Sleeping on your left side

from the website Natural Cures.

First, preview the vocabulary below.  Then watch the video and read the text at the same time.  You can read either on-screen or below.  It’s your choice.


affect:  make a change in (something)
boost:  make better
digestion:  the body’s system that makes use of the food you eat/
digestive:  having to do with your body’s making use of the food you eat.
sleep apnea:  a condition where you stop breathing for a short time
asthma:  a condition where you can’t breathe well
while:  but
holistic medicine:  a system of medical treatment for the whole body, not just one part
lymphatic:  having to do with the movement in the body of a clear fluid called lymph.
toxins:  poisons from the environment
thoracic duct:  the main pipeline of the lymphatic system
node:  a knot-like mass of tissue
bolsters:  makes (it) work better
Ayurvedic:  of the ancient Hindu art of medicine
break down:  make into smaller, harmless pieces
intestine:  the lower part of the digestive system
colon:  the bottom part of the digestive system
bowel movement:  waste food exiting the body
pancreas:  the gland that puts a digestive fluid into the intestine
pancreatic enzymes:  digestive fluids produced by the pancreas
pregnant:  having a baby growing inside
circulation:  the movement of blood throughout the body
drainage:  slow removal
aortic:  from the left part of the heart
uterus:  the part of a woman’s body where a baby grows
liver:  the organ in the body that makes chemicals and drugs harmless
kidneys:  the organs that remove waste from the blood
fetus:  the tiny baby inside the uterus
heartburn:  a burning sensation in your stomach
acid reflux:  a condition in which stomach acid comes up
chronic:  happening all the time
switch:  change
spine:  backbone
flip:  turn over
dim:  very little light
glaucoma:  abnormally high fluid pressure in the eye
carpal tunnel syndrome:  a painful disorder of the wrist and hand

Everyone knows how important sleep is for keeping in good physical and mental health.  However, how long you sleep is just as important as the way you sleep.  The position you sleep in can affect your health, help keep your skin looking young, and boost your digestive health.  There are a few ways you can sleep – on your front, your back, your left side, and your right side – and they all affect your health.  Sleeping on the back can be harmful for people with sleep apnea or asthma because it can make it harder to breathe.  Sleeping on the right side is likely to make digestive problems worse, while sleeping on the left side may boost digestion.  Sleeping on the left side is believed to greatly boost health and even save lives.  In holistic medicine, the left side of the body is the controlling lymphatic side, and while you’re sleeping on this side, your body will have more time to filter toxins, lymph fluid, and waste through the thoracic duct and the lymph nodes.

Here are six ways sleeping on your left side is good for your health.

1.  It bolsters the lymphatic system 

Ayurvedic medicine says that sleeping on your left side lets your body better filter lymph fluid and waste through the lymph nodes.  This is because the left side of our body is the stronger lymphatic side.  Western studies also found that sleeping on the left side can help the body break down waste materials from the brain.  However, sleeping on the right side can lower the lymphatic system’s power.

2.  It may improve digestion.

When it comes to digestion, sleeping on the left side may be better than the right because of gravity.  Lying on the left side lets food waste easily move from the large intestine into the lower colon, meaning you’re more likely to have a bowel movement when you wake up.  Sleeping on the left side lets the stomach and pancreas hang naturally because our stomach lies on the left side of the body.  This can make sure the body keeps creating pancreatic enzymes and will help other digestive processes.

3.  It is good for your heart.

Doctors advise that pregnant women sleep on their left side to boost circulation to the heart.  Even if you’re not pregnant or a woman, sleeping on the left side may help take some weight off the heart.  Gravity can help lymph drainage toward the heart and aortic circulation away from the heart.

4.  It’s ideal for pregnant women.

Sleeping on the left side doesn’t only boost pregnant women’s circulation.  It can also ease weight on the back, keep the uterus from squeezing the liver, and raise blood flow to the uterus, kidneys, and fetus.  For this reason, doctors tell pregnant women to spend as much of their sleep time as possible on their left sides.

5.  It may reduce heartburn.

A study written in The Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology found that lying on the left side can help lower acid reflux signs.  This is because our stomach lies on the left side.  Lying on the right side may worsen these signs.  The help comes very fast.  If you’re feeling heartburn after a meal, try lying down on your left side for ten minutes.

6.  It may relieve back pain.

People with chronic back pain may feel a little better if they switch to sleeping on their left side.  That is because sleeping on your side can ease weight on the spine.  Feeling more comfortable will raise your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

If you usually sleep on your back, your front or your right side, you may wonder how to break that habit and start sleeping on your left side.  It will take some time and practice, but you will be able to quickly train your body to sleep in this position.  Here are some tips.  You can try lying on your left side and press a full-length body pillow up against your back.  The pillow will stop you from rolling over during the night.  Try switching the side of the bed you sleep on.  This will make it easier for you to flip to your other side and have the same great sleep.  Another trick is to keep a dim light lit on your right side because your body will naturally want to turn away from the light while you sleep.  It will make it easier for you to sleep on your left side.  Try these small changes as soon as you can.  They will make you sleep better and lead you to better health.

It is important to note that some people, like those with heart disease, sleep apnea, glaucoma and carpal tunnel syndrome, may not get help from sleeping on their left sides.  If you’re not sure about what sleep position would be best for you, it is always a good idea to ask a doctor.

