Close

09/08/2019

What are your best study tips?

QUESTION
What are your best study tips?

ANSWER
Sorry, because this is a little long. It’s the system I developed for myself in college, and it worked like a charm for me after I got it down and started actually using it.

I have a hard time with lectures–I take in material better if I read it myself, so my notes from class lectures were always a mess. I always tried to take a short bit of time on the same day to rewrite my notes in an outline format so they made a little more sense.

When reading, I was very generous with my application of highlighters, making sure to include the topic sentence and any details or facts that I thought I might need later on. After doing my assigned reading, I wrote an outline of what I had read, making sure to hit all the important parts. If, and only if the lectures followed closely with the reading, my outline was a synthesis of the two, so it incorporated all the material for the day.

If I had questions on something I didn’t understand fully, I made a point of asking the professor for clarification. A bonus of taking advantage of a professor’s consultation hours is that you develop a personal relationship with them, and they become much more interested in you as a student. I found out a professor who knows you is more often than not willing to really work hard with you on things, like term papers and stuff, which can have wonderful effects on your grade. It isn’t that they begin to show favoritism–it’s that they know you are serious about what you are learning, and they will often help you supplement what you are learning by telling you about other sources, etc…They will also often invite you to come by more often for discussions. When a professor has a question about what you are saying in an essay, if they know you, and understand where you are coming from, they are much more likely to make the correct interpretation, which can be helpful.

Anyway, if you do the outlines, and the highlighting daily or every other day, it’s really easy to reread that stuff before the next class. That both prepares you and reinforces the material in your mind. When it is time to study for tests, you only have to go back and read the highlighted bits in your text, and your daily outlines. All the information should be neatly laid out for you to review. You don’t have to reread an entire term’s worth of material, because you have already marked what is important and what is not. You just need to review it carefully.

The other thing which helps is that you have already “handled” the critical facts and concepts several times. You have highlighted them, you have included them in an outline, and you have reviewed them on a daily basis. That’s three times that you have taken in the material before you even start preparing for a test. That means there’s a much greater chance for retention.

When dealing with works of fiction, I have a different method, and I won’t bore you with the details. I will only tell you to highlight carefully. Outlines don’t hurt, either. Nothing stinks like trying to go back and find a specific quote in an 800-page novel because you need it for a paper. If you marked it the first time, it will be easier to find the second time around. What do you outline? Anything that seems really important. It can be kind of daunting at first, because you aren’t sure what is and what is not important. Really important details generally include things like extended metaphors; the initial description of a character and subsequent descriptions of him or her by other characters as they meet; and any statements by a character about what they think, believe, perceive; plot points; and statements of motivations by characters. If a character says, “When I approached the village, I saw tiny white cottages dotted among a meadow,” that’s not usually going to be very important. If they go on for a page with an extended metaphor, and talk about how the cottages were all separated, like individual people moving through a bustling city on their way to work, and yet united, like people worshipping at a congregation, and they continue the with the metaphor and develop the village into a metaphor for humanity and how people interact, then that probably is something to take note of. That’s not just a physical observation, it’s a philosophical one, as well, and that type of stuff tends to be important.

I hope at least some of what I have said makes sense to you.

Best of luck!