises the workaholic. People boast about only sleeping a few hours a night because they are working so much. If someone didn’t achieve a goal, the attitude is usually that they didn’t try hard enough. You may be measuring yourself against this mindset and your self-esteem suffers. This is a signal that you may have reached your limit and need to release the pressure.  

There may come a class that you just can’t pass, and the best choice may be to drop it and work it into a timeframe later on when you can better tackle it. 

Life happens. You may need to take a semester off if it is in the best interest of you and your family. You’re not a failure for doing so. You’ve simply reached your limit and choose to put your efforts where they are really needed. Don’t think it’s a setback. It’s just a pause. When things settle down, you can pick up your classwork again. 

That thousand-mile journey is done one step at a time. Here's to you and the journey you're taking! 
Working and Going Back to School—Managing It All
Dec 6, 2018
A growing number of working adults are Continuing Their Education to advance their careers. With Certificates/degrees in hand, their incomes will increase, and they can expect greater job security with more opportunities for promotions.

In our previous post, CNA NursingPrep shared ideas to help working adults research, plan and choose the right program to earn their advance their education. 

In this post, WE will share some practical advice you can use while working, studying and managing your family life.  

Introduce Yourself

Meet with an advisor as soon as you enroll in school. Be sure to check in regularly, at least every semester, to review your progress, and get advice they may have.
Be sure to meet your instructors. Tell them you are balancing work, family and school. Get their office hours and find out alternatives to talking with them if you can’t meet them during those times. They want you to succeed and should be happy to help you.
Meet your classmates. See if there are others like yourself who work and go to school. You can help each other even if it’s just a few minutes of chatting before class.

Calendar Everything

You’ve enrolled in school and know when classes begin. Your calendar will be full, and it might be your best friend until you graduate.

As soon as you get information about your class schedule, put it all in your calendar. Consider using an electronic calendar that links to important family members so they can check your schedule, too. Exams, mid-terms, due dates for important assignments and finals should all be in there.

Are you taking online courses that you access on your own schedule? Put that on your calendar too. The flexibility of taking online courses is a big plus, but you’ll have to work out a schedule to complete your studies if it’s all up to you. You should follow the schedule advised by the instructor of the course and block out times to study just as if you were headed to a classroom.

Create Your Space

Have a designated study space. Keep supplies handy. You’ll save a lot of time if you don’t have to gather items every time you want to study.

Have a good light source in your study space. Keep earplugs/earphones handy to block out family noise. You’ll want a place that is quiet and puts you in an alert learning mindset. Studying in bed, for example, may not be the best option if you find yourself slipping into sleep mode!

Set boundaries with your family when you study at home. During your study time, they can help by not interrupting you and turning down the noise level of their activities. How you and your family reach agreement on this issue can build respect and deepen your bonds with each other.

Learn How to Study

It may have been years since you ‘hit the books’, so you’ll want to brush up on your study techniques. If your school has a learning resource or student success center, you can get valuable information about how to study.

You can also search online with the ‘How to Study’ and pick up both new and tried-and-true tips.

Tuck In Time to Study

Craft some flashcards or notes that you can carry with you. Download videos or podcasts about what you’re studying. When a few minutes of time opens during your day, use your notes/flashcards or listen to the recordings to capture a few minutes of learning time.

If possible, pad time around every class. Get there early and stay a few minutes late to prepare and review.


At work, give your school schedule to your manager. Let them know when your midterms and final exams are scheduled. It will give your manager plenty of time to accommodate those days. If you must, find someone to swap work shifts with you, do so as soon as possible and be sure to tell your manager of your plans. Regularly check to be sure that you are all on the same page.

Keep communication open with your family. There are going to be stressful days for everyone but talking about things can keep relationships strong.
Remember, you won’t be in school forever and getting your diploma is going to be worth it!

Keep Track of All Education Expenses

It’s a good idea to keep receipts of all your education related expenses.
You never know when an opportunity for some reimbursement may become available to you. If your job requires you to earn a degree or additional licenses, there is probably a tuition reimbursement policy in place.
Keep a folder in your study space; you can label and put the receipts in as you get them. If ever you need them, you’ll be glad you set them aside and kept them in one place!

Celebrate and Evaluate

At the end of every semester, do something to celebrate. You’re a step closer to your degree and should be proud of yourself.

Also, review how the semester went. See what worked for you and plan on that again. For things that didn’t work so well, think about how to do them differently next time. As you grow and learn, your approach to reaching your goals can improve and adapt.
Please join Making Education Possible’s next post which will address maintaining your personal life while going to school and working.

Working and Going Back to School—Getting Started
Nov 25, 2018
You hear about it everywhere—the benefits of having advancing your education—higher wages, more career opportunities and better job security. Of course, you want those things. Perhaps your employer has told you they think you should get a certificate or degree.

