It is the beginning of the new semester and depending on the region you are at, some students are already back in the classroom. As I read tone of blogs and articles online, I often come across some brilliant studying tips that are worth sharing with others. Here is a post to prepare all my fellow students to the back to school event. Don’t worry, university life is fun and to enjoy it, you just need a bit of organization!
Studying is a science and many students have already developed their very own techniques. Some of those techniques may be satisfying for the student, but I find that most will leave him/her stressed out until the finals and restless for the whole semester. The thing is, you have to make studying a long term habit. Just doing your assignment, writing notes and following the textbook to memorize everything is not enough. You may pass the class with a fair grade, but you will lack a deeper understanding of the material and sadly, forget most of it as soon as the semester ends. Heck, you will probably forget everything even before the finals. Hence, I believe it is primordial that as a student, we chose a studying technique that can challenge our long term memory.
First, when it comes to readings, the SQ3R is a great way to understand your course material. It stands for: Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review. Basically, go through the chapter you have to read first, question the goal of the reading, read it, recite, and review what you just understood. Instead of highlighting everything on the page (oh those beautiful yellow flu colors), this technique will help really grasp the notions in the text. By properly questioning the task at hand, you will be a lot more innovative in your way of tackling the exercises and end up with better results.
Second, another technique to study is Spacing Effect. It basically means to spread the huge amount of work into shorter and more concise periods of time. It needs more preparation to be realized, but it is one of the most satisfying techniques as it allows the student to keep track of his work. It is not about quantity, but quality. Instead of thinking how many hours you need to invested in an assignment, think about how you can plan the process so it takes the less time, and gives out the most efficient result.
Furthermore, get an agenda or use Google Calendar as these tools are ultra important for the Spacing Effect technique. Especially if you are doing a memorizing assignments. Divide the work in smaller chunks and repeatedly learn the material and make flash cards that can be reviewed on day/week basis. Cramming will never be the best way to studying and people making that choice are just bad at managing their time. It is a lot better to pass five minutes before the beginning of the class to go over previous learned notion during the last class than to spend five hours the day of the exam to relearn everything.
Third, I want to mention the importance of note taking. A good note taking process will save you hours of hard work!! I have friends who decide to not listen in class and end up passing twice the time at home to listen to the recording and rewrite the notes. Guys, go to class and take proper note! One great way of doing is the famous Cornell Note Taking Method. Basically, it is the idea to write your notes in three categories: notes on the big right side, review/buzz words on the left margin, and a summary at the bottom of the page. This technique surprisingly works for everything discipline. You can read more about it here.
Finally, I strongly recommend to master the tools you have access to! As mentioned above, find a good way to manage your time like Google Calendar. Write your note in an organized way using OneNote. Understand the strong points and differences between Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Get the PDF version that allows modifications so that you can write notes on the handout published by your professor. Understand which text editor is the best for your programming assignment (no, you don’t have to follow your teacher’s preferences all the time). The world is moving toward software and you definitely want to be one of the few who master them perfectly. It doesn’t take much time to learn to use them and very soon, it will actually save you time.
Next week, I will post a new post about studying tips in dot form for anyone curious to learn more. For now, I want to share a few external resources. If you want to become an excelling student, you not only need to follow studying techniques, but you will also need to have a mentality to always question what is taught in class and be ready to go beyond it. Read this Quora post about the say question. Also, I want to mention the importance of balancing life and work. Yes, studying is important, but so is having a healthy and happy experience. I was reading this other Quora post and it sounds that even MIT students are caught in impostor syndromes and get depressions. It is a shame because most of them are talented people who can use that energy to change the world instead of comparing themselves to other. So, understand that these feelings can happen to anyone. If you feel depressed, take a break. It is never worth it to let negative feelings spread toward your positive thoughts.