Boy oh boy…. I’m going to attempt to get all of my study tips from the past and present into this post.
I’ve been getting emails/tweets/questions asking for my secrets.
Before starting… there are a few “ground rules” I will lay out.
- I don’t have tips on how to be more motivated. For me, there’s a set, clear list of things I have to do and there is a specifically defined time to doing them. I either do them, or they don’t get done. No motivation necessary.
- Everyone studies differently… this is just my personal way of staying organized and on top of things.
- If you are really really really struggling with studying (especially if you’re in college), try talking to someone from the school. There is a probably a center for academic issues like this. There may be an underlying issue preventing you from testing well.
Okay…… and off we go! I’m going to break it up into three sections.
ONE: In class, notetaking
My rule of thumb: Paying attention in class is HALF the battle.
If a professor uploads slides online before the class, download them and print them out beforehand. Review them the night before so you can follow along better.
For classes in which intensive note taking is required, a laptop may be the best option. Do not let yourself get distracted. Download an application called SelfControl if need be. It will block you from accessing certain websites (i.e. TheCollegePrepster.com, Facebook, Twitter, gmail, etc). In large lectures, I find that recording the class with my laptop is good because when I review my notes, I can follow along and make sure I didn’t miss any important details.
I prefer taking notes long hand. Depending on the class, I switch between lined paper and computer paper. Lined paper is really good for outlining the class, especially if you are following along in a PowerPoint. Computer paper makes notes for classes where the topics are more abstract (i.e. English or humanities). In most cases, the classes are based on an overarching theme, which you can put in the middle of the page and draw literal tangents as the class progresses.
Use at least two pen colors. Sometimes I whip out blue, black, red, and a pencil! Use highlighters SPARINGLY when taking notes. They’ll come in handy later when you’re studying, but right now, just focus on getting the information down. (I date all of my handouts and notes and I will occasionally highlight the date if it’s a class reviewing for a test.)
This is the section where most make the mistake. “Well, the quiz isn’t until next week, I’ll do the reading then…” But, of course, there is always more reading.
DO THE READINGS.
DO THE EXTRA PROBLEMS.
Here is my game plan for homework:
Every Friday, I crack open my binders and go through each syllabus. Even if I don’t “think” I have something due the next week. I always have something due. On something other than a planner (I use a small Lilly notebook), write each thing that is due for the next week. (Be sure to look one or two weeks into the future so you are aware of upcoming cases, reports, quizzes, or tests.) This system will guarantee that there are no surprises!
Starting on Friday morning let’s me get a head start on the week. I actually get pretty busy during the week between crew/Prep Talk/blogging/internship/classes… and I lose a lot of momentum homework wise after dinner. It works out so much better for me if I knock ALL of my homework out of the way between Friday and Sunday. I know that may not be feasible for everyone, but starting Monday morning with a completely checked off Syllabus notebook makes me feel so refreshed!
I use my planner to get an overall picture of the week. Meeting times, dinners with friends, regattas, etc. are kept organized in the planner.
(this is old, from last year)
THREE: The Big Exam (or test)…
That should probably read: The Big Exams (or tests)…
I don’t know why, but tests are ALWAYS scheduled for the same week. I will have weeks on end with no tests and then BAM, three in a row.
Just like how I write out everything for homework, I write out everything that is being tested for each class.
You can see on the above picture, I have written out each chapter covered on the exam as well as the articles and PowerPoints. Then, I see how many days before the exam and divvy up the chapters and PowerPoints and articles evenly.
The right page of the notebook is just the days of the study week and which days I planned to study what and how long.
Another example of writing out everything needed to accomplish full potential studying before midterms.
When it comes to the actual test… I am the first to admit that I have extreme anxiety. I need to sit near a door as a potential escape route. I have special accommodations so that I can take a test in the best possible environment. I definitely still struggle, but there is a little bit of relief. Also, earplugs= best invention ever.
FOUR: Tools of the Trade
Pads of paper
Sticky notes (my collection here)
Pencil pouch stocked with pens, highlighters, pencils
Lined Paper (college ruled) and computer paper