However, there is so much to decide—how to afford it and how to fit course work into your work, family and home schedule.
we have a few tips for the early stages of your planning. (We also have tips to help you in every step. You’ll want to read about those in upcoming posts.)

Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Determine Your Goal

Are you in a job that you like and you would like to earn a certificate, degree or license to take you to the next level?

If so, you will want to learn what program fits you. It may be obvious, but not always. Talk to your managers and find out how they managed to fit school in their schedule. You may have several options to consider for your path.

If you want to move into a career unrelated to your current job, talk to people doing that work and research it online. If you have a goal and plan when you look for schools you can evaluate them better because you’ll know what to look for.

Make Records of All Your Experience and Qualifications

If you have a certificate or license for your job, that’s a start. You’ll want your high school diploma or GED in hand and any college classes you’ve already taken. Have you passed any CLEP, DSST or UExcel exams? Get those records.

Also, and this is important, record any additional training you have. Did your job train you for additional responsibilities? Find your certificate of completion or ask your employer for a record. Do you have side hustles for extra income that you trained for? Get that information.

Why gather all your experience?

Because many colleges review a person’s total body of experience and often grant credit for it. You may have already have earned college credit through your work and not even know it!

Research Programs and Schools

If you want to stay local, visit the campuses in person. College admissions officers will be happy to help. Working adults are often reliable and conscientious students—the school sees you as an asset to the student body! If you are a parent, find out what parent friendly services the campus has, like on-campus childcare.

Definitely find out what programs have a large selection of online courses. These will remove the obligation of being in class and you can plan them into your schedule on your own terms.

Any school you consider, review their credit-by-exam policies. CBEs such as CLEP or DSST exams give you credit by passing them. Wouldn’t you rather pass a 90 minute exam rather than take a semester long course? It will save you both time and money to earn credit this way. Then you can focus on the core classes for your degree. 

Do you want to work for your study online? When you research online programs, be sure that the schools are regionally accredited and that they will accept your previous credits.

Keep Track of Your Research

Keep track of everything you’re learning in a notebook or online documents.

It’s a big commitment of time, hard work and money to advance your education. Knowing as much as you can before enrolling in a program should eliminate the kind of surprises that could derail you later. Your time is precious and you don’t want to repeat any of this work because you didn’t keep notes early on.


Tell the vital people in your life that you want to advance your education. You’ll want their support from the beginning.

Tell your employer or manager about your plans. They may have valuable advice to help you. There may be education benefits available through your work to help pay for program and your manager could help you apply for them. It is also good for them to know your plans because they’ll know that adjustments to your schedule might have to be made. Bringing them in early shows that you are respectful of their responsibilities and enhances your reputation with them.

Tell your family your plans. There will be changes to their lives when you take on the additional responsibility of school. With plenty of time to prepare before you start classes, you and your loved ones will find the changes easier to adapt to.

Ready to Start?

We agree that these are quite a few suggestions just to get started on your college path. Incorporating school into your already busy life takes a lot of planning. The more you know, the better you can prepare for for the changes that will happen.

Our next post will offer practical suggestions once you’re ready to start your college courses.

Note Taking-Best Strategies
Nov 6, 2018
Walk into any college classroom and there they are--student faces lit up by laptop screens. A few students still have notebooks, pens, pencils and a handful of highlighters. When they all leave class, who retains more of the professor's lecture?
Taking good notes is arguably the most important component to your academic success. Writing notes is, in a way, a form of learning. They help you solidify your knowledge.
There are advocates for both typed and handwritten note-taking. Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.  But, which is better—old school or new school? Typing or writing?   Let’s find out and weigh the pros and cons of each.

Your Computer—Pros
Fast talking professor? They’re no match for the speed of your fingers on the keyboard. You probably type much faster than you write, and your notes will be more complete than those with pen/paper.  Typing is a benefit if your lectures are dense with sequential and organized information.  

Your notes are backed up on “The Cloud”.  Use a web-based word processor like Google Docs, and your notes are always safe and secure.  When you use your notes to study later, the ‘search’ function will quickly reference any topic you need from all of those pages.  Sharing notes is easy. If a friend misses class, you’ve got their back and can quickly send them your notes.

Your Computer—Cons
Typing your lecture word-for-word may not be as helpful as you think. Your mind will be focused on typing the words, sure, but not engaged in understanding the concepts you learn by actively listening.  Computers freeze or glitch at the worst of times—like the last lecture before the semester final. Lost notes mean lost time. 

The most common liability for laptops in the lecture hall or your study time is—online distraction. You get to class 10 minutes early so you scroll through social media. You check out the cute puppy videos. Before you know it, the lecture on chapter 12 is half over. Chapter 12—the one you didn’t understand when you read it. You missed the lecture because you were engaged online.

