Tag Archives: book

Iron New Information Into Your Brain

Did you ever try to iron a shirt with a cold iron? Could you get that shirt ironed without the heat? Sure, but it would take for-freakin-ever! Ironing a nice fold into a shirt is oh-so-much faster when you’ve got HEAT.

Trying to learn stuff by going over it again and again is about as effective as ironing with a cold iron. You can do it, but it’s sloooooow and it’s a LOT of work. Getting memories ironed into your brain is much easier if you know how to Bring The Heat! Continue reading Iron New Information Into Your Brain

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Maximize Your Free Time by Listening More Effectively In Class

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My friend, Aliya, listening intently

Don’t you hate it when you’re talking to someone on the phone and you can tell they aren’t really listening? The pauses between your questions and their answers get longer and . . . longer. They ask questions that you’ve already answered. You know they aren’t paying attention.

Failing to pay close attention in class makes for missed details, frustrated professors, and poor notes. Missed details? What if one of those details is on your next test? You’ll be getting a lower grade. You might even fail–fates forfend! Frustrated professors and teachers–in smaller classes–often notice your lack of attention, just as you notice when your friend-on-the-phone is otherwise occupied. That frustration can make your prof angry and resentful; not the attitude you want them to have when they are looking over your latest paper with red pen in hand. Even in very large classes, professors notice when most people aren’t listening. Often that makes them Continue reading Maximize Your Free Time by Listening More Effectively In Class

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Can You Really Triple Your Reading Speed Without Losing Comprehension?

If you’re like me, the claims of speed reading courses rank right up there with magic beans and political promises.  Too bad.  Speed reading won’t enable you to read the RandomHouse unabridged dictionary in ten minutes with perfect comprehension.  However, it can easily help you read three or four times faster while keeping pretty good comprehension.

You’ll notice I’m not selling a speed reading course.  No ulterior motives here.  I’ve just seen what a little training and practice can do.  My reading speed about five years ago was around 150 words per minute.  Now it’s closer to 500.  That means what used to take me three hours to read I can now read in less than an hour!

That increase came from consistently practicing some techniques that are freely available on the web.  I practiced three or four times per week, thirty minutes at a time, for about two months, and that investment has Continue reading Can You Really Triple Your Reading Speed Without Losing Comprehension?

Maintain Your Study Focus

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One distraction after another can really tank your study time and short-circuit your concentration.  Here’s a slick trick to grow some mondo focus chops.

Your brain is like a big puppy.  Puppies know that when you get out the leash the walk around the block is soon to follow.

“A walk! Joy!”

Your brain thrives on similar cues to pattern its behavior. Examples…

Should I Invest in a GRE Prep Course?

Taking a prep course is really an ideal first step for most students.  If you’ve never built a house before, it would NOT be smart to go out and start pouring concrete and putting up boards on your own for a couple of months, and only then go talk to an architect/builder to find out exactly how to do things.

You normally start by getting with an architect to plan the building and by talking to a builder who knows something about exactly how to procede with each step of the process.  Taking a prep course is like talking to an experienced builder and architect first.  Although their services can come at a premium, they can help you make sure that none of your time and effort is wasted.  In fact, they will more than pay for themselves!

A GRE prep course can raise a student’s combined score an average of Continue reading Should I Invest in a GRE Prep Course?

Which SAT and GRE Prep Books Are Best?

Updated from May 2008 post…

book-storeGod bless book stores.  For the low low price of zero dollars an SAT/GRE junkie like me can go take a look at purty much every test prep book out there.  I go through the various books on a semi-yearly basis to see if there is any new test fu I can bring to my students.

There usually isn’t.  All the test prep books use very similar tactics and techniques but rename them and package them to sound different from the competition.  This is pretty much what you would expect, isn’t it?  After all, there are big bucks to be made, and I’m not the only one with access to a book store.

Which SAT or GRE prep book should you buy? The one you’ll use. One recent study compared different methods of test prep to see Continue reading Which SAT and GRE Prep Books Are Best?

6 Things You Must Know Before Taking a GRE or SAT Prep Course!

First–full-disclosure–I teach a GRE prep course and an SAT prep course for Texas A&M University.

Expensive courses can be worth it if you actually get the increases they claim. They could easily make you ten times as much as they cost, in the form of scholarships, fellowships, or better jobs!

What little independent research there is on the effectiveness of such courses shows little or no increase in score for those who buy the prep books (although buying the books is not the same as reading the books). Those who take prep classes show some improvement, and the greatest increases are among those who get personal tutoring. This research was specifically on the SAT, but the two tests are very similar. On the other hand, GRE students tend to be more self-motivated students than SAT students, so they might get better results from the books.

Pricier doesn’t mean better. Most courses teach pretty much the same stuff, because they all read each others books and integrate any new techniques they find. For the price of a classroom course from Kaplan or Princeton you can get live, one-on-one, GRE tutoring via the internet. That link is for my tutoring, but I’m sure there are lots more tutors out there. Continue reading 6 Things You Must Know Before Taking a GRE or SAT Prep Course!

© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.

Get a Head Start On Problem-Solving Courses This Semester

Taking chemistry, biochem, physics, calculus, or their ilk? These courses are light on information to be memorized and heavy on problems to be solved and concepts to be grasped.

That takes time, effort, and repetition, just like learning to play the violin or to draw realistically. Here are some steps to make these sorts of courses much more manageable.

  1. Don’t wait to get started. You can’t cram for these courses, so start studying on day one of the class.
  2. Study regularly with frequent breaks. Your brain needs time between each study session to process new concepts, so study a little in the morning, a little in the afternoon, and do it each day. Research shows that marathon study sessions tend to be less effective.
  3. Don’t substitute learning-about for learning. It’s very tempting to just read through your class notes or the textbook repeatedly. You feel like you are studying, but you really won’t get any better at solving the problems. To get better at the violin, you play the violin; you don’t read about playing the violin. Do practice problems, starting with easier ones and working to harder ones. Of course, your initial introduction to the concepts will usually come from a teacher and/or a text
  4. Get help. When you get stuck, go get help! Possible sources include; friends, teaching assistants, professors, the text book (useful now to help you get over a hurdle), other texts, the internet, and professional tutors.
  5. Don’t wait around to get help either, since the concepts often build on one another. You can’t just skip a difficult concept and hope it doesn’t matter. Before you know it, you’ll have missed three more concepts because they depend on your grasping that first concept.
  6. Set study goals for every class, rather than for every test. Again, since mastery is cumulative, you must learn each concept as it is presented. After each class your goal is to completely master the new concepts before your next class NOT before your next test. The good news is that, if you just keep up, you will have little to do before the tests. Artists don’t need to go back and practice stick figures after they’ve mastered life drawing. You won’t need to go back and practice the basics you learned at the beginning of the semester.
© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.