Studying for Success
"Great successes are built on taking your negatives and turning them around."
--Sumner Redstone, in "Forbes"
The recipe for success is simple. The execution of the recipe is just as simple with a little planning. The ingredients are a good study place, a plan of action, and a study group.
THE STUDY SPACE
Before you can begin effective study, you must have a space set aside for the task. Ideally this space should be in a quiet room without distractions like TV, radio, and telephone. A desk with drawers or file space is best. Choose a chair by using the Goldilock's Principle: not too soft (you'll fall asleep in it), not too hard (your discomfort will distract you immensely), but just right (now you can study!). Items to have in your space include a dictionary, old textbooks, a file of papers and tests from other classes, and any necessary office supplies (paper, pens, etc.). Now that the place sounds dreary, infuse it with your personality. Make it colorful by including posters or flowers, or anything you like. Items that put you in a good mood will improve your effectiveness when you study. The only rule is don't include anything that won't help you to study better.
AFTER THE LECTURE
- Review your notes within 24 hours. Studies have shown that 60-70% of the material heard in the lecture is lost after only 1 day. Review optimizes the amount of information retained.
- Underline key terms in your notes. Fill in any gaps. Summarize the notes in your own words.
- Make up flash cards for difficult concepts, memorizing lists of information, or with definitions. Carry these with you, then use small bits of time to review them. Eventually separate them into the ones you know and the ones you don't know. Review the "don't knows" daily, and the "knows" every 3-4 days.
- Complete all assigned or suggested homework problems. Do additional problems if you need the extra practice.
READING THE TEXTBOOK
Science textbooks can be very dense and full of unfamiliar language. This fact requires more than one read through of the material for complete understanding. Underlining is one technique to make the material more manageable.
- Read the paragraph or section completely first.
- Underline only key information. Ask yourself:
- What other concepts or relationships are contained within this section and how are they connected to the central issue?
- What is the central idea or concept of this section?
- Use some consistent method to indicate material that needs clarification.
This step-by-step approach helps you get the most out of your reading assignments. The benefits of SQ3R include improved comprehension and retention of material. Be flexible, however. At first go through SQ3R step-by-step, and later alter it to suit your own purposes and style.
- Carefully pre-read the chapter. Look at the title, introduction, subtitles, boldface and italics, graphs and diagrams, summary and/or conclusion, and questions at the end of the chapter.
- Reading is a thinking process; inquiry makes you an active reader. Formulate questions before you read. Convert titles, subtitles, etc. into questions. Write these down!
- Thoroughly read the chapter and fill in the answers to your questions as you go along. Read for meaning, not only the answers! Write down any information you sense is important.
- Talk to yourself! Read your questions, answers and notes out loud. Go over key ideas and new terms using your own words. Be aware of any answers or information that doesn't seem quite clear.
- Reread these notes, not only the night before an exam, but as often as possible. Frequent review enables you to better retain the material and will save on study time.
The benefits of being in a study group are numerous. A study group provides an emotional support for coping with test anxiety and the stresses of school, an opportunity to teach what you know to others (thereby expanding your base on the learning pyramid), and provides extra motivation to study; you're less likely to put things off when you've made a commitment to complete the tasks for others in your group.
- Asking someone to be in a study group is usually the biggest challenge, particularly if you don't already know anyone in your class. Observe your class for students who ask questions, are alert and take notes. These are the students with the same goal as you: an A!
- The group size should be 3-6 people. Anything larger is unwieldy, smaller is less likely to stay on track and more likely to socialize.
- Meet somewhere on campus like the library or a free classroom. This should be most convenient for everyone. Having the group meet at someone's house seems more like a social event and invites distraction.
- Establish guidelines at the first meeting regarding keeping up with assignments. If someone repeatedly comes to the group unprepared, expecting the other members to teach him everything, ask him to leave.
- Each student should be responsible for summarizing concepts and teaching them to the group. Use the outcome statements on the syllabus as a guide.
- Acquire old tests, develop your own practice tests using other textbooks or supplementary materials, and quiz each other. Note: Having old tests is not "illegal" unless the instructor does not allow copies of the test out of her possession.
- Meet regularly, at least once a week for two hours at a time. Schedule extra time before a test.
- Have fun, grow and learn together. Modify the dynamic of the group as seems necessary. This is an area where you are in control!