Steps to a Successful Study from Start to Finish: Before the first class you should follow and do this; check your purchases, examine your study materials. Before you write your name in books and other study materials, be sure that you have the complete set, that they are the correct ones, and that they are in good if not excellent condition. Used books save money as long as they are the same edition and not too marked up. As for new books, we have found pages missing! Although most campus bookstores are well organized to handle the opening day crowd, there are instances when, in haste, you will be given, or take, the wrong books. IF you wait too long to examine them, you might find that when you go back to make and exchange the bookstore is sold out!
Organize your semester (term). Buy a large calendar with plenty of space to enter items from course syllabi. And if you have to buy markers, don’t buy just yellow ones; buy several colors. Use one color for this course guide. However, do not go to extremes. We have seen some study materials where so much of a page was underlined with a yellow marker that the publisher might as well have used yellow paper.
Minimize confusion. Gather your materials for class. Keep all the study materials assigned for the course materials quickly. Having everything together and organized will help more than you might realize. Plan to take all of the study materials to the first class. Some instructors use this class to review the features of the text and other study materials.
At the First Class
Arrive early. This will give you an opportunity to browse around the Psychology Department, see what people are doing, glance at the bulletin boards, and find the right classroom. Arriving early will also give you the chance to choose your seat. Students define their “personal space” quickly; invaders are not welcome!
Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself to those around you. Who knows, you might need a partner to work with sooner than you think. Anyway, being warm and friendly establishes a more enjoyable classroom atmosphere.
Go for the syllabi! Get a complete copy of the syllabus (take two if you can). Professors will go to extremes with syllabi. Some will list name, office number, office hours, objectives of the course and a detailed practice and attendance policies are stated. These extensive entries make the syllabus an especially important document. At the other extreme are the most unimaginative and uninformative syllabi. They list the chapters to be read, week by week. That’s it! You may not normally ask questions about exams, policies, and the like so early in the term, but you have every right to know what you are getting into. So ask! The sooner, the better!
Don’t just put the syllabus in your notebook and forget about it; study it, post it, and make several copies of it. If it is a comprehensive one, it can serve you well in managing your time and planning the semester. Psychology courses are typically very busy courses, so it pays to know what to expect and when to expect it.
Listen. Be an attentive listener and an organized note-taker.
Here are few tips that might help:
1. Be sure you can hear what the professor is saying. Some professors mumble or talk to blackboards. Ask the professor to speak louder or if necessary, change your seat (a justifiable violation of personal space?)
2. Pay attention to ideas or themes. It is easy to record the facts, but it is more difficult to organize them when you rewrite your notes. Ideas or themes are very important. They provide the framework for factual material.
3. Listen to what is said rather than to how it is said. Go for content, not delivery. If there is something you do not understand, raise your hand and politely interrupt. You are cheating yourself if you leave the classroom confused about the material. The language of psychology is not always easy to understand. This is especially true for topics in psychobiology and statistics.
4. Be receptive and positive. Don’t close your mind to what you think you don’t like. The material will be dull and boring if you perceive it that way. Realize that every topic in psychology is about you. Add a little emotion to what is said: associate the material with your feelings or thoughts. Learning about yourself and others is quite different from studying a rock!
5. Your notebook is neither a tape recorder nor a doodle book (unless you can interpret the doodles!). Strike a balance. Hear the important points and write them out as you would if you were writing an outline. Leave room between main points for details. Whatever you do, don’t let note-taking distract you from what is said.
By the way, we have never discouraged the use of tape recorders in the classroom. Some professors find them intimidating; we find them flattering. (We must admit, however, that we have had visitors of coming to class and finding rows of recorders – no students, just recorders!)
6. Stay with the speaker. You can think much faster than the professor can speak. Losing your train of thought and daydreaming will certainly leave a lot of gaps in your notebook – and in your mind.
Ask questions. (This is so important it’s worth repeating, isn’t it?) If you don’t understand something then ask. Most professors appreciate students who ask questions. YOU can sit there thinking that you don’t want to sound like dummy, only to find out later that most of the students were thinking the same thing themselves. It happens all the time. The whole climate of a course may depend on the degree to which you and your fellow students are willing to interact with the professor.
After the First Class
Fill in your calendar. Extract from the syllabus the dates of exams, papers due, projects to complete, presentations to give, and anything else that appears important. Here is a worthy piece of advice: Review your calendar for the term and shift all of these dates back by one week.
Look at it this way: The semester is just beginning and you probably have thirteen or fourteen weeks to go. So what’s a week on way or another? IT is especially valuable when preparing for exams or writing papers. Just think you prepare to take an exam on October first that will not be given until the eight! You have another week to study! You can relax, review, further your understanding of what you have been studying, and store it in your long term memory. All too often students wait until the last minute, so to speak, and have no other choice but to cram. Regrettably, they end up in a state of confusion and panic, and emotional and physical distress.
Can you think of anything more stress-including than going into exam room and seeing students frantically flipping through unintelligible pages of notes? or saying, “What do you think he’ll ask?” This is not for you. Most students approach an exam as if they were putting a jigsaw puzzle together, without having the cover of the box in front of them. You want to have the advantage of both the cover and the pieces. The cover provides the understanding, the pieces the details. Sometimes it is difficult to accept, but realize that you are in charge of your own behavior. If all goes well, reward yourself. If it doesn’t go well, don’t cast the blame on someone else.
Rewrite your notes as soon as possible. This doesn’t have to be a time-consuming and arduous task. Correlate your notes with the major headings in the chapters. Often just putting a page number next to a portion of notes will suffice. One thing you should do is ask yourself why you are taking notes at all. Many students take them because they think the notes refer to main items that may be on the exams. This may be the notes haven’t been rewritten; they may turn out to be too complex or too sketchy to be much of value at exam time. If you have access to a word processor, type your notes into a file such as H3note.doc. You can use the computer to help you organize all of the materials for a particular chapter.
Become familiar with your study materials. Learn the names of the authors, scan the tables of contents, read the introductions, and look for the study outlines, summaries, and glossaries (check out the margins in sections can often mean a difference in an exam grade.
Before the Next Class and before you Read the Chapter
Code the chapter outline.
Study the summary of the chapter.
Scan the entire chapter. Look at the figures and tables as you go. These visuals are not there to make the book more attractive (although they do help), but rather to inform. They serve to clarify what is in the body of the text and are often used as sources for test items.
Turn the topic sentence of the first and every remaining paragraph into a question. Usually, you don’t have to rewrite the topic sentence, just put a question mark after it. Then you will realize that what you are doing is asking a question and then reading the rest of the paragraph to find the answer. This technique keeps you actively involved and maintains your interest. It also increases your skill in asking and answering questions. Asking and answering questions is what exams (and job interviews!) are all about. Can you think of a better source for short or long essay questions than topic sentences?
Break your study periods into short units. Don’t sit down at one time, for example, and read every word in a chapter beginning with the first and going to the last. IF your goal is just to read the chapter and close the text, you have missed the boat. The task is to learn the material, a task that is easier if you go through the chapter and learn one section at a time.
Don’t underline anything in a paragraph until you have read it in its entirety. What might seem to be important in one sentence may turn out to be relatively unimportant when you read the next. And you can’t go back and erase the disaster of a roaming yellow marker!
Happy reading this articles. I wish you well. Keep the light on for you!…