Table of Contents
A. How do I know what to study?
B. How do I study?
C. When should I study?
D. Helpful hints for studying math
E. How do I do my best when I go to take the test?
F. How do I write a good answer to an essay question?
A. How can I memorize more easily?
B. What are some memory tricks?
A. How can I use my time to be more successful in this course?
B. How can I avoid procrastination?
A. How do I get the most out of my textbook?
B. How can I be more efficient in reading my textbook?
C. How do I know what is important?
D. What should I do if I don't understand what I'm reading?
E. How can I take effective notes from my textbook?
A. Is it really necessary to take notes?
B. How should I set up my notes and what should I write?C. How do I work with my notes to prepare for an exam?
A. Self-Testing from your notes to review for Tests
Ask your instructor.
Which of the following does he/she recommend you study?
- Key terms, definitions, important people, and examples
- Enumerations (lists of items)
- Points emphasized by instructor (or media presentation)
- Questions at end of text chapters
- In many cases it is best to read a manageable section straight through for general content. Then, read it a second time for detail and notes. Don't read a section over and over again just to be reading.
Find out what type of test is going to be given.
- Check the syllabus
- Call or email your instructor and ask
Do the following in this order:
- Determine exactly what material the test will cover - which tapes, chapters, study guide sections, previous tests, etc. If you're not sure, call or email your instructor and ASK!
- Collect materials. This includes all of the above as well as your notes and any materials your instructor has given you.
- Organize materials. Group all materials for each chapter or section together.
- Predict test questions.
a. answer questions at the end of text chapters
b. answer study guide questions
c. go over questions from previous exams if they cover the same material
d. make up your own questions based on what has been emphasized
- Condense your materials to key concepts, definitions, dates, important details, lists.
- Develop mnemonics or memory tricks to memorize your condensed material. See section on mnemonics.
- Set a study schedule to memorize and review your material. (See next section)
Use the SQ3R study method.
urvey - glance over material to be read
uestion - formulate questions to be answered later
ead - read over the material looking for answers to the questions you formulated
ecite - recite (aloud is suggested) the answer to your questions
eview - and review and review
Try the following suggestion:
- Divide the material into manageable sections and plan to study one section each day (1 - 2 hours).
- Depending on how much material you have to study, start SEVERAL days before the test.
- Start with the most difficult material for your first study session - it will get the most review. Work your way to the easiest material each day.
- Review daily all previously learned material before you start the new material each day.
- Review EVERYTHING the evening before the test and again the day of the test.
- Study as close to sleep time as possible each day. Going right to sleep after studying aids retention.
- You are not alone! Relax. Many people dislike and are nervous about math. Even mathematicians are unsure of themselves and get that sinking, panicky feeling called "math anxiety" when they first confront a new problem.
- If you have math anxiety, admit it. If you pretend not to have it, you will not learn to overcome or manage it.
- If you're having math trouble, practice a little math each day. (Do you think Mozart learned how to play the piano, or Michael Jackson to dance, just by watching?)
- Ask questions. Some people think asking questions is a sign of weakness. It's not. It's a sign of strength. In fact, other students will be glad. (They have questions, too.)
- Do math in a way that's natural for you. There's often more than one way to work
a math problem. Maybe the teacher's way stumps you at first. Don't give up. Work to understand it your way. Then it will be easier to understand it the teacher's way. Remember, "each mind has its own method."
- Notice your handwriting when you do math. The sloppier it gets, the more confused or angry you probably are. When it gets really sloppy, STOP. Look away for a few seconds. Then erase the messy parts. Start again. Try to not let your attitude interfere with learning math.
- Know the basics. Be sure you know your math from earlier grades. Maybe you missed something that time you moved in junior high. Face it: Math builds on itself. You have to go back and relearn that stuff. (Don't think, "I couldn't learn it before. So I can't learn it now." Remember it's never too late to learn. Besides, you're older now. It'll be easier and quicker to learn.)
- Don't go by memory alone. Try to understand your math. Memorizing is a real trap. When you're nervous, memory is the first to go.
- Trouble with the text? Get another math book. Maybe a book in the library will explain things better.
- Get help. Everyone needs help now and then. Try to form a study group with friends. Two heads (or three) are better than one. Or get a tutor. Or take a review course.
–From "Nervous in Numberland", Scholastic Math, September, 1984, pp. 9 and 11.
Check Metro's Libraries and Learning Centers for instructional videotapes and computer software.
E. How do I do my best when I go to take the test?
- Preview the test. Note the total number of items. Identify variations in point values. Estimate the amount of time to spend on each item. Spend the most time on questions receiving the most credit.
