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Studying Efficiently

Scheduling

Be aware of two common myths:

  • Myth #1: Time scheduling is not really necessary because "somehow everything will eventually get done."
  • Myth #2: Your schedule need not include such ordinary items as transportation time, mealtime, work time, and recreation.

Draw up a study schedule and follow it

  • Prepare a full 24 hour/7 day per week schedule.
    1. Include: Class time, study time, work time, meal time, travel time, sleeping hours, shopping, recreation, and time with family and friends.
    2. Why? Drawing up an inclusive schedule of all your activities allows you to get a clear picture of how many non-school activities exist in your life, and illustrates just how much time those activities take.
  • Be realistic in scheduling study time:
    1. As a general guideline, you should plan on 2 hours of study time for every hour in class; that means that if you carry 15 credits of classes, you should schedule 30 hours of study time per week. (And remember that there are only 168 hours in a week. If you sleep 7 hours each night, carry 15 credits, and study 30 hours a week, you have 74 hours per week left for everything else--including work, eating, personal care, etc.)
    2. Be sure to schedule recreation time--and if possible, schedule your recreation hours following your study periods, so you can consider recreation as a reward for work accomplished.
    3. Try to schedule your classes one hour apart to allow study time between classes. Most forgetting occurs immediately after the initial learning. Reviewing your notes immediately after a class will improve your memory with the least effort. You can also use the time between classes to prepare for the next class, or to take a walk: moving around helps replenish both the oxygen supply to the brain and the chemicals necessary for concentration.

*Some material summarized from:
Cohen E.L., Poppins M.A. Discovering College Reading, Thinking, and Study Skills--A Piagetian Approach. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1982.

Reading

Be aware of two common myths:

  • Myth #1: Reading is relaxation: snuggle down into a comfortable chair, prop up your feet, turn on the TV or stereo and then open your book. (This relaxed approach is a disaster for reading textbooks.)
  • Myth #2: Reading is a passive process--all you have to do is look at the words and absorb their meanings (e.g. open book to the beginning page of the assignment, read straight through to the last page, and forget it.)

Learn to read efficiently

  • Approach reading actively by gathering together an underlining highlighter and your notebook and carry them to a work location where there is room to work.
  • Mentally summarize the focus of the course and/or the class topic for this particular assignment; keep this in mind as you read.
  • Realize that not all reading is the same. Adjust your reading rate to the material. "Skim and scan" the whole chapter for key ideas before you start reading.
  • As you work through the sections in the chapter look for possible test questions or definitions of new terms, and keep track of these in your notebook.
  • Take the time to pre-read the chapter before class--but remember that sometimes it is more efficient to not underline material until after the class dealing with that material, because then you will have a better understanding of what the instructor emphasized.

Underlining

Be aware of two common myths:

  • Myth #1: The more you underline, the more you learn.
  • Myth #2: Underlining is a waste of time.

Underline efficiently

  • Research has shown that you will probably recall only ten percent of what you read unless you underline, review or take notes.
  • To underline efficiently, first read a short passage of the text (two or three paragraphs) without underlining, then reread that section seeking the important material to differentiate by underlining.
  • One way to decide what is important to underline is to ask mentally, "Is this a definition, a main idea, or a detail," and note "def.", "m.i.", or "det." in the margin. You will usually want to underline key terms, definitions, and important concepts rather than specific details or examples.

Reminder: Think ahead! Always try to predict possible exam questions as you read and underline. Predicting test questions forces you to focus your attention, thereby improving your concentration and memory.