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j0ey's avatar

For all those people who did well at University: What was your preferred studying technique?

Asked by j0ey (2429points) April 6th, 2010

I have a certain way of studying, and it works well for me. However I am curious about how other people study for finals.

Are you a “study as you go” kind of person? Or a crammer?

What techniques have been most successful for you?

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27 Answers

Cruiser's avatar

I’m sure answers will vary. I tried them all and the one that worked the best is to prioritize your time first and foremost. Whenever possible I would study right after the class to get er done. Plus stick to the rule of thumb of study one hour for each hour of class and you will do well. Avoid study groups as they suck up time and regularly meet with your professors and TA’s to make sure you are on track.

hug_of_war's avatar

I create a homework/study schedule a week ahead of time and stick to it no matter how tired I am. I load monday-thursday and saturday knowing I tend to slack off on fridays and sundays but I purposefully schedule my days so I never feel overwhelmed. I also tend to give myself a few days to study beforehand for midterms/finals so I’m not cramming. I remember the information past test day much easier and don’t get as stressed. I’ve found that study 1 hour for each credit of a class thing to be bullshit and I usually think my classmates who do so are ineffectively using their time.

darby_shaw's avatar

i studied the lessons in advance so when i attended the class, it was just polishing/review of what i already knew. then i didnt need to study the lessons again when exam time came, ‘cause the lessons had been instilled well already.

Jack79's avatar

Like most people, I was lazy throughout the year and then panicked 2 days before my deadline. But I was an overall good student, because I was interested in what I studied. I chose the particular field because I honestly wanted to learn more, and wasn’t thinking of future career or anything. So I never missed seminars and workshops, I always participated, concentrated and generally spent time at the library reading relevant books when I could.

darby_shaw's avatar

@Jack79 – what was your course of study?

Pandora's avatar

Listen really well in class and participate when you can. By engaging in the topic you will remember more and have to study less to freshen your memory when exam time comes.
I would do that and then cram the little forgotten details before finals.

bummer's avatar

A great question. I worked two jobs while going to college so I studied at school in the cafeteria or library, at the local coffee shop, on jetways at LAX, on the beach but hardly ever at home, too much distraction from roomies. One technique that worked for me was to read or preview assignments one chapter ahead of the the teacher. The teacher’s explanation made it all make sense, especially in math classes! Yes, I was on the Dean’s List every semester and graduated cum laud.

Snarp's avatar

Basically I paid attention in lecture, took careful notes, and read the text as I went along, then I did some studying toward the end in which I read over my notes, tried to imagine questions and answer them, and tried to recreate key parts of the notes in my own words without referring to the notes until I could get them right. I also went over the text anywhere that the notes were confusing. In some cases I would re-read key sections of the text. This was sort of like cramming, but I tried to do it with plenty of time, never staying up all night. I like to study for any given test for an hour or so a day for about thee days, then maybe a few more hours the night before. I firmly believe it is best to study right before bed and to get a good night’s sleep the night before a test right after reviewing the material. Sleep is when your brain puts it all together and being well rested helps you perform better. I got a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree without ever getting less than an ‘A’.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

I took what most would consider a radical approach, but it worked for me. I was there to get my degrees and nothing else. No social activity of any kind. No dorms or roommates. I spent at least two hours studying for every hour of lecture or lab. All homework assignments were completed as early as possible, almost always on the day assigned. I would usually have term papers completed within a week of being assigned.

The whole thing seems rather grim, but my parents were spending a tremendous amount to send me to one of the top schools in the country. Having few social skills and no aptitude for learning them made my approach to academics easier.

I completed my first bachelors degree when my age cohort was still in high school. I completed my second masters degree when I was ten years older than most of the class. The age difference seemed to be an advantage in avoiding social distractions. The lowest honors that I achieved in any of my four degrees was magna cum laude. This summer I’m resuming my PhD studies at age 53, with the same all-business approach.

Set a goal and pursue it single-mindedly and relentlessly. You can have a social life after you graduate. And stay away from the booze and drugs.