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The story of computers

The idea of computers started long before electricity was used.  For example, 2000 years ago people used a device called an abacus, which had beads on a wire that were moved around by hand to do basic math.  This was the only mathematical tool until the 17th century when the Frenchman Blaise Pascal built a simple mechanical device that could add numbers.  Later that same century the German Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz built a better mechanical device that could add, subtract and multiply numbers.  It wasn’t until a century later that the Frenchman Charles Xavier Thomas built a machine that could do all four basic functions: adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.  Meanwhile, in Cambridge, England, Charles Babbage saw that many long calculations had repetitive actions which could be done automatically.  From this idea he developed a steam-powered automatic mechanical calculating machine, which he called a “Difference Engine.”  He worked on this machine for ten years until he got a better idea, which he called an “Analytical Engine.”  This idea was far ahead of its time and wouldn’t be fully appreciated until a hundred years later.

Automated computing took a big step forward in 1890 when Herman Hollerith and James Powers, who both worked for the United States Census Bureau, developed punch cards which could be read by a computing machine.  These were paper cards in which holes were punched to organize information and store memory.  Because computers worked on a binary system of ones and zeros, a hole in the punch card was a one and no hole was a zero.  This system was used for over fifty years.

World War II speeded up the development of the computer because the military needed mathematical calculations for their long-range weapons.  At the University of Pennsylvania, John P. Eckert, John W. Mauchly, and their associates at the Moore school of Electrical Engineering built the first high-speed electronic computer and called it ENIAC, which were the first letters for Electrical Numerical Integrator And Calculator.  This machine was a thousand times faster than the generation of mechanical computers that came before, but it was huge and expensive.  It used 18,000 vacuum tubes, required 180,000 watts of power, and took up 1800 square feet (167 square meters.)  ENIAC was used from 1946 to 1955.

Fascinated by the success of ENIAC, the mathematician John Von Neumann thought that a computer should have a fixed structure and not have to be rewired for different calculations.  He thought that there should be a programmed control, which could be changed for different calculations.  This idea, called the “stored-program technique” was adopted by all future computers.  In addition to this, the data and the instruction programs were stored in the same memory, allowing both to be changed when needed.  As a result of these two changes, computers became faster and more efficient.

This new generation of computers used Random-Access-Memory (RAM) which could be accessed continuously.  Punch cards were still used, but after the programming was loaded into the machine, it could perform very fast calculations.  Over the following years computers became much smaller, about the size of a grand piano, and used only 2500 vacuum tubes, which required much less electricity.  However, they needed a lot of maintenance.  This generation of computers, which included EDVAC and UNIVAC, was used for the next 8 to 12 years.

In the 1950s computers were built using magnetic tape rather than punch cards to store information in memory.  By the end of the 1960s punch cards were no longer used.  These computers required teams of programmers and maintenance engineers and were therefore very expensive to run.  Only very large organizations such as governments and private laboratories could afford them.  In the 1960s computers continued to decrease in size and became faster and smarter.  The LARC machine, built by the Sperry-Rand Corporation, and the Stretch computer, built by IBM, were examples of this improved computer, which could process 100 million words and carry out calculations in less than one millionth of a second.  These computers were widely used in businesses for accounting, payroll, inventory, ordering supplies and billing.  They were also used in hospitals to keep track of patient records, medications and treatments.  In the 1970s computers shrank even more in size to increase speed and efficiency.  This was made possible thanks to tiny silicon chips which had the hard programming on them.  Email started to be used at this time.   In the early 1980s it became possible to put hundreds of thousands of transistors on a single chip, which brought the price of a computer down enough so that average people could afford them.  As early as the 1970s companies such as Apple Computer and Radio Shack introduced personal computers (PCs) to the public, who bought them mainly to do word processing and play video games such as Pong (1972), Tank (1974), and later Pacman (1980) and Tetris (1984).  Microprocessors with read-only memory (ROM) were introduced to store information that was constantly used, which increased the general efficiency of computers.

No history of computers would be complete without also mentioning the creation of the Internet in the early 1990’s.  It started with commercial networks and research institutes linking their networks together for easy communication.  An English scientist and programmer, Tim Berners-Lee, wrote the first web browser and released it in 1991 to the general public, which made “surfing” the Internet possible.  There are now over one billion websites.


device:  a mechanical or electrical thing made for a purpose.
tool:  anything that helps you do something
century:  100 years
mechanical:  like a machine
add: +
subtract: –
multiply: x
divide: ÷
calculations:  mathematical processes such as adding, subtracting, etc.
repetitive:  repeating
automatically:  without you doing anything
ahead of its time:  from a future time
appreciated:  understood
took a big step forward:  became so much better (idiom)
binary:  2 numbers – 1 and 0
speeded up:  made (it) go faster
military:  army, navy, air force, marines, etc.
long-range weapons:  guns and missiles that could bomb things far away
associates:  other engineers who worked with them
generation:  all the computers that were made at the same time with the same technology
vacuum tubes:  devices that control electric current in an airless environment
fascinated:  greatly interested and curious
programmed:  given a set of instructions
adopted:  used
data:  information apart from the programming
efficient:  not making mistakes
accessed:  reached and used
loaded:  inputted
perform:  do
required:  needed
maintenance:  repairing and cleaning
magnetism:  the energy of magnets
process:  handle, do
carry out:  do (idiom)
accounting:  all the money coming in and going out of the company
payroll:  salaries
inventory:  keeping lists and numbers of supplies
billing:  figuring out orders for payment
keep track:  keep a record (list and number of items)
medications:  medicine
treatments:  things a doctor does to make someone well
shrank:  became smaller
silicon chips:  sets of electronic circuits on a small flat piece of silicon
transistors:  devices that increase or switch the direction or flow of electricity
afford:  have enough money for, be able to buy
word processing:  writing
microprocessors:  silicon chips
constantly:  all the time
commercial:  business
research institutes:  organizations, often universities, that do research to discover new things.
linking:  joining, connecting

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How to make a budget

A budget is a tool you can use to get control of your expenses and save money for those expensive things you want to buy later such as a car or a home.  Following is a step-by-step procedure on how to make a personal budget and take the first step to creating your financial independence.

