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How to best prepare for exams

Monday, November 19, 2012

Exams are just around the corner and it occurred to me that I have not yet offered my two cents on some resources that every secondary school student should have. The good news is many of these resources are online, and most of these Internet sites are free. History, science, maths and English students will find useful sites that are fun and easy to navigate.


Here are the some sites that no student should be without:


1. The Oxford Dictionary online  offers a free dictionary that includes a special English as a Second Language (ESOL) dictionary, brain teaser games, a better writing section and a world of words blog that covers the origin of words. There are many dictionaries online. The problem is most of them are American or British. This dictionary is both and is the best online dictionary I have found so far. Find it online at


2.  Owl at Purdue is an online writing lab with English grammar and writing exercises for students from Forms 1 through 5. This site has hundreds of exercises with research tips, style guides for writing and ESOL, and demonstrates many different writing styles from job search and professional writing to academic writing. There are grammar and mechanics style guides and lots of self-testing so that you can improve your English, and many tips on how to avoid plagiarism. Check out the site at


3.  Son of Citation Machine has been on my library Web site for years. It’s simple to use and formats bibliographies in many styles, including Chicago and MLA. Simply click on the type of source you’re using: print or non-print. Look for the specific type of source: book, speech, podcast, etc. Plug in the information, and the citation machine makes your citation and tells you how to cite the sources in the body of the research paper. Son of Citation covers everything from books, web documents, e-mails, lectures, blogs, podcasts—you name it, it’s there. Find the Son of Citation Machine at:


4.  The New York Times Book Reviews: You’re not cool unless you read the New York Times Book Reviews. Now you can read the edgy, on-line version, with movie reviews as well. Line up your academic and leisure reading by checking out reviews on this famous site. Avid readers check out this site because the reviews are so well written. That means you’re getting models for writing those English literature essays. Check it out at:


5. Web Search provides information on how to access the best Web sites. It includes the Internet Public library, Physician Desk Reference, Purdue University Library Quick Reference, and encyclopedias with Microsoft’s Encarta and Encyclopedia Britannica. This site teaches Internet users how to create better and more efficient searches and how to evaluate a web source all at


6.  The History Channel’s site at makes history come alive. It’s more than a preview of shows on the History Channel. There’s an audio section with famous speeches, articles about American and world history, interactive history videos and links for Internet users to ask questions about history.


7.  The Smithsonian Institute has a fantastic Web site that is very user-friendly. Every student should take trips to as many museums as possible, and this is the next best thing to actually being there. There’s also a newsroom, cultural and news centre. Check out the Smithsonian Institute at


8.  50 Best Web sites of 2011-TIME: Time magazine lists 50 Web sites that make the web great. This is a fun mix of educational and entertainment sites including topics such as music and video, family, sports, news, fitness, shopping, travel, health and education.,28757,2087815,00.html


9.  Motivation for Students offers tips on sitting exams, links to sites like, a free e-course in algebra, inspirational short stories, articles on how to reduce fear during exams and articles about role models, all at


10.  Questia is one of my favourite Web sites. There are over 70,000 volumes available for students trying to write SBAs or other research papers. There are useful articles about research and formatting research projects. Check out Questia at


Every year I suggest books that all students should have in their library. These are usually resources like Woe is I, The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T O’Conner, Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss, and On Writing by Stephen King. Here are two good books to add to the list:
1. Verbal Advantage: 10 Steps to a Powerful Vocabulary: A 10-step vocabulary programme that teaches 500 key words and 3,000 synonyms. It includes the history of  words.
2. Steering the Craft by Ursula Le Guin: Le Guin, a famous author, has put together writing exercises based on excerpts from famous writers’ work. This is a great way to hone your writing skills.


There you have it. Great resources at your fingertips that will save you time and make you a more efficient student.


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