Your Paper Notebook—Pros
If typing note produces lectures verbatim, how can hand writing notes be a benefit?  Well, writing by hand creates a cognitive and physical connection to the course material more than typing does.  To write notes by hand, you must listen closely to your professor and extract the most important and necessary parts of their lecture. A focused mind writes focused notes, leading to learning permanence. 

Pen/paper notes give immediate flexibility to relate pieces of information. If the lecture refers to something explained earlier, write a note and draw an arrow back to the earlier reference. Does the professor give vocal emphasis to something?  You know it's important. Mark your notes accordingly. When you study later, you'll study the topic thoroughly, because you knew it was important to the professor.

Writing by hand allows you to accommodate your  unique thought processes. Doodles in the margins can become quick graphs to fill  with information. If an image pops in your head during an ‘Ah-Ha!’ moment, sketch it…that tree with an elephant in the branches will remind you of the concept that jelled for you. Others might not get it, but you will.
And, those highlighter pens? Yes, your notes look like a piece of art. But, if you use the same color to highlight a topic every time its in your notes, you can quickly relate them to each other and remember those layers of information.

Your Paper Notebook—Cons
Remember the fast-talking professor? Writing can slow you down.  It may be hard to listen, choose what to write, and then get it on paper. Hand cramps can occur during a full day of classes. If your lectures cover a lot of information very quickly, typing may be better for you.

Some people have poor handwriting. There’s no point in taking notes if you can’t read them after the fact. Deciphering your notes later is lost time learning. If legibility is your issue, it might be best to type your notes.

Paper note takers also have distractions during class. If your mind wanders, you may have a page full of doodles instead of valuable notes. It’s always going be tough to focus if the lecture is delivered in a monotone or on a subject you find tedious and boring. 
Which one wins?

We've outlined pros and cons of both note taking options. You may decide to try both--typing for some classes and writing for others. Both have their place.
Learning Styles - How Do You Learn Best?
Nov 2, 2018
You have a unique learning style.  Do you know what yours is?  Understanding how you learn helps you retain information more effectively.
Are you a visual learner? Do you learn best through pictures, diagrams, graphs, and videos?  If you are a visual learner you may be talented at art, visual planning and organization, utilization of physical space, and general navigation. Because you are a visual learner you can absorb and utilize a great deal of information through resources like YouTube, maps, diagrams, and visual mind maps.

Do you prefer to listen to information?  Then you may be an aural learner.  You use auditory, musical, and rhythmic associations to retain information. Due to this, you may learn best from spoken word lectures, audiobooks, and podcasts.  As a result, you make use rhyming, rhythm, and jingles to remember concepts and principles.

Are you a reader?  Verbal/linguistic learners like words in either spoken, or written form, and can be avid readers and writers, therefore, learners will often write and rewrite notes in order to achieve permanence through repetition. Mnemonic devices are also very popular amongst linguistic learners, as you can easily recognize and cling to the linguistic patterns in these devices.

Do you have a hard time sitting still and want to physically touch objects?  Then you may be a physical/kinesthetic learner.  If you can touch, move, rearrange, or manipulate an object you will remember it better.  As a result, you may find that the educational system is not a good fit because you have a hard time sitting still. In fact, you may absorb ideas and knowledge when you are moving, touching, and manipulating your environment. 

As a physical learner, you may struggle to focus during the initial learning stages but find your way when exploring the physical applications of what you're learning. You are a perfect example of “learning by doing.”

Do you love numbers and order? Then you may be a logical learner. Logical learners are mathematical, procedural, and rule-oriented, with a systematic approach to solving problems. Are you an expert planner, the organizer who likes to analyze facts? Your skills are apparent in your study habits and expertly-crafted lecture notes. Numbers and statistics may be easy for you to interpret because you are logical you may enjoy a career as a statistician, scientist, data analyst, or mathematician.

Do you prefer to study with your peers? Then you may be a social learner. Social learners crave group learning experiences, constant feedback, and social context for their learning material. Often, social learners are highly-extroverted and seek synergistic, high-energy groups to learn the material and accomplish tasks. Usually competitive types, social learners enjoy tossing their ideas off of more knowledgeable individuals to get advice and insight on their learning material.

Are you easily distracted and need to study alone? Then you may be a solitary learner. Solitary learners are the classical, introverted, bookworm learners of the bunch. You may attempt to remove the subjectivity and social stimulation of groups from the learning equation. You may prefer to learn in silent, empty environments. Solitary learners are on the outside looking in, giving you exemplary observational skills and unparalleled objectivity.

Which learning style are you?
Ultimately, most people are a hybrid of two or more learning styles and use multiple methods for achieving learning permanence. Choose the two or three types you think you may be and try study techniques from each of them. Keep those approaches active. When you’re tired working from one style, try another. This way, your mind will stay active as you learn and help you master new material more quickly.
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