Study Habits/Practices

I searched but with no luck. Any good threads on this that I am missing?

I know everyone is different but, generally, what are the best ways to study while going through the various science prereqs? I never really learned any good techniques and have been kinda guessing up to this point. Any and all methods are welcomed suggestions. I dont really gravitate towards any of the specific learning styles (visual, auditory etc). I’m a very average student but I have a (no prereqs included) GPA of 3.9 with 90 credits right now all on a account of severe persistence haha.

One word, repetition!

What took me 3 times to read now takes me 6 times!

For math classes, in particular, working homework problems repeatedly is key. Treat physics and general chemistry as math classes. Form a study group for biology. O-chem requires multiple techniqes: Memorizing reaction mechanisms, memorizing reagents, and practicing synthesis problems are some of the biggies. To some extent you will cement your memory of the reagents as you use them in your synthesis problems, but that alone was not enough for me.

I hope that gives you a starting point!

Here are seveal ideas that I have used personally and/or have helped students develop. Generally the “paradigm” is you are funneling information from multiple sources (lecture, books, internet, homework problems, etc) into concise, integrated knowledge

  1. Assume from day of class that you are preparing for the final exam. So whatever study habits, discipline, and process you develop, always funnels information for that ultimate goal

  2. Whatever you choose, develop a consistent process that has you studying, doing problems, in same manner as you would as taking a test. Content (ie course information) is only one part of being a good student. Developing the studying habits and the test taking skills are separate skillsets that need to be as fully developed as is comprehending the material.

    3)Many younger students seem to take too many sources of information and use them superfically. For example, they will jump from website to website to find something, insteading of finding a couple of good indepth sites. Mil the sources of information you have fully. For example, text books now have opening chpater outlines, end of chapter summaries, extentsive captions under pictures, in additional to the actual text. Each of these pieces can help you with understanding and should be read carefully.

  3. I often see students on exam day, juggling notes, text book, internet printouts, etc. You should have intergrated all those sources into a a few sheets of “concentrated notes”. The way I would do this was to write an “exam sheet” before each test. It would start with a few rules, rule one always being take a breath, followed by read carefully and slowly, underline important words, etc. The next page or two would be BRIEF important information (by this point you should know how to do the problems), say formulas in physics, reactions in organic, etc. These would then be saved and be the basis for preperation for the final (remember I said start from day 1 like you are going to take the final).

  4. Do each homework problem in chem, physics, etc (as denise said they are really math courses) a few time. Dont just review them, but sit down and do them as you would on an exam. Take a breath, focus on ONLY that problem, and do it. The PROCESS of doing a problem is as important as the knowledge behind it. This will be so helpful for the MCAT as FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) kills more exams than anything else.

  5. Something I learned in junior high which I never used until college was a great study tool: SQ3R method. It stood for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. I applied this and modified it college because I wondered how do I measure studying. So I found that each chapter in the text I would do 4 to 5 readings each with a specific goal and at each reading I would absorb more and more

    -first read overview: get a general idea of what they talking about (those chapter summaries, picture captions, etc are great for that)

    -second read understand: I read each paragraph so at that moment I understand what they are saying. I am not trying to memorize it, just comprehend that moment

    -third read highlight: read and highlight the important points (my collection of multi colored highlighters is the envy of all who see it)

    -fourth read outline: I used to outline on paper but I found outlining in pencil in the margins of the text worked as well

    -fifth read review: this is usually when I would write my exam sheet.

    You should find a method that works for you.

    7)Find what the professor likes to give on the exams. Some profs will gladly give you old exams. My organic professor gave exam questions right out of the book. They were hard, they were not ones he assigned, but at least I had some exposure to them prior to exams

    8)Prep before class. even if you just read the damn chapter summary before class you will find yourself understanding the material so much better. This is especially true in lab courses. Just review the lab manual for a few minutes will make you seem like a genius in class.

    9)Review every exam AFTER you get it back. I have found students get an exam back, are disgusted at a low grade, crumple it up and throw it away never to figure out what they did wrong. It will show up on the final (did I mention that you prepare from day 1 like you are taking a final). I have also seen students who got a good grade but have no I idea how they did a problem. Work the exam thru after you get it back.

  6. Lastly, get a partner, in each class, someone you can ask to help you work thru a problem, someone who may just give you a fresh look, someone you can complain to when it seems like you’ll never learn it. Having this moral support is essential, especially for older non-trads who often are not part of the school scene and can be isolated when taking a class. I found acting as a tutor with younger students was a great way to learn the stuff.

    I am sure I have lots of typos and such but will rewrite this later.

Awesome advice guys. 5 readings seems really hard to pull off with my course load. Are you doing more of a skim on reading 1,4 and 5?

I appreciate the input and please keep it coming.

gonnif’s point #7 is a good one. I always tell others who ask me how i study that you have to figure out how the professor works, whether he goes by the book or by his notes. It will make it easier to study effectively and focus more on what will appear on a test.

Often professors do make their old exams available. you should ask your prof directly