- Read all directions slowly and carefully. When given a test, many students ignore the directions. However, directions often state information you need to receive full credit. They also provide information about the way answers should be marked. Although you may have all the right answers, selective instructors may not give full credit when responses are not correctly marked.
- Underline key terms and steps in the directions.
- Answer the easiest questions first. This builds your confidence and triggers your memory for other information. Also, if you run out of time before you finish the test, you will have answered the questions you knew.
- Expect memory blocks.
- Answer every question and mark difficult questions, if possible, and go on. Return to these questions, if time permits. If incorrect answers are not penalized, guess at all objective and subjective questions rather than skipping them.
- Mark your responses as neatly and legibly as possible.
- Work at your own pace. Do not be concerned if other students finish and leave before you.
- If time permits, review questions and answers. Be sure you understood the question and marked the correct response. Some students think it is better to always stay with their first answer. You can determine what's best by examining your old tests. Count the number of questions you changed to correct answers. Compare that total with the number of those you changed to incorrect answers.
Remember the following:
- Understand the question with precision. Read it carefully and know exactly what the instructor is looking for.
- Strive for a complete answer. State your ideas explicitly; leave nothing to be inferred by the reader.
- Use facts and logic, not vague impressions or feelings. Show knowledge, not your personal likes or dislikes.
- Avoid unsupported opinions. Opinions should be supported by logical or factual evidence.
- Be concise. Don't ramble; stick to an organized outline of your points.
- Write carefully so as to avoid errors. Check difficult spellings before the test. Write in complete sentences and be careful about grammar, punctuation, etc.
- Be natural and sincere. Don't try to impress with super-elegant language or a "snow-job."
- Organize your answer intelligently. Start with a clear topic sentence or introduction which states your main idea. Support in logical order; end with a summary conclusion.
- Keep it simple. Avoid vagueness.
- Understand the instructor's pet ideas. Restate these in your own words as much as possible.
Follow these 7 steps.
- Intend to remember.
Decide what needs to be memorized and make up your mind to remember.
- Organize the material to be learned.
Group items by classifications or commonalities. Divide lists into "chunks" of 4 - 6 items. Arrange items in some meaningful order.
- Test yourself repeatedly on material to be memorized.
Repetition is the key to remembering. See it - look away - say it.
Write it - listen to it - whatever works for you!
- Space memory work over several sessions.
Start a week before the test.
Review previously learned material each session.
Start with most difficult material.
Review everything the night before and the day of the test.
- Over learn the material. Keep going over everything you've learned.
Don't just cram information in over a short time - you won't be able to recall it at test time.
- Study right before sleep. Your brain processes while you sleep.
- Use Mnemonics. (Memory tricks: See next section.)
Catchwords and Catchphrases
- Choose a key word from each item that must be remembered - usually it's the most important word, or the word that is easiest to remember.
- Take just the key words and determine if they must be remembered in a certain sequence.
- Take the first letter of each key word. If the words do NOT have to be memorized in order, look at the first letters and see if they can be arranged to form a word. If the items cannot be rearranged, take the first letter of each key word and make a phrase.
Example: The Great Lakes
Take the first letter of each: MSEHO. Rearrange to form a catchword: HOMES. If you couldn't rearrange them (must be learned in a certain order), make a catchphrase:
- Carry with you - study whenever you have an extra few minutes.
- Sort into material you know and material you don't know yet.
- Try 'em - they really work well!!!
- Read information to be memorized onto a tape.
- Play the tape all the time - in the car, around home, wear a headset.
- You may find it helpful to write some material over and over to memorize it.
- Write out why you are taking this course.
- Does this fit in with other goals?
- Write a contract with yourself stating specifically:
- The grade you want
- The amount of time you will spend
- The reward you will earn when you reach your goal
Use a monthly calendar.
- As soon as you get back from Orientation, fill in important dates on your monthly calendar!
- Choose test days and stick to them. (Arrange for babysitters on those days.)
- Write in test review dates and dates your instructor is available by phone.
- Write in last day to withdraw from class (just in case!).
Schedule for success.
- Take a realistic view of your weekly schedule and set aside regular study times.
- Use a timing device if necessary to signal when your study time is up.
- Think of ways to be good to yourself for sticking to your schedule.
- Follow the suggestions given previously.
- Break tasks down into smaller pieces and reinforce yourself.
- Keep a time log for a day to find out where your pitfalls are.
- Try making a "5 minute commitment".
Tell yourself "I'll organize this for 5 minutes. I'll look it over and make a plan to do it later." Sometimes you may find it's just as easy to get started and your 5 minute commitment has given you the incentive you needed for a good 30 minute study period.
