Recommended How to Study Guide

Hey Guys!

I was just wondering if anyone could recommend a “How to Study” guide. I have been out of school for a while and I am starting to freak out that I may need some review in the “study skills” dept.

I start summer session in 2 weeks (Calc I (took it 12 years ago) & Expository writing). I chose these classes to get my feet wet. Sciences in summer didn’t sit well with me. I will start them full-time in the fall.

My previous degree is finance/economics. While I took a few of the pre-reqs LONG ago… I am thinking that studying the sciences is a totally different ball game.

Anyone use a book to help them learn to study that they could recommend??

hi Gina,

I’ve tutored college level study skills for a few years and the one thing I can say is that it is hard to benefit from reading a how to study book. That is akin to someone telling you how to study and well, there isn’t one standard way to study effectively - every one is different.

I’ve found that students figure out what study method works best for them by experimenting with techniques and different methods. You have to rediscover what type of learner you are. The most important factor in effective studying though - across the board - is time management and organization. Especially when you get to the science classes. Those two things, everyone needs no matter how they learn best. Since I’m not a fan of note-cards, a more thorough alternative method that I used to use is called Cornell Two-Column note-taking.…

This works great with the science classes where you have to organize concepts and processes.

For the math, well all I can say is, practice problems, practice problems, practice problems until you can do them correctly and confidently without having to refer back to your notes.

Since I understand that you probably dont have all the time in the world to start testing various methods haha, here is a book that can give you a bit of a jump start:

College Study Skills: becoming a strategic learner.

By, Dianna L. van Blerkom

“This comprehensive text/workbook focuses on getting students actively involved in the learning process, and in learning how to learn. Rather than presenting one prescriptive approach, students take a learning style inventory and are then exposed to strategies that complement their personal learning styles…”

Precisely what I was saying about individual learning methods, this book should help you figure that out.

Good luck!

Hi and welcome.

I have been pretty successful in the science core so far – still working with a 4.O – amen, but it’s become more difficult at the 300 and 400 level. I don’t know of any published guide to studying science (I’m sure they are out there), but my classmates often ask me about my study methods/ regimen. Your question got me thinking and I decided to write down how I study (for my own sake, really). As far as I know, what I do is nothing special, but here it is anyway if your interested. I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious or presumptuous – this is just an amatures advice.

  1. The best advice I can give is: master the fundamental concept of each “thing” or topic your covering. Try to define what the core or central concept / process / key is. Then learn it so well that you will remember it when you are 90! Really! It takes a lot of work and repetition to get something down that well, but it’s kind of exhilarating. After that, all the details surrounding it fall in to place easily – there is a place to put them. The key is repetition of the fundamentals.

  2. I also spend a lot of time thinking about things when I’m away form the desk…when I’m driving, at the store, ect. I ask why, why, why, and then I look it up when I get home. I also (this might sound silly) pretend I am giving a lecture on the subject and actually say it out loud sometimes. This usually points out what I don’t understand. Another cheesy thing: when it comes to science, the entire world can be your study guide. When I’m watching my nephews hit a baseball, I think about the physics and I look up the equation later; when I see a green leafy veggie, I think about what vitamins are in it and why they are important; when I am working out I think about action potentials, and sliding filaments, ect. I know this is kind of nerdy – I still have a little bit of a social life, lol! I just try to reserve a piece of mind for observation and questions and this makes studying more fun.

  3. Another thing I do, is try to identify specifically what’s interfering with my ability to understand a concept. I then work on it until it’s resolved. I never leave something until I’m on solid ground with it. This may be tedious and time consuming, but it’s what I have to do. Otherwise, I end up with a confusing mess of only slightly understood ideas. If something is particularly difficult, I wage war on it, and I try to make it my strongest suit, then I tell my classmates how I did it. If I absolutely can’t figure it out, I go to the professor. I don’t just let it go and hope it doesn’t matter.

  4. When I begin a new class I start by writing a plan of attack – how am I going to approach this, how much time do I need for it, etc. I write my own custom study plan for each subject. I have figured out a very specific methodology for chemistry , but it’s too long to post here.

