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Studying

Studying needs to be written in bold letters because it is your most important job as a college student, and it takes the most time. Don't let anyone talk you out of it. No matter how clever or smart you are, learning in college requires two things: going to all your classes without fail and studying.

Maybe you didn't study much in High School--or at least you think you didn't! But High School has studying built right into its format. Classes meet every day, and part of the lesson plan includes a review of the material covered the day before. That's studying! Teachers assign material in short segments. You remember those chapters with questions at the end--homework questions! Doing the homework is part of studying. The questions teach students how to condense and rephrase the material they have read. Both of these techniques are part of studying. Teachers put notes on the board, usually clues to the important ideas they will be covering on the next quiz or test. Note taking is an important part of studying too! The quizzes are also study tools. They prepare students for the tests.

So, while you think you didn't have to study in High School, you were actually learning basic study methods that you will need in college, when classes don't meet every day and teachers don't package material in small chunks and don't always put notes on the board or give quizzes. In college, you will need to formulate your own process of learning and studying the material presented in class. Here are some of the methods you already know:

  • Read the material assigned. Since your books belong to you, consider taking notes right in the margin and underlining key ideas. You can also put question marks in the margin. If there is something you don't understand, ask the teacher to explain it in class. Never skip a class because you didn't read the material or don't understand it. Go to class and ask questions!
  • Take notes in every class. Even if the teacher repeats the material you have read, take notes! Repetition and summary are excellent study methods, so the more you repeat the ideas in your own words, the better you will remember them. Even if the class is involved in a discussion, take notes. Sometimes your fellow students come up with excellent approaches and interpretations, and you may want to apply them later on. Note taking is a habit. The better you get at it, the easier it is to listen and even take part in discussion while you are taking notes.
  • Go over the notes in your book and your class notes a few times a week. The more you read them, the more you will be able to see them in your mind and make use of them in essays or exams. Repetition is the essence of studying.
  • Do all of the homework assigned. Homework is a tool for restructuring material learned. It is a tool you will need in order to do well on exams.
  • Try studying with friends. Study groups are sometimes effective, especially when all of the members of the group are strong students. Every person remembers material in a slightly different way, so studying as a group may bring many more ideas to light or throw many different slants on the same material. Studying together boosts spirit and confidence. Take a break, get a bite to eat, blow off a little steam, and then get back to work! Studying.
  • Try to find out the structure of the exam. Will it be short answers, short essays, long essays, problems, in-class, take home, etc. There are many variables. How you study depends in part on how you will be tested. The goals of studying are recall and recombination of material learned. Once you know the format of the examination, you will know more precisely how to study for it. Should you learn details? Should you focus on ideas?
  • Make up questions and practice taking an exam. It can't hurt. Part of studying involves learning to think and write in a pressured situation, when you have limited time and need to pack as much information or as many ideas into it as possible. Good writers have an edge on exams because the flow of ideas comes easily to them. So, practice writing out what you know. Many students use the old technique of reducing textbook chapters to a precis on index cards. The more you can condense material the more you can control and remember what you have learned. Index cards, like other notes, are excellent review materials.
  • Study in a quiet place where you can get the work done without interruption. If your house or dorm is noisy, find a different place to study, like the Honors Lounge or the Library. You must find your own place and regular study hours. Even the dorm is quiet if you wake up early!
  • Finally, Studying is an active process. It doesn't just happen. You have to make time for it and DO IT.

Here's a little quiz: Discuss five of the study techniques that are most compatible with your own learning style.