  1. Determine how much money you have right now. How much is in your savings account, your checking account, your investments?  You should also write down how much interest or growth you are making per year and how much you’re spending to maintain these assets.
  1. Determine how much you owe right now. On each of your debts (credit cards, mortgage, bank loans and car loan, student loan, and any other debt) what is the total amount owed on each one?  What is the monthly payment on each one?  What is the interest rate on each one?
  1. Determine your net worth. When you know how much money you have and how much money you owe, subtract one from the other to find out your net worth.  For example, if you have $50,000 and owe $35,000, your net worth is $15,000.  Your net worth may be below zero, but that’s okay at this point.  By building a budget, you can change that.
  1. Determine your average recurring monthly expenses. Sometimes this isn’t easy.  Keep all your receipts (groceries, entertainment, clothing, gasoline, insurance) utility bills (electricity, water, natural gas) and other information about your spending for two to three months.  Yearly expenses (car insurance, taxes) can be divided by 12 to see what the monthly expense is.
  1. Divide all these expenses into categories, such as food (including restaurants), clothing, general shopping, transportation (including gasoline), entertainment, utilities, credit cards, and loans. For most people, these categories are good enough, but you could add more if you like.  After tracking your expenses over a few months, determine an average amount for each category.  For example, you may find that you’re spending an average of $800 a month on food.
  1. Start a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on your computer and input your categories and the average amounts you spend every month. If you prefer, there are several online budgeting sites like, and or apps for your smart phone like mvelopes that will do the same thing.
  1. After entering all the information, you will discover whether your spending habits are working or not. If you’re spending less money than you make each month, then you’re okay.  But if your monthly expenses are greater than your income, you’re going more and more into debt every month, and it’s just a matter of time before you are in big trouble.  If this is you, then you must immediately cut back on your expenses.  For example, you could order two cups of Starbuck’s coffee per week rather than seven.  You could go out to dinner twice a month rather than every week.  The important thing is to spend less than you make, and there are always things you can cut back on.
  1. To help you cut back on expenses, there are several websites that can help you, such as,, or On these websites you’ll learn that biking or walking to work can save you about $8600 a year and that doesn’t even include parking fees.  If you must drive, then consider car-pooling and sharing the commute with other people.  Shopping in thrift stores is another way to cut back, especially on clothing.  At the grocery store buying no-name brand products is another good idea.  These products are often made by the same manufacturers that make the name-brand products and are of the same quality for a lower price.  Rather than buying your lunch, bringing a lunch to work can save you lots.  Another way to cut back is cooking your own meals.  On the weekend make enough food for many meals and refrigerate meals for the week.  The goal of cutting back on your expenses is to have extra money at the end of the pay period.  This money is for savings, and when you determine how much it is, then you should pay yourself first.  This means that with every paycheck the first thing that you should do is put money into your savings account.  When it’s in your savings account, you won’t feel like taking it out again to meet expenses, and you’ll try harder to live within your budget.
  1. If you have lots of debt, then consider taking out a consolidation loan from the bank and paying it back over two or three years. As you’re doing this, stop using your credit cards and pay for things with cash.  This way you’ll stop going into more debt as you’re getting out of debt.
  1. As the months and years pass, you may have to make adjustments to your budget, for example when gasoline prices increase, when your rent goes up, or when you get a raise at work. You may have to move some money from one category to another to make your budget work.  If your income increases, don’t start spending more.  Instead, put more money into your savings account.  Experts say you should build your savings account to an amount that is equal to three month’s income.  This is your emergency fund in case something bad happens, such as losing your job or your car breaking down.  In the beginning sticking to your budget may seem hard to do, so you’ll need some discipline.  In the long run you’ll be happy that you started limiting your spending and saving for those big expenses like a new car or a home.


expenses:  spending
procedure:  way to do something
budget:  a plan for spending money
financial:  of or about money
independence:  freedom
determine:  find out, figure out
savings account:  a bank program that pays interest on your savings
checking account:  a bank program that allows you to write checks.
investments:  places where you can grow your money.
interest:  the percentage a bank or investment pays you on your money.
maintain:  keep in good working order
assets:  things that are worth money
owe:  have to pay back in the future
debt:  amount of money you owe
mortgage:  a loan to buy a house
loan:  money someone lends you which you have to pay back
interest rate:  percentage you pay for a loan
net worth:  the amount of money you would have if you sold everything and paid back everyone.
recurring:  happening again and again
insurance:  a program that pays you if something bad happens
utilities:  basic things you need to pay for in your home
categories:  groups of things that are alike
tracking:  writing down
average:  all the expenses added together divided by the number of expenses
spreadsheet:  a computer program where you can input numbers into columns and rows
income:  the money you make from all sources
cut back:  spend less
commute:  trip to work and back home
thrift stores:  stores that sell used items
manufacturers:  producers, makers
quality:  being well-made
pay period:  the amount of time (one week, two weeks, etc.) that you get a paycheck.
consolidation loan:  a loan that pays off all your smaller debts.
adjustments:  small changes
emergency fund:  money for when you’re in trouble and need help.
breaking down:  not working
discipline:  telling yourself what to do