  5. I study at the library as often as I can. If I have class at 11.00, I get to the library at 7.00, find a huge desk, spread out all my stuff, and then automatically, like one of Pavlov’s’ Dogs, I begin to get into the zone and start focusing. I actually enjoy this time, it’s kind of like a high for me…like rock climbing or something…everything else disappears…and at the end of my study session I really am smarter. I look forward to this – I guess I’m lucky. But I still treat it like a job – I show up and go to work, when I’m done I go home.

  6. In each subject I am always doing 3 things at any given time. 1. I’m looking ahead and getting a sense of what is coming up, learning the vocabulary, reading the chapters, asking questions, and thinking about it. 2. I’m focusing intently on learning the material currently being covered, doing the heavy studying and laying it down for good. 3. I’m also reviewing what was just covered, doing those little lectures in my head - filling all the cracks. I generally split it up in a 1:3:1 ratio, and I “march” my way through the text book this way, feeling like I am in total control of the information. This is much more enjoyable than always being panicked and behind.

  7. I do what the teacher says. I don’t get frustrated if professor “thinks” differently than me or teaches in ways that are not my style. I adapt as quickly as possible in any way I have to in order to establish a rapport with the professor and find a way to embrace the curriculum. Go with the flow. Don’t resist. Remember the goal – get an A.

  8. I have learned that drawing out or writing about concepts in my own words, over and over and over again, is the best way to program it in. Then it’s just a matter of thinking about it often, reviewing it, and if at all possible teaching it to others. Actually teaching it works really well. I try to go to study groups with the material already learned, then I’m in a position to answer everyone else’s questions. Study groups are a good way for me to cement things in and can also expose errors in thinking, but they are terrible for actually laying down the initial information.

    All this takes time of course, but it’s what I have to do to get A’s. I’m sure it’s not this difficult for people who are smarter than me. I have to make this stuff more than just a high priority; it practically has to be what my life is about. I can’t imagine pulling it off while having a full time job or attending to kids and/or spouse. I do take a lot more credits than most, but I have the luxury of few distractions and the benefit of a great attitude about studying. I believe that when I’m studying, I’m doing the exact same thing that every doctor before me has. I allow myself to feel that I am literally being a doctor, even though I’m still an undergrad. I visualize myself marching through the curriculum, one class at a time, one chapter at a time, one test at a time, getting A’s, and I know it is all an inseparable part of the process of becoming a doctor- and that knowledge makes me stand a little taller and dive into studying with enthusiasm and satisfaction. I could never have had this attitude when I was younger – I was way to cool!

    Anyway, I could go on…this is long enough! I think the most valuable aspect of my personal study regimen is that it belongs to me. I have ownership of it; I’m not just following someone else’s ideas. I have confidence that I know what’s best for my little brain and me. Hopefully everyone can zero in on what works best for them. Ultimately, whatever the methods, in order to get good grades in science, it takes commitment, enthusiasm, and repetition of the fundamentals. That’s my humble opinion. Good luck. You can definitely do it too.

very good points, kang.

Im definitely there with #4, 6, 8 !!

Hey Putnam and Kangoroo thanks so much for taking the time to layout such great advice.

I agree with you Kangoroo that studying is about repetition and attitude. I found your words inspiring. Thanks so much for taking the time to write them. I really like the 1:3:1 approach. In the past, while I have managed to carry a high GPA I have found that everything has been placed in my short term memory. That is exactly what I am trying to avoid this time around. I manage to get A’s in the class but then lose a TON shortly there after. This is the crux of my issue. I know that I really need to learn everything properly the FIRST time so that studying for the MCAT will be much easier and it is FREAKIN me out!! I did get A’s in BIO I& II and Chem I & II MANY moons ago… but in looking at the review books, I have lost so much. I want to make sure I am learning things for the long haul this time, not just to get through the next exam. Thanks again for your tips.

Putnam, thanks for your thoughts on learning styles. I find that I learn by writing. My notes are more like a dictation but that allows me to pay attention in lecture and then circle back if I need to. I take a ton of notes while reading as well and I am not sure that this is the most efficient way to go about it. My fear is that in the upper division sciences it will be much harder to continue this process. I have not figured out this “Note Card Phenomena either!!” though it seems many have found great success with it. I am going to try and track down the College Study Skills book and see if I can hone in on my strengths. I am sure I am just being paranoid, but it will keep me busy for the next few weeks until classes start (and the real paranoia sets in LOL) and can’t hurt right.

Thanks again guys… I truly appreciate you taking the time to post!!