Idknown's avatar

@stranger_in_a_strange_land Some would say you missed on a vital part of your childhood. But then extremely talented people can be extremely different with different sets of norms. I am happy for you, yet I feel terribly sorry for you under my own set of norms.

@j0ey There are a lot of goodie over-achievers here :). I’m not one of them. I took my laptop to lecture, I typed up notes faster than anyone since I can type faster than I write. I then reformatted my notes into coherent outlines (this was my studying). If I felt insecure, I’d print them out and study. Otherwise – that’s it.

@Cruiser Study groups do waste a lot of time, but I found them to be helpful in getting through the more dreadful subjects. Not to mention it depends on what subjects you’re studying. I wouldn’t be able to get through beginner Chinese without a study group.

My preferred way to study for an exam would be to go to the common study area in my dorm, and sit down with a few friends studying different topics and we’d all just focus. Sure – there were antics in between – but it served only to keep us awake. Which brings me to another point – I loved studying in my dorm because if I ever got sleepy with a textbook (come one – everyone’s had that experience) – I’d go take a 10 minute nap. I actually time it. Wake up, and study again.

Hope that helps.

DarkScribe's avatar

I have what is often referred to (incorrectly) as a “photographic” memory. If I read something once – without distraction – I can usually recall better that ninety percent of it. To ensure no distraction and further aid memory – I generally try to read with soft jazz or classical music playing – a technique I picked up in the seventies from a book called “Superlearming” A book that is still worth reading for anyone who wants to improve study techniques.

Snarp's avatar

@Idknown I agree with you that study groups can be helpful. It depends on who is in it and how it is organized. I only found them useful in more advanced classes in my major. Everyone in the study group then is at least an upperclassman and is in the same major, so there’s a lot more commitment to really learning the material, as well as a better understanding of the background material, so you don’t have to slow down to keep up with them.

darby_shaw's avatar

@DarkScribe – does classical music really have that positive effect? :-)

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

@Idknown I know that I missed out on a lot, but I wasn’t equipped with the skills to take advantage of social opportunities. I learned much later in life that I have Aspergers Syndrome which was unheard of in my childhood and is untreatable in adults. I’ve had a successful life nonetheless.

@DarkScribe I have a partly eidetic memory also. I “think in pictures” and can usually call up an image of text if I need to. I second your recommendation of using music to block out unwanted aural interferences. I find the instrumental works of JS Bach very good for the purpose.

@bummer Good point about staying ahead on the reading; that way you can make better use of the lecture and ask good questions if the prof holds Q&A sessions.

Visual interferences can also be a problem. The room I study in is almost bare of decoration, nothing to distract me. Even to this day, if I need to get some serious “brain work” done, I retire to a cell-like work room; a table, chair, bookshelves and a small stereo, no computer or telephone.

DarkScribe's avatar

@darby_shaw DarkScribe – does classical music really have that positive effect? :-)

For some it does – I can use jazz instrumentals just as easily. Nothing with a fast or erratic beat though.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Another form of music that is good as a study background is “New Age” or “Space” music. I find Constance Demby’s “Lux Aeterna”, “Sacred Space Music” and almost anything by Kitaro quite good. These pieces are not intended to be listened to closely or critically and have no jarring transitions or energetic passages.

Jack79's avatar

@darby_shaw I studied Journalism for 3 years and went on to do another 3 years of Communication Studies, majoring in Media and Culture. We did Film, Psychology, History of Culture, Sociology, Pop Music Productions, Mass Design and Fashion, Art History, Marketing… so it was overall a mix of many different subjects, both “high brow” academic ones and more everyday practical stuff, and you never got bored. I wrote a thesis on the importance of language in the creation of national identity, and another one on the difference between British and American stand-up comedy. And we got to do a group project on the invasion of privacy and I did a presentation on the film “Alien”. So it was fun.

john65pennington's avatar

Cramming the night before a test always worked for me. each person is different and some people cannot follow my procedure. my night before cramming cannot include music or a disturbance of any kind. i discovered that the public library was the perfect place for me to study. in a corner, secluded.

Dr_C's avatar

It depends on wether you want to just pass or actually learn. For me the best technique involved going over class material when I got home and making my own boiled down notes beside class notes. I did this with the TV on.