The placebo effect

A placebo is any fake treatment or medicine that makes a person feel better although it has no scientifically proven effect.  It is often just sugar, a saline solution or distilled water.  The word “placebo” comes from the Latin language and means “I will please.”  After taking a placebo, a person often feels pleased because they feel better.  When this happens, it is called “the placebo effect.”  The original study of this effect was published in 1955 by an anesthesiologist by the name of Henry K. Beecher, and he discovered that it only works on about 35% of people.  Scientists who have studied this effect found out that if a person expects that a treatment is going to work, it often does.  They also found that large pills work better than small pills, colored pills better than white pills, injections better than pills, and surgery better than injections.  The strange thing is that positive thinking isn’t the only reason a person feels better; a placebo can actually cause physical changes in the body.  For example, it can change heart rate, blood pressure and chemical activity in the brain.  On the other hand, in from 4% to 26% of patients this change can be negative, such as nausea, constipation or diarrhea.  Placebos are used to study the effectiveness of new drugs.  When a drug company develops a new medicine, to prove that the medicine is effective, they give it to some patients and give a placebo to other patients.  At the end of a period of time, it will compare both groups.  If the results are better with the real medicine group than with the placebo group, it proves that the medicine is effective.  Although placebos can be effective in treating symptoms, they rarely cure a disease.  It would seem as if placebos work only when doctors are tricking patients into believing that it will have a positive effect on their symptoms, but this is not always true.  Even when patients are told that they are taking a placebo, many of them report improvement in their symptoms.  Placebos are not real medicine, but since they can make people feel better and since there are few negative side effects, many people think that doctors should use them more often.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the lesson.


fake:  not real
treatment:  what a doctor does to make a patient better
effect:  result
saline:  salt
distilled: pure
anesthesiologist: a doctor who gives patients anesthetics for pain
injections:  medicine given in liquid form under the skin
surgery:  cutting the body open to fix what’s wrong
positive:  believing that it will work
negative:  bad
nausea:  feeling like throwing up
constipation:  not being able to poo
diarrhea:  liquid poo
prove:  show that it is true
effective:  giving a good result
symptoms:  the effects on the body of a disease
cure:  make well
side effects:  results that are apart from relieving symptoms

Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the above vocabulary on the audio file below.

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How to learn English fast

A lot of people around the world are trying to learn English because it’s a useful language that can help them get a better future.  It is estimated (because nobody knows exactly) that over one billion people use English as their second language, making it the most popular second language in the world.  If you are serious about learning this language, there are five important things you should know.

#1  Learn the language as a child would.  Have you noticed that children seem to learn a second language much faster than their parents do?  The reason for this is that children have no belief that learning a language is difficult, so they have a positive attitude.  This allows them to learn it faster than adults who believe that it’s difficult.  A child opens his mouth and uses the second language without caring if it’s perfect or not.  The only thing he cares about is being understood.  Mistakes are not important to him.  Adults, on the other hand, have learned through many years at school that mistakes are bad, so they try not to make very many.  This holds them back, and makes them afraid to open their mouths and use the language.  If you want to learn a language quickly, you must become like a child and not care if you make mistakes.  Mistakes are part of learning, not something to be avoided.

#2  Practice all 4 skills, listening, speaking, reading and writing in equal amounts.  The first thing you do is hear the language.  Then you copy what you hear and start speaking the language.  Later you see how that language is written and you read it.  Lastly, you write what you have seen written.  The order is always the same.  Listening leads to speaking which leads to reading and finally writing.  Therefore, you must balance your studying by doing work in all 4 skill areas.  A practical example of this is to listen everyday to the TV or talk radio, speak with your friends, classmates and neighbors, read the daily newspaper (the free ones are usually easier to understand), and write in a journal as well as send emails to your friends.  This balanced approach will help you develop all the skills equally so you won’t be weak in any one area.

#3  Build your vocabulary.  Your knowledge of vocabulary is a large factor of your general ability in the language.  Keep a list of new vocabulary that you see or hear.  Put them in your smart phone or write them down during the day.  In the evening make a list of them and look them up in the dictionary to get a definition.  It doesn’t matter if your definition is in English or a translation into your first language.  Then make flashcards with the word on one side and the definition (or translation) on the other side.  Carry these around with you and review them as often as you can.  When you know the word well enough, you can stop carrying it around and add more that you don’t know.  Research has shown that in order to recognize and understand a new word, you must see or hear it 7 times.  In order to make it an active word that you can use in speaking or writing, you must see or hear it 17 times.  So you see, it’s a numbers game.  All you need to do is see or hear the word repeatedly and you will learn it.  You don’t even have to study it.

#4  Develop a positive attitude.  You’ve been studying English for a while now, but you still aren’t very good at it.  This is natural.  Nobody learns a new language quickly.  For the average adult it takes between 3 and 5 years to learn a language well enough so you can easily function in that language.  Don’t be hard on yourself if you are not learning as fast as you want to.  Everyone learns at a different speed, so never compare yourself to other people.  Just know that one day in the future your English skills will be as good as anyone else’s.  It will happen.  It’s only a matter of time.  Knowing this should improve your attitude while you’re still in the beginning stages of learning.

#5  Take care of your body.  Your brain will follow your body.  If you eat well, get enough sleep, and exercise regularly, it’s not only good for your body, but also good for your brain.  These habits are beneficial whenever you are learning anything, especially a new language.

