Category Archives: Study Skills

Calculators are way too slow

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[hidepost]Awright SAT and GRE preppers; dust off those old synapses.  Do you know your multiplication tables as well as you should?  “As well as you should,” means instantly!  You shouldn’t have to stop and think about the product of 7×9 or 8×6; it should just pop into your head.  Being able to do that will really speed you up on the test!  Here’s a great site to help you get up to speed.  Five minutes of practice a day for a couple of weeks could mean big gains on your test scores![/hidepost]

Memorizing Fast and Effectively

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[hidepost]Helpful Software for Memory Tasks

In my classes on GRE and SAT Prep we talk about effective ways to commit all that vocabulary to memory. Reviewing every word every day is a waste of time. You want to study each item as little as possible and still be able to recall it at test time. In class we talked about a way to use different stacks of flashcards to minimize review and maximize recall. SuperMemo 2004 software does the same thing, but much more effectively.

Enter your facts in minimalist, flashcard style. Example; “Q. Lion?, A. Large African cat.” Supermemo 2004 will quiz you on that fact on a schedule designed to minimize reviews while ensuring that it isn’t forgotten. This is very powerful and useful software, and I would DEFINITELY shell out the $19 and use it. One warning; the website and the program are NOT pretty or terribly intuitive. It will take you some time to get used to how the app works, but it pays huge dividends. And it’s not just for vocabulary. You can commit anything to memory using SuperMemo.

Check it out at http://www.supermemo.com/.[/hidepost]

Speed up your reading

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with this online app

Just thirty minutes of faster-reading practice, twice a week can save you SOOO much time with your studies. Here’s a slick online app that will help you. Just copy and paste your text into the box and Spreeder will play it back to you at the speed you designate. Adjust the settings to modify the reading rate and chunk size (the number of words it flashes at you).

The same-old, boring PB & J

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Once upon a time there was a poor-but-noble college prof who ate nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches year after palate-petrifying year. After a while, even this most ardent admirer of Jiff and jam began skipping meals. Welcome to the gray, twilight existence of your average college prof, doomed to grade an unending and uninspired procession of pallid papers and plain-jane projects–the same-old, boring pb&j.

“What’s that knocking?” you inquire. Why, friend, that is none other than opportunity! You can rescue them from yet another helping of the paper equivalent of pb&j, serving them up instead a succulent seabass souffle, asparagus enchante drizzled in truffle oil, and an audacious yet piquant white wine. Ummmm … must … have … seabass.

“But how?” you moan. “As it is, I barely have time to slap some expired peanut butter and cheap jelly onto a stale slice of Wonderbread. Who has the time to come up with such original and four-star fare?” Stop talking to yourself, and I’ll tell you. Take two minutes to brainstorm. Here’s how…

  1. identify the topic. Usually the prof does this part for you. Perhaps she has requested a ten-page treatise on the rise and much-regretted fall of the baby-blue tuxedo in American fashion. Or better yet, that engineering prof with the regrettable haircut has mandated a group project whereby you will design and present an engineering solution to prevent navel lint in large, hirsute men, whilst your erstwhile teammates order pizza and apprise you of all that you are missing on Family Guy.
  2. Write said topic at the top of a blank sheet of paper or on the back of a napping teammate, and set a timer for two minutes.
  3. As the timer ticks, write out solutions/treatments of the topic as fast and furious as your sweaty meat hooks and overworked noggin will allow. Don’t edit now; just write. Abbrev. Summarize. JUST…GET…IT…DOWN. In fact, throw in a few ideas that would cause your psych prof to tut-tut under his breath and eye you suspiciously. At least one in five of your ideas should be complete, drug-induced drivel. You’ll be surprised (no, really, you will) at how often those ideas will spur you on to really original anti-drivel. Go for at least twenty ideas in two minutes.
  4. When the time is up, go back and add, subtract, multiply, and divide your list of ideas. Add ideas together to make new and bigger ideas; ideas with hair on their chests and a gleam in their eyes. Subtract the sub-usable ideas; kick’em to the curb. Multiply by riffing off the ideas you have down, and divide up complex ideas into their simpler parts.

Out of twenty ideas you might get five that don’t induce wretching and contribute to male-pattern baldness, and maybe two that are really exceptionally clever, if you do say so yourself. Take the pick of the litter and work it into a meal fit for a monarch of some sort.

Your prof, freed from the tyranny of the standard pb&j, will give you a much better grade than you deserve. And they all lived happily ever after.

Steady Study NOT Mental Marathons

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marathonImagine trudging down to the track three times a semester to wheeze through a 12 mile run. Maybe you would make it without blowing your lunch. Maybe. But for days after you would stagger around like a zombie on stilts (which … ya’ know … is pretty staggery).

Non-stop study marathons can likewise hurt your performance. Just like an athlete who overtrains and pops a kidney or deep fries their duodenum, overstudying can puree the gray stuff betwixt your ears. So you show up for the big test next day with a skull full of partially hydrogenated goo.

Yet this is exactly how most of us study. The week before midterms we embark on a mental marathon of round-the-clock cramming and then wonder at our painfully sub-par grades. Continue reading Steady Study NOT Mental Marathons

Foolproof Cheating

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Wouldn’t it be spiffy if you could use a cheat sheet on your test? Even better; what if it was impossible to get caught. And to ice the proverbial pastry, what if it was completely legal and ethical. I’ll tell you a method to do just that.  [hidepost]It’s called mnemonics (nih MON iks).

I used this method all through grad school impressing prof and fellow struggling student alike. My friends, knowing of my uncanny ability to do barely passable work, were convinced I was cheating; especially when I made a perfect score on my human osteology exam with only thirty minutes of study. They had spent long nights cramming and scored poorly.

Find out more here![/hidepost]