The reason for the TV was that since I am easily distracted and an extremely visual person, silence and lack of motion will ensure that any kind of sound or the slightest movement will distract me. Having the TV on provides a steady drone I can become accustomed to and ignore… as well as providing background motion making sure that I won’t be distracted by any random motion around the house.

I did this every night after class in Medical School and when test time came around I did a brief review the night before while all my classmates crammed their asses off. I came to the test well rested and relaxed… they were stressed and sleep deprived.

Top of the class baby. It works.

tinyfaery's avatar

Most syllabi are available before the class starts, so I read up before class started so that I was always a week ahead.

Take efficient notes. Read the text before the lecture so you can concentrate on listening to what is not in the text and listen for clarifications about things you did not understand.

Study a little bit everyday, within reason. 4–5 hours a day of studying should lessen your need to cram for tests.

Start papers as soon as they are assigned. That is the last thing you want to get behind on.


lilikoi's avatar

I was a crammer, but I don’t recommend it unless you have some kind of tricked out photographic memory. I have good short term memory so I was able to retain a lot of information in the-night-before studying, but two hours after the test I forgot everything.

The best way to study is to study a bit every day so you stay ahead of the class – literally. Going into a lecture ahead every time will put you in a much better position to actually get something out of the lectures. You’ll already be familiar with the material which means you can ask questions.

When I go back to school, this is the method I will be using. It is the only way you get your money’s worth.

thriftymaid's avatar

I always typed notes as I read the material. I added to them in the lecture. Then I had perfect notes to study for finals.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

By being prepared in advance, I avoided all the cramming. The evening before exams, I’d go out and have a nice dinner, then go to bed early. I would go into the exams calm and relaxed.

mattbrowne's avatar

Planning. Breaks. Rewards. Plenty of sleep.

escapedone7's avatar

It depends on the subject. In mathematics for instance, I ended up watching supplemental videos of a different professor explaining the same concept in a different way, and did practice exercises over and over.

In some courses, there would be very important terms and main points. However several paragraphs of anecdotal ‘blah blah blah” and examples will fill the blanks between. I would take a notebook and make an outline, leaving out the examples and anecdotes. I would end up with an outline made out of the main idea or point of each section and the key points made. (Learning disabilities…visual processing disorders…auditory processing disorders….) These types of outlines were excessively helpful to me the night before a big test. I didn’t need to re-read all the examples and fluff. I just needed to remember the key points and terms. That way you don’t have to re-read the blah blah blah.

In Biology the outline might look like this

Shelled amoeba
Heliozoans etc.

leave out the 8 paragraph diatribe, but include some key points. When you read your outline, if you don’t remember what one of those words mean, look it up. It is much easier to read this simple outline 8 times than read a whole biology chapter 8 times. In fact if you do so, you can miss the main idea as your eyes glaze over and you get lost in the endless verbage.

Allie's avatar

I’m both.
I study the notes I took in class almost every evening before I go to bed. Just reading over them, looking up things in the textbook I don’t understand, making more notes in the margins of the books or readers… stuff like that.
If I need to know things like terms, dates, people, the general ideas of a theory, places, important ideas, etc, then I make flash cards for them. When I’m walking to class or work, I test myself while I walk. The repetition helps them stick in my head.
Before exams I go over ALL my notes for that class from beginning to end (or whatever that exam will cover). I try to start studying a few days before the exam so that if I have questions I can ask my professor with time to spare. Then the day of the exam, I read over everything one more time before I take the exam.
I utilize all the resources my professors give me. If they give me study guides, I use them. A list of terms? I make sure I know those.

If I don’t have time to read all of the assigned reading, then I read the first few pages, a few middle pages, and the last 10 or so pages of the text. In the end, they usually summarize everything they said in the chapter/article/essay, so that’s the part I try to focus on.

Umm…. I guess that’s it. :)

@Dr_C I do the TV thing as well. I can’t study in silence for the same reason you mentioned – too distracting.

Dr_C's avatar

@Allie That’s only because you’re a genius and impossibly attractive… it’s a common thread among people with our condition ;)

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