None of these things are difficult to do, but there is one problem.  Things that are easy to do are also easy not to do, so at first you have to develop the habit of doing these things.  Research has shown that to form a new habit, it takes 31 days.  At the beginning of this period you have to force yourself to do these things, but at the end they become habits that are automatic.  Don’t worry if you miss a day or two.  Just recommit yourself and you’ll be back on track.  It’s that easy.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


attitude:  way of thinking
avoided:  not done
balance:  do equal amounts
practical:  useful
factor:  reason, something that produces a result
definition:  meaning of a word
research:  studies done to find the truth
recognize:  know by seeing or hearing
function:  do things
compare:  think you’re better or worse
matter of time:  with enough time it will happen
beneficial:  good for you
period:  amount of time
automatic:  happen by themselves
recommit:  decide again
on track:  doing what you planned to do

Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.


If the world had just 100 people

If the world were reduced to just 100 people, then one person would represent 1% of the population and 100 people would represent all of the population.  In other words, the same percentages would be true.  Here are the numbers.

There would be 50 men and 50 women.

There would be 14 Americans (North and South), 11 Europeans, 15 Africans, and 60 Asians.

There would be 27 people aged 0 to 14, 16 people aged 15 to 24, 40 people aged 25 to 54, 9 people aged 55 to 64, and 8 people over the age of 65.

There would be 12 native Mandarin speakers, 6 native Spanish speakers, 5 native English speakers, 4 native Hindi speakers, 3 native Arabic speakers, and 70 people who spoke the other 6500 languages.

There would be 31 Christians, 23 Muslims, 15 Hindus, 7 Buddhists, and 16 people with no religion.

There would be 86 people who could read and write and 14 who could not.

There would be 15 people who made less than $2.00 US a day, 56 people who made between $2 and $10 a day, 13 people who made between $10 and $20 a day, 9 people who made between $20 and $50 a day, 6 people who made between $50 and $90 a day, and 1 person who made over $90 a day.  In other words, one person would control 50% of all the money in the world.

There would be 21 people who were overweight, 63 people who had a healthy weight, 15 people who were malnourished, and 1 person who was starving to death.

There would be 87 people who had clean water and 13 who didn’t.

There would be 77 people who had shelter and 23 who didn’t.

There would be 44 people who had Internet access and 56 who didn’t.

There would be 75 people who had a mobile phone and 25 who didn’t.

There would be 7 people who attended college and 93 who didn’t.

Are you surprised by any of these numbers?

Click on the audio recording below to hear the lesson.


reduced:  lowered, made less
represent:  equal, be the same as
percentages:  numbers out of 100
Mandarin:  the official language in China
Hindi:  the official language in India
control:  have, be able to use
overweight:  fat, heavier than normal
malnourished:  not getting enough good food
starving:  having little or no food
shelter:  a home with a roof
access:  ability to use
mobile:  able to be carried
attended:  went to

Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the above vocabulary on the audio file below.

Statistics thanks to Gabriel Reilich

How to do your best on a test

Tests are a reality of getting an education.  Every course a student takes has some form of testing to determine if the student passes or fails.  To pass a test, most students read the required chapters in their textbook, take notes that they can study later, review the notes they took in class, and hope that’s enough to get a good mark on the test.  Often, however, this is not enough, and students are disappointed in their test results.  Students don’t realize that there’s more to passing a test than they think.  Following are some things you can do to help you get the score you deserve on any test you take.

The first thing to do is to start early and give yourself enough time to study.  Not doing this is the major reason why students fail.  You need time to learn any material, so determine how much time you think you’ll need, double it and make a schedule of your study times.  Put this schedule on a calendar that you can easily see everyday.  You can also put this schedule in your smart phone.  Then all you have to do is stick to your schedule and don’t let anything interfere with these times.  More than a few students try to cram before a test because they didn’t plan their study times, so they didn’t study well enough.  Although you may get a passing score, cramming is not a good way to prepare for a test.  The reason is if you study late into the night before a test, your brain won’t function properly the following day.  You’ll feel sluggish and you’ll have trouble remembering things that you think you learned, so don’t put yourself in a position where cramming is the only thing that you can do.

The second thing to do is to take breaks.  Give yourself a mini-break of 5 minutes or so every hour.  During this break, stretch your body, dance, or do calisthenics.  Then eat a brain-boosting snack such as fruit or almonds, which allows your body to replenish the glucose it needs to feed the brain and keep it working well.  Short, repeated periods of study are often more effective than long periods of study.

The third thing you should do is to change the location of your studying.  Research has shown that if you study in different places, such as in your room, at a quiet coffee shop, or at the library, you don’t associate the material you learn with any one place, so it’s more easily recalled.  You can even study on the bus if you’ve brought flashcards with you.

The fourth thing is something you should not do, which is multitask. Multitasking is doing two or more things at the same time as you’re studying.  This is a bad idea because your brain can’t give enough attention to more than one thing at a time.  Give yourself dedicated study time and do the other things at another time.  The exception to this is listening to music, which can make you feel more relaxed and help you focus better on the material you’re trying to learn.  The music you listen to should be wordless, however, or part of your brain will be listening to the words and not remembering what you’re studying.

The fifth thing to do is get enough sleep the night before a test.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers aged 14 to 17 need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night, young adults 18 to 25 need 7 to 9 hours, adults 26 to 64 need 7 to 9 hours, and older adults over 65 need 7 to 8 hours.  Getting less than this amount affects your mental abilities.  If you can’t get to sleep, try some warm milk or tea.  Many students have found that taking melatonin a half hour before bedtime is an easy way to fall asleep.  Unlike traditional sleep medication, melatonin is a hormone that your body produces to make you sleepy, so it’s a natural aid you can use without fear of addiction.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the first part of the lesson.

