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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Learning Curve: Studying for Tests

It seems like all I’ve done since I got back from my spring break 2 weeks ago is study & take test. Now, I’m not saying that these two things aren’t important, because, as a college student, they are. The number one reason I decided to go to college was to further my education. I’ll be the first one to admit though, sometimes studying isn’t my main priority. College is all about finding balance in your life. I hope I can at least give you guys some tips and pointers I that I wish someone had told me before I got to college.

So, for this weeks column I’m going to focus on studying tips & tricks that have really helped me. If you have any other tips that you want to share, leave a comment at the end! I love to get feedback from you guys!

I know I was freaked out over my first big college test. I was so afraid that it was going to be pages long, full of confusing vocabulary, or topics that hadn’t been covered during the lecture. I did pretty good and have since developed some pretty good study habits. I’m not saying these work for everyone, this is just what I’ve found most helpful.

1. Read the book! : I can’t stress this one enough. Actually buying the book and reading it is important. Professors don’t cover everything in the chapter in class. There’s not time in the semester for them to get into detail. They’ll hit the high points briefly, but will expect you to know the details when it comes test time. So take the time to open the book and READ!

2. Take notes! : Be prepared with a lot of spiral bound notebooks and pens for this one. I don’t know about other college campuses, but most professors on mine don’t allow laptops in class because the entire campus has wireless internet. This is the best study tool I have. My notes contain everything that the professor talked about that day. Title and date your notes to make looking for certain sections easier. I like to take all my notes in pen because it doesn’t smudge as easily as pencil. Most of my professors so far have used PowerPoint or used the chalkboard religiously, so following along has been pretty easy. Another thing I like to do with my notes is type them on my laptop once I get back from class. This lets me put the random words or phrases into complete thoughts that make sense when it comes time to study.

3. Use the library! : I’ve learned the hard way that you should definitely use the library to your advantage. I study in my room a lot, which has way too many distractions. The library is usually quiet, has several large tables, comfortable chairs, and computers that are available to use. Along with all of this, the library has all the books on any topic you could need. The people in the library are there to assist you, so don’t be afraid to ask for something if you need a bit of help.

4. Notecards/Flashcards : I use flashcards A LOT, especially for foreign language classes. They’re a great way to help you remember information. I also use them for multiple choice, true/false, and vocabulary test, pretty much anything that requires you to just regurgitate information for a test. Hang on to any you make during the semester! They’ll come in handy whey it comes time to start studying for finals.

5. Study Groups : Not only are they a great way to make friends and get to know kids in your class, but it helps you pick up on things that you might have missed in class. By sharing information with others, you are better able to recall the information for the test. Discuss points from class that you didn’t understand, go over old material, quiz each other. Study groups are flexible, which is what I like about them. Do whatever works for you and the other members of your group.

6. Go to Office Hours! : Most, if not all, professors have set times that they are in their offices to talk to students. Again, use this to your advantage!! You’re paying to go to school now, so use every resource you can! Professors can help clarify points of confusion or better explain something you might have missed in class. They want to see you succeed, so don’t be afraid to talk to them. Try to contact them in some way before going to talk to them. This way you’re guaranteed that they will be in their office. Come prepared so you’re not wasting your time or theirs.

7. Outlines : This could easily be classified as an organizational tool, but I find it a great way to study. I have a professor that emails a review sheet out at least a week before the test. He includes the main topics that he’s going to focus on and even a few sample questions that usually show up on the test. I’ll take each topic he has listed and write down anything and everything from my notes and the reading about the topic. This makes my notes easier to study and I only focus on the material that will be on the test.

8. Start studying early!! : Everyone procrastinates in college. It’s an awful habit and one I’m constantly trying to break. You’ll save yourself so much time and stress if you start studying at least a week in advance. By the time the teacher goes over a study guide or starts talking about what will be covered on the test all you’ll have to do is spend a few hours making sure you understand the specifics that will be covered on the test. If you take anything away from this column today, I hope it’s this. I wish I was better with this and work all the time to improve.

9. Avoid CRAMMING & ALL NIGHTERS! : You’ll be so stressed out that you’ll remember nothing or you’ll be so tired that you’ll be jittery from all the caffeine/energy drinks you’ve filled your body with that you won’t be able to focus. If you have to do last minute studying, study as much as you can and go to bed at a decent hour. If you feel like you need to study more, get up early and study before class. This way you’ve at least had some rest and your body’s not exhausted. Try not to stress out too much. Do the best you can. You can always make up a bad grade with extra credit and the final.

10. GO TO CLASS!!!!!!!!! : College is a HUGE responsibility. For a lot of teens, this is the first time they are truly on their own. Mom & Dad aren’t here to wake you up, feed you, do your laundry…whatever else it is that they did for you in high school. If you’re not in class, you’re not getting the notes you need to study for the test. Yes, you can borrow them from a classmate, but most people won’t take notes the same way you do.

True Story: I ended up failing my first big history test this semester because I skipped class to buy Taylor Swift concert tickets for my birthday. Probably not the best reason to skip class, but I’m super excited for this show and I wouldn’t change the decision I made for an A on that test. Anyway, the day I missed was a huge part of the notes. I borrowed the notes from a girl in my class, but they weren’t nearly as detailed as my own would have been. Moral of the story: DON’T SKIP CLASS! (though I’m being a bit hypocritical in saying this. I’m skipping class to see this concert in a few weeks. If you must skip class, use your better judgment & let your professors know. They’ll respect you more for it.)

That’s it for this week. I’m gonna try to switch it up between the boring College Tips & Tricks and my normal, everyday life as a college student. Want ALL the details? Check out my blog and follow me on twitter!

RAPID FIRE: Study Sites I like to use these when I don’t completely understand the book I’m reading for class. USE AS A STUDY AID & NOT A REPLACEMENT FOR READING THE BOOK! same goes for this site as the one above they have a lot of scholarship info as well as more tricks, tips, and info for college kids

Quote to live by: “The aim of education should be to teach us how to think, than what to think…” -James Beattie

1 comment:

Hannah said...

I study by just memorizing everything I see. For math, I'll memorize every single detail of a problem, and even remember a particular problem in my mind. Therefore, when test time rolls around, I can just think about that problem and hopefully get a few questions right.
I also listen to music when doing certain subjects, like math. It helps me think :)