12 Tips for Nationals

3:47 PM

Sometime early this year, I was thinking about all the things that I had learned on how to study from Nationals 2014. I made a list then, and I thought I'd share an expounded on version of it here. Some of this I learned the easy way, but there's also quite a lot that I had to learn the hard way. Also, please remember that what works for me may not work for you. For example, I talk too fast in orals, but there are probably others who talk too slow. Not all of this will apply to you.

1. Make reasonable goals.
After Locals, you're feeling excited that you qualified, and you may make goals that aren't very reasonable -- like getting 1st at Nationals. I'm not saying that this is always going to be an unreasonable goal (someone has to be 1st :)), but that if you make a sensible, reachable goal you're much more likely to stick with it. In fact, you might even go way beyond that goal! Of course, this is not to say that you should try for an easy goal, but that you should try for something that's doable -- something that you know you won't give up on. One thing that I like to do is trying to beat previous scores, ranks, etc. But remember, these goals are only to help you to study harder, so don't get this confused with the higher goal -- knowing Christ better.

2. Read a commentary or notes in a Study Bible. 
A personal favorite of mine is the ESV Study Bible. The notes explain the text in a clear, readable way; but are still deep and theological. If you don't use ESV, you might prefer to use a study Bible in your own version, or just read a commentary. 

3. Memorize all the passages.
(Beware: this is a bit of a soapbox of mine ;).) I will admit that there are some cases in which a contestant really and truly does not have time to memorize all the passages, and that's okay. But I would really encourage you to memorize all the passages -- both short and long -- if you possibly can. The first year that I qualified for Nationals, I honestly thought that I couldn't memorize more than three verses a day, so you can imagine my surprise when I found out that I had qualified for Nationals and would need to memorize nine or ten verses a day in order to finish with a few weeks to spare (I had a baby brother coming in early November and wanted to finish before he was born). I decided that I would try to memorize that much, but I was pretty certain that I would give up at some point. Guess what? By God's grace, I did memorize them all. And although my oral score was far from perfect, I had gained something much more important -- I knew that with God's help I could memorize more than I had ever thought possible. So I would really encourage you to memorize as much as you can! You will be so blessed by it if you do. Memorizing for Nationals has been a life changer for me. 

4. Study the context of each memory passage.
Although I can't guarantee that this will be on the test, this is quite fun to study (for me, anyway :)). When you study the context of a memory passage, you will understand the content of it so much better! You might not want to take the time to read the chapter surrounding each memory passage, but looking for quick things like who is speaking, where the passage is taking place, and how it relates to the study book/passage are good things to study. 

5. Don't talk too fast in your Oral Round.
One thing that I've noticed with myself and other Bible Bee contestants is that when we pause to think about what comes next or get tangled up in our words, we then speed up and go way too fast through the rest of the passage. It's like you hit a speed bump, and as soon as you're over it, you go way too fast. Try to stay at a steady pace throughout the passage, and you'll be much less likely to make additional mistakes. Last year, my grandmother was testing me the week before Nationals, and she said that I should try to slow down. Well, of course when I got into my oral round, I was too nervous to remember that, so I went through my passages at a fast pace. But then I got to Genesis 22:15-18. I had never had much trouble with this passage, but when you're standing up in front of several judges, you don't think as clearly as you normally do. I started the passage, got tangled up, and then used my startover. As I went through the passage  the second time, I got to a phrase that was identical to one in another of my memory passages -- Genesis 16:8-12. From that phrase, I moved over into Genesis 16:8-12, and before I realized it, I had messed up too much to get any points on the passage. I transferred back into Genesis 22:15-18 and finished out the passage. After scores were released, I found out that if I had not messed up on this passage, I would have been pretty close to semis. It kind of hurt to know that. Alright, that was rather long for a tip, but now you know it: stay calm, and steadily recite on.

6. Ten seconds are a lot longer than you think.
This is related to the tip before, but I thought that it was important enough to make it a separate tip. If you need to pause and make sure that you're about to say the right phrase, go ahead and do so. Ten seconds feels much longer than it actually is when you're in your Oral Round. Most contestants (including myself :)) aren't going to feel comfortable enough to stop for very long, but it's very wise to go through the next phrase or two in the passage if you feel unsure about it.

7. Read through (or review) all your passages the day before the test.
I did this last year, and it helped me so much! I still didn't do as well on my orals as I wanted (as you know from one of the tips above), but I think that this significantly improved what I would have remembered without doing it. It's probably best if you can say the verses aloud to someone, but when you're in the car all day with ten other people, and several of those people are reciting verses, too, it's not very easy to do much more than reading the verses :).

8. Work on recalling references quickly.
Last year, Juniors had nearly fifty (if I remember correctly) passages from John, in addition to many passages from Romans. It was very easy to confuse the passages with each other, but I discovered that Space Race on Quizlet helps with recalling the reference quickly. Someone has made a set of the first four words in the English Standard Version and you can view it here. Note: You can only view this set if you have a Quizlet account and are a member of certain classes. Quizlet accounts are free.

9. Summarize each verse of the study passage (or ask interview questions).
This is one of the most helpful ways to study for Nationals. It really helps you to get a good feel for what John 7-12 is about. It takes time, but I think that it is very worth it!

10. Look for Cross References in memory passages.
When you are studying the book/passage assigned for Nationals, look for how the memory passages correspond to what you are studying. Many contestants say that the memory passages are your cross references for Nationals. If a verse in the study book/passage is quoted somewhere else in the Bible, it's a good idea to look that up, too.

11. Don't over-study on Greek and Hebrew.
I have a feeling that if I say this, it's going to be big on the test, but I'll say it anyway! :) Greek and Hebrew is great, but it's much more important that you understand the study passage, than knowing all the Greek. So I would encourage you not to make this a very high priority in your studying. Study it some, but don't study every word that could possibly be key -- unless you have run out of things to study, which is pretty much impossible. Last year, I didn't put too much work into Hebrew, and there weren't more than five or six questions on it (and I knew all but one, if I remember correctly). Of course, every year is different and this may be very important, but I would say to work on understanding the English more than you do on having a rote memorization of the Greek.

12. Don't lose sight of the goal. 
It's easy to get so wrapped up in studying that you forget why you're doing it. I'm fairly certain that I'm not the only one who struggles with this. But as you study for Nationals, remember to glorify the Lord through it all. Let us press on to know the Lord! One thing that I need to remember is that I should be glorifying the Lord through everything that I do. Oh yes, I would much rather be studying than doing chores, but I should be serving God in it all. If I'm neglecting prayer and my family, I may need to spend less time on studying or cut something else out of my schedule.

What are some of your tips for Nationals? I would love for you to comment and share some of them.

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