The sixth thing to do is to avoid any food too close to bedtime.  All that digesting will keep you awake at night.  However, it’s a good idea to feed your brain the evening before.  Fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, help boost your brainpower.  You might also want to incorporate some eggs into your general diet.  Eggs contain choline, which is linked to memory and cognitive performance.  Avoid simple carbohydrates and processed sugar.  These may give you a temporary energy boost, but they cause your body to crash, which leaves you feeling super tired later.  If you crave something sweet, go for fruits, especially those that contain vitamin C, which help improve your mental abilities.  If you like salty snacks, eat pumpkin seeds or nuts, which have vitamin E and zinc, also good for your brain.  Lastly, on the morning of your test, eat a healthy breakfast with fiber and protein, which will keep your mind alert.  An example of a good breakfast is a glass of juice, an egg, toast, and cheese.

The seventh thing you should do is stay generally hydrated, especially before an exam.  One of the symptoms of dehydration is fatigue, so bring a bottle of water with you to the test.  A lot of students drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages not only when studying but also before taking a test.  However, be careful because caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will dehydrate you.  Dehydration can cause fatigue, so if you do drink coffee, also drink plenty of plain, clear water so you don’t get dehydrated.  Drinking coffee after dinnertime is also a bad idea because it keeps you awake, and you need to get a good night’s sleep before a test.  Chewing mints or mint gum is an alternate way to stay alert.  Studies have shown that mints or mint gum increase alertness, accelerate reaction time, and increase how people process information.  There’s one more thing.  Avoid alcohol, especially the night before a test.  In addition to the hangovers, alcohol also dehydrates you.

The last thing to do is use visualization, which is using your imagination to mentally create a situation.  There are two ways that visualization can help you prepare for a test.  You can use this technique to help you relax before a test or to help you create the outcome you want.  To relax and get rid of your stress, close your eyes and cover them with the palms of your hands to eliminate any light.  Then imagine a scene that’s very relaxing to you, such as a day at the beach or curled up in bed with a good book.  Picture as many details as possible to make it realistic, and spend a minute enjoying the relaxing scene.  Open your eyes and feel your body more relaxed than it was before.  Then repeat the same visualization scene.  The more you practice this, the easier it becomes.  This process creates a safe place for you to feel calm and relaxed before you sit down to take your test.  The other kind of visualization is about creating the result you want.  Imagine yourself achieving your goal of passing the test. What does it look and feel like?  Imagine your success in as much detail as possible.

On the day of the test, you can do the following things to insure that you do well on the test.  First, go to the bathroom so you won’t have the urge for the duration the test.  Find the place in yourself that is confident, and go to this place and stay there.  When you get the test, read the directions carefully and follow them.  Before you start, look over the entire test and identify which sections are the easiest and which are the hardest.  Answer the easy questions first, which will not only get them out of the way, but will also give you confidence for the harder parts.  Skip questions you don’t know and come back to them at the end if you have time.  Your job is to get the highest score you can on the test, and if you get stuck on hard questions, you’ll just waste time and may not get to the questions that you can answer.  Set a good pace that will allow you to finish the whole test in the time that you have.  Also, if it’s a multiple choice test, cross out any obviously wrong answers.  Even if you don’t know the right answer, you increase your chances of guessing correctly.  For essay questions, write an outline before you start.  In your outline write down your main point and the supporting details you want to mention.  This will help you stay on track as you write your response.  Lastly, review your answers before you submit your test.  Too often students forget to do this and turn in a test with careless errors.

Armed with these suggestions, you should do well on your next test.  Good luck.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the last part of the lesson.


determine:  decide, figure out
required:  necessary, assigned by the teacher
realize:  know
score:  mark, percentage
major:  most important, biggest
material:  information to learn
double:  multiply by 2
schedule:  plan of the days and times that something will happen
interfere:  stop something from happening
cram:  try to learn as much as possible in a short time
function:  work
sluggish:  slow
position:  situation
calisthenics:  exercises where you move your body in a repeated way
boosting:  making better
replenish:  put back, replace
effective:  working well and fast
research:  studies to find out something important
associate:  make a connection
recalled:  remembered
flashcards:  cards with a vocabulary word on one side and its definition on the other side
attention:  focus, concentration
dedicated:  doing only one single thing
according to:  as stated by
affects:  changes, makes worse
hormone:  a chemical your body makes
aid:  help
addiction:  dependency, something you can’t easily stop
avoid:  stay away from, not eat
digesting:  turning food into something the body can use
omega-3 fatty acids:  a chemical found in food that is good for your body
incorporate:  use regularly
cognitive:  brain
carbohydrates:  food composed of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.
processed sugar:  sugar that is made pure
crave:  really need
contain:  have
mental:  brain
fiber:  plant matter that cannot be digested
protein:  meat and similar plant food
alert:  focused, aware
hydrated:  watered
symptoms:  negative effects on the body
dehydration:  lack of enough water
fatigue:  great tiredness
caffeinated:  containing caffeine
mints:  green plants with a fresh taste
alternate:  other, different
accelerate:  make faster
process:  learn, remember
hangovers:  headaches and general pain that result from too much alcohol
technique:  practice, way of doing something
outcome:  result
palms:  the inside parts of the hands that aren’t the fingers
eliminate:  stop, cancel
scene: picture
realistic:  seem real
achieving:  being successful getting
duration:  length, time
confident:  feeling like you can do something successfully
entire:  whole, 100%
identify:  find out
skip:  don’t do
stuck:  not able to move forward
pace:  speed
multiple choice:  choosing the correct answer from a list
obviously:  easily seen or known
essay:  writing a long answer
mention: write about
on track:  on the topic
review:  look again at
submit:  give to the teacher
errors:  mistakes
armed:  knowing and using

Test anxiety tips

Anxiety is when you feel really nervous before a test, so nervous, in fact, that you can’t think of answers that you’re sure you know.  This may happen over and over with each test that you take, so you develop the attitude that you just can’t take tests.  You aren’t alone, however.  Many students have test anxiety but have learned how to manage it so that they can do well on tests.  Of course, a little nervousness before a test is a good thing.  It helps you prepare and focus on something important that is about to happen.  It tells you that you need to prepare, so you study more effectively.  By studying effectively, you feel more confident and your test anxiety goes way down, which allows you to do well on the test.