Previewing Your Textbook
- Take a few minutes to examine your textbook as a whole:
- Skim the table of contents. Size and color of print will help you see how major topics fit together.
- Read the preface or introduction. You will frequently discover important,
"hidden" information that will help you work with the textbook more effectively.
- Thumb through the chapters. Get a feel for how the book is organized. Are there graphs, charts, etc? Are there summaries at the end of chapters? How are main points and important terms emphasized?
- Check for a glossary of terms.
- A good college-level dictionary can be of great assistance.
- Skim the bibliography. This can be a helpful source if you will be writing a paper.
- Skim through the index. The index will help you locate specific information quickly and easily
Previewing a Chapter
- Before you read a chapter, take a few minutes to look it over:
- Read the bold print headings, notes in margins, etc.
- If there is a summary, read it carefully.
Skimming through the chapter and reading the summary gives you the same advantage as looking at the picture on the box before putting the puzzle pieces together. You will have a sense of the overall point and major details of the chapter will fall together more easily.
Reading and Marking a Chapter
Before you read a chapter, take a few minutes to look it over:
- Create questions in your mind about what you are ready to read. These questions are based on the bold print headings that separate the chapter into chunks of information. Read the heading; turn it into a question that will focus your thinking as you read the section that follows.
- The next step is to read for the answer to your question.
- After you have read the section, reflect on what you read. Was your question answered? What is the point of the reading? Does it make sense?
- Now you're ready to skim back through the section and underline or highlight important points, make notes in the margin, or write notes in your notebook.
Problems of Understanding
If you feel that you're not comprehending the material, do the following:
- Begin by rereading the section.
- Are you passing over vocabulary words that you need to look up?
- Does the material require background knowledge that you don't have? If so, talk to your instructor.
- Sometimes reading ahead will help clarify a point made earlier in the chapter. Writers often restate information or provide new information that helps the reader to understand.
- Don't be intimidated by long chapters. Longer chapters typically mean more detailed information about major points. Ironically, the shorter the chapter, the more difficult it is to understand because the writer "says it" only once with fewer details to help explain it.
- Keep the title of the chapter in mind as you read. Constantly ask yourself how what you are reading connects to the title. This will help you focus on what is important and you will be less likely to get lost in a sea of details.
- Try reading the text aloud.
- For further clarification, call your instructor during office hours.
Online students should refer to the Cornell Note-Taking System.
Before the lecture or video:
- Skim related material in the textbook.
- Secure a quiet, intrusion-proof environment.
- Sit in a position conducive to comfortable writing.
- Remember that you are taking notes now to save time in the future by eliminating the need to view the video a second or third time.
During the lecture or video:
- Use the Cornell note-taking system. (See next page.)
- If in doubt about when or what to write, make the mistake of writing too much rather than too little. Time and experience will help you find the right balance.
- Yes, you can write and listen at the same time. Expect to feel frustrated at first, but again time and experience will ease this.
- Think "telegraphic." Write in phrases. Use abbreviated words.
- Pay special attention to examples, definitions, and lists.
After the lecture or video:
- As soon as possible, review your notes. Write main points in the left column of your notes.
- Review your notes periodically in preparation for the next exam.
- Rewrite your notes if it helps you to remember the information.
- You may find it helpful to organize your notes into a logical table.
The best ideas are often the simplest to understand, and this is certainly true of the Cornell note-taking system. Its genius lies in its form. The diagram below shows you how to set your note paper up:
- Use full-size paper, nothing too small, or your notes will be too fragmented.
- Begin by drawing a straight line a couple of inches from the left side of your paper (or just use the margin). The space on the right side of the line is where you will write your notes during the lecture.
- The left column is for key words or main points that sum up the detailed information in the right column.
- It's really better to do your writing in the left column immediately after the lecture rather than during it because you will be writing from the perspective of the entire lecture and will therefore have a better idea of what the main points are. Waiting also provides a reason to review the information while it's still fresh and this will help you retain it.
The real benefit of this system is its adaptability to self-testing as you begin memorizing for a test. To self-test, do the following:
- Use a blank sheet of paper to cover the detailed notes in the right column.
- Turn the key words and main points in the left column into questions.
- Recite the information that answers your questions.
- Slide the blank paper down; check your notes.
- Keep repeating the process until you are able to recite all that you feel you need to.
- If you're the nervous type during a test, practice writing the information in addition to reciting it. You will, in a sense, "over learn" the material to the point that even the worst case of test anxiety won't keep you from remembering the information during the test.