Over the course of the last week, I’ve seen a spike in the tension and stress of the students who come to my office as so many have been preparing for and taking midterm examinations. First exams in college and first midterms can be a real eye opener. Friday is the semester midpoint. That means that your midterm grade will likely reflect all graded material received up to that point. Midterm grades are an opportunity to determine if your study strategies are paying off and if they aren’t, to contemplate making some adjustments. While no two people will benefit from the exact same strategies, there are some tips that we can share that really seem to work!
There's a time and a place...
At the beginning of September, I wrote about the importance of making time for studying...and usually, that's a lot more time than in high school. Try to find at least 2-3 hours a week for every hour you spend in the classroom. Your efforts should be as distraction free as possible, so choose a place like the library or a quiet study room and put your phone and other distractions away as often as possible. Read our post about time management and developing a study attitude for more help on this!
It's not enough to just be hitting the books--you need to get actively involved with the material to make your study time the most meaningful. There are a number of strategies you can employ to get actively involved in your work!
Highlight Selectively or Not at all!!
Highlighting while you read can be an excellent technique to allow you to isolate the most important points from a text so you can easily identify them and recall them when you go back through your text to study at another time. However, beware the PINK PAGE!! If you are highlighting more than a few lines on each page, than you might as well not be highlighting at all. Highlighting everything on a page means that you aren't using the highlighter to help you draw out the main ideas from the text...you're just wasting ink and probably not getting very much out of your reading!
Consider a Tried and True Method--Like SQ4RMethods like the SQ4R have been helping students get involved with their text for years.
- Survey--Before reading the chapter, look at headings, bold words and chapter summaries. Glance over any diagrams and photos. You do this to try to get an idea of what you can expect to learn in the chapter.
- Question--Turn chapter titles and section headings into questions. You will try to answer these questions as you read.
- Read--Read the chapter to answer your questions.
- Recite--Answer your questions and explain main points to yourself out loud. This may seem funny but the more senses you involve in the learning experience, the more likely it is that you will absorb what you are studying!
- wRite--Write the answers to your questions.
- Reflect--think about what you have learned and what implications that information may have for your knowledge of the subject. Does what you learned leave you with additional questions?
Get Stuck On Sticky Notes!Sometimes the temptation to focus on efficiency when reading your text can make you miss a lot of information. To remedy that, consider using sticky notes! For each page or section you read, summarize the information on a sticky note (not one of those big ones, either)! If you can't summarize what you read, you weren't involved enough in the reading. You can review these notes later when you go back through your text!
Make your own test!This tip can be a little time consuming but is totally worth it in the end. As you go through your notes from class and your text notes, consider developing your own set of questions and answers that you can study from later. If you have tried to imagine every question your professor could as and know how to answer them, you will have a good shot at doing very well on the exam. This is where having a study group will come in handy! If you divide a subject into parts for which each person develops questions, you will have homemade tests to study from with less investment by any single individual!
Use Index Cards!Put key terms or definitions on index cards and place the answers on the flip side. You can use these to quiz yourself and your friends! The process of creating and using the cards will help you get more involved in the material. Plus you can bring them anywhere so you can sneak in a little study time while you are waiting for a class to start or for friends to arrive for dinner.
Those who can, teach!Try teaching the material to your friends, classmates or more patient members of your family. Try explaining it to someone who might not have any understanding of the information. The act of trying to determine how to make your dad understand the Krebs Cycle, for example, will force you to think of the information in creative ways and it will reinforce what you know while highlighting what you need to focus on next.
Do all questions, problems and homework even if they aren't collected!In college your professors might not require you to do your homework problems or read the text but the expectation is that you are. Learning in college is much more self directed. Maybe no one tells you that you have to do the work or checks up on you, but when test time comes around, you will be happy you did!
Ask for help!Go to the CTLE for a tutor and talk to your professor if you are struggling. They are here to teach you as much as you are here to learn. Come to see us in the CAS Advising Center if we can help!
Anything to add?If you have a technique that helps you that I haven't mentioned, share it in the comments!
CAS Academic Advisor