What can you do, however, if you’re well prepared for the test but still have test anxiety?  Well, there are a number of physical things you can do.  First of all, you should get enough sleep the night before.  It’s more important to go into a test well rested than to stay up late at night trying to cram for a test.  If you don’t get enough sleep, your brain doesn’t work as well, and you can have trouble remembering answers that you know.  Secondly, you can do some physical activity such as taking a walk outside.  When you’re on your walk, notice the sounds and smells around you, the feel of the air on your face, the sidewalk under your feet, all of which will bring you into the present.  When you’re totally in the present, you’re not thinking about the future test, and this will lower your stress.  As a matter of fact, any form of exercise lowers anxiety because the brain releases endorphins, which make you feel good.

In addition to these actions you can take, there are a few mental techniques that you can use.  The first of these is a positive thinking exercise.  Just repeat to yourself, “I am prepared for this test, and I will do well.”  This creates a positive attitude and increases your confidence making the test much easier to take.

Another technique is a breathing exercise.  You focus your attention on your breathing while relaxing your body.  Briefly, you sit up straight with your feet on the floor and your hands on your lap, and you slowly inhale through your nose feeling the breath fill you up from your toes to the top of your head.  As you exhale through your mouth, you imagine all the stress of your body leaving with the breath.  This exercise slows your breathing and your heart rate and therefore lowers your stress.

A third technique is a ten-second vacation.  You imagine yourself in a relaxing place that makes you feel good using all your senses to mentally create this place.  Again, you start by sitting with both feet on the floor and your hands on your lap.  As an example, you picture yourself lying on a beach.  You feel the sun on your skin and the sand under your hands.  You smell the salt air and hear the waves hitting the shore.  The interesting thing about this technique is that your unconscious mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is not.  Therefore, a fantasy like this is just as relaxing as the real thing.

So far you’ve read about things you can do before a test, but there is also something you can do during a test.  Don’t get upset if you have trouble answering a hard question.  Understand that almost nobody gets a perfect score on a test.  It’s okay to get some questions wrong.  If you’re not sure your answer to the question is correct, just make your best guess and go on to the next question.  Don’t even think about the last question.  Get your attention on the question you now have to answer.  If you got the last question wrong, so what!  You can still do very well on the test.

Test anxiety is no reason to do poorly on a test if you use these exercises and techniques.  Good luck on your next test!

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


anxiety:  a strong feeling of nervousness caused by fear of a possible result
attitude:  belief, thought, way of thinking
manage:  make less strong
focus:  concentrate, put your attention
about to:  ready to
effectively:  in a way that produces a better result
confident:  believing in your ability to do well
cram:  try to learn as much as possible in a short time
physical:  of the body
stress:  feelings of worry and fear
endorphins:  chemicals produced in the brain that make you feel good
mental:  of the mind
technique:  the steps you take to do something
confidence:  belief in yourself
inhale:  breathe in
exhale:  breathe out
heart rate:  the number of beats per minute
unconscious:  the largest part of your mind that you are unaware of
fantasy:  an unreal story or situation
during:  at the same time
perfect:  100%

Pronunciation Exercise: Listen and repeat the above vocabulary on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

Right-left brain

What researchers have discovered about left and right brain thinking is not as simple as most people believe.  There’s a general belief that right-brained people are creative and left-brained people are logical, but this is not 100% true.  When the brain is examined in relationship to language, which is both creative and logical, studies have shown that both hemispheres are active.  It’s basically true that the logical parts of language such as grammar, vocabulary and literal meaning are mostly processed in the left brain, and the creative parts of the language such as intonation, emphasis and figurative meaning are processed in the right brain.  However, this is only true for 95% of right-handed people and 81% of left-handed people.  For that 5% of right-handed and 19% of left-handed people, this isn’t true.  Therefore, when you hear or read about the differences between right and left brain activity, you should understand that it’s only a generality and that there are lots of people for whom it’s not true.  Understanding this, however, let’s look at a typical right-handed person’s brain to see where different types of thinking are happening.

In a typical right-handed person, the right hemisphere is used for understanding new experiences and the left is used for routines or things you’ve done many times before.  The right brain is where creativity and imagination take place.  It’s also the center for holistic thinking, intuition, feelings and daydreaming.  The left brain is where logical and analytic thinking take place.  It’s also the center for mathematics, detailed thinking, reading and writing.

Generally, the left and right sides of our brains see the world in different ways, but they work together.  The right brain sees the whole picture and then concentrates on the details while the left brain starts with the details and puts them together to make the whole picture.  The left brain thinks in words and the right brain thinks in pictures.  It’s an interesting fact that the right brain controls the left part of the body, including the left eye, and the left brain controls the right side of the body, including the right eye.

We continue to learn more about the brain as time goes on, and many neuroscientists say that all this right-left brain information is outdated.  However, one thing remains true.  We need both parts of our brains to process the world around us.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the lesson.


researchers:  scientists who are looking for answers
creative:  making new thoughts
logical:  mechanical, truthful thinking
literal:  dictionary meaning
intonation:  the voice going high and low
emphasis:  strong words that are higher and louder
figurative:  what the words really mean, which is different from the dictionary meaning.
processed:  thought about and understood
activity:  action,  thinking
generality:  mostly true but not totally true
typical:  average, normal
hemisphere:  half of the brain
routines:  habits, things you do repeatedly
creativity:  the making of new thoughts
holistic:  the whole picture, not just part of it
intuition:  knowing something without any evidence
analytic:  breaking down a whole thing into its parts
take place:  happen
generally:  it’s mostly true that
concentrates:  looks more closely
details:  little things that seem unimportant
neuroscientists:  people who study the brain
outdated:  no longer true

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the above vocabulary on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot

How to stay healthy

Your health is the most important part of your life because if you’re sick, nothing else seems to matter.  There are many things you can do to stay healthy.  The first and most important of these is exercise, both physical and mental.  Your physical exercise should be regular.  Apart from the daily short walks that all of us do, you should set aside three twenty-minute exercise periods every week.  During these times you can do things like sit-ups, push-ups, running and weight training, but even extended walking can have health benefitsWeight training builds more muscle and increases your metabolism, which helps your body burn more calories and keeps your weight down.  Your heart is an important muscle that needs to get exercise to stay healthy, so when you’re exercising, get your heart rate up and keep it up during your exercise time.

Besides your body, your brain also needs to get exercise.  As you get older, you get mentally lazier because you do the same kinds of thinking everyday.  To make your brain healthier, do more mental exercises like reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, or other mental games.  This will create more connections between your brain cells and keep your brain working well.  You can also challenge your brain by learning new things such as a new language or how to play a musical instrument.

The next most important thing to staying healthy is to eat right.  Eat foods that are high in nutritional value, and stay away from junk food, which has too much sugar or salt.  If you love to eat sweets, eat fruit, which has natural sugar.  Avoid eating too much salt.  Most processed food has lots of salt in it, so cook your own meals and don’t add much salt.  Caffeine in coffee is not a bad thing if you limit the amount you drink.  Never have coffee in the evening because it can effect your ability to sleep.  Finally, drink lots of water.  It keeps your whole body, inside and out, working well.  Carry a liter of water with you all day and take a drink when you’re thirsty.  It should be filtered to remove the chlorine and fluoride which are added to kill bacteria.

Stress also needs to be managed.  To reduce your stress you can learn to do yoga or meditation.  Even watching TV, especially shows that make you laugh, and listening to music can lower your stress.  Taking walks along the beach or in a park and staying mentally in the present also lower your stress level.   Staying in the present and not thinking about the past or the future allows you to focus on being alive.  Smell the roses, feel the air on your skin, notice the clouds above and everything else happening around you.

Your relationships are also important to your health.  Everyone needs somebody they can talk to and tell their thoughts and feelings to.  Everyone also needs love in their lives.  Apart from the people that you love, pets are wonderful companions that you can love and that will love you back unconditionally.  People need to feel that they’re part of something bigger, and joining an organization can give you this feeling.  Get the feeling of belonging by joining a church, a club, or even an online community.  People who have a lot of social contact get sick less often than people who don’t.

Of course, being clean protects you against diseases that can make you sick.  Develop the habit of washing your hands after a visit to the bathroom and before eating to kill the germs on your hands that can make you sick.  When you’re away from home, try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth at anytime.  Bacteria and viruses usually enter your body through these openings.  When you get home at the end of your work day, wash your hands to keep your home a safe place.  A bath or shower should be a regular activity, even a daily activity.  Brushing your teeth and tongue twice a day will help prevent the many diseases that start there.

Finally, staying healthy requires enough sleep every night.  Adults should get between 7 and 9 hours, and school-aged children should get between 10 and 11.  To sleep better avoid caffeine for at least 6 hours, alcohol for at least 4 hours, and eating for at least 3 hours before bedtime.  People who exercise regularly sleep better, and a good night’s sleep will prevent overeating.

All of the above can become habits if you make the effort to do them regularly.  When they become habits, it will be easier to keep your good health because you won’t have to think about it.  It will be automatic.

Click on the audio recording below to hear the above lesson.


matter:  be important
physical:  of the body
mental:  of the mind
apart from:  in addition to
set aside:  reserve, plan the time
periods:  times
sit-ups:  an exercise where you lie on your back and lift your upper body to a vertical position
push-ups:  an exercise where you lie on your stomach and push your hands against the floor until you rise up.
weight training:  exercises where you use heavy weights to develop your muscles
extended:  longer
benefits:  things that are good for you
metabolism:  your body’s ability to burn calories
rate:  speed
crossword puzzles:  a game where you put words into little boxes that cross each other
Sudoku:  a number game where each row, column and square contain the numbers 1 to 9
cells:  the smallest living parts
challenge:  do something more difficult
nutritional value:  food goodness
natural:  from nature, not artificial
avoid:  don’t do
processed:  made in large quantities with unhealthy preservatives added
caffeine:  a drug that makes you alert and keeps you awake
limit:  not do too much
effect:  have a result on
bacteria:  tiny life forms that can make you sick
managed:  taken care of
reduce:  make less, lower
yoga:  a practice where you stretch your body gently
meditation:  a practice where you make your mind quiet
focus:  put your attention
companions:  friends that stay with yo
unconditionally:  for no reason
social contact:  meeting and talking to people
habit:  something you do without thinking
viruses:  tiny life forms that need your body to live
regular:  happening often
daily:  happening everyday
prevent:  stop from happening
diseases:  sicknesses
requires:  must have
overeating:  eating too much
automatic:  done by itself

Pronunciation Exercise:  Listen and repeat the vocabulary above on the audio file below.

© 2014 Ambien Malecot