© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.
I recently received an email from one of my students with several great questions. I thought these issues, and their answers, might benefit everyone.
Some study issues that I have noticed that I have is not in how I study but when I study. I have a horrible habit of procrastinating and only studying a minimal amount at the last minute…. Now, I will not say I have made bad grades by doing this, and actually much to the chagrin of my peers I always am one of the top scores in the class and normally manage an A in the course….
I’m with ya’. I used the same technique when I was an undergrad, back when the earth’s crust was still hardening. But–Danger Will Robinson!!!–The procrastinate and cram technique has several killer flaws, which Continue reading Procrastination, Flash Cards, and Cramming
Are you overwhelmed with way to much work/study during finals? Ever waited too late to start a big project? Have a week in which there just isn’t enough time to do everything you need to do?
All of these can be fixed by properly using a very simple tool. The humble calendar. When used regularly and well, it prevents you from ever ending up with too much work and not enough week.
The perfect calendar? First and foremost, the perfect calendar is one you will actually use! It doesn’t matter how fancy, detailed, attractive, or expensive a calendar or day timer is, if you don’t have it when you need it, it’s no good!
I personally go for cheap but effective. At the beginning of each semester, I print out a calendar from a site such as this one, and fill it out for the coming semester. I usually punch holes in it, put it in my binder or a left over folder. Then I use it!
- Exam and project due dates from your course syllabi as you get them
- Holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, and Festivus
- Special events, such as the Spring Formal or Dead Week
- Anything that will take extra time, like crunch week at the place where you work, or that one week in April when three of your immediate family members have a birthday. Nothing should catch you by surprise.
Then I make sure to check it and update it once a day at least! I have to put it somewhere where I can’t avoid it, like over my computer keyboard are on the mirror above my bathroom sink.
I don’t, however, carry the calendar around with me. That’s where my daily to-do list comes in. More on that later.
I realize many of you are in the midst of finals right now. Please, don’t make the mistake of trying to do an all-nighter to catch up.
You will actually get better grades if you go to bed at a reasonable hour and get a full nights sleep. Study what you can in the mean time, but sacrificing sleep is completely counter-productive. It will cost you more than it gains you.
Small, easy changes in your daily habits can lead to huge payoffs academically. Small strokes fell great oaks, as the saying goes. To expand on the metaphor, trying to cut down a great oak tree in a single day will wear you out! It takes a tremendous amount of energy, and you’ll be sore and blistered for days.
On the other hand, if you pick up that axe every morning and spend thirty minutes or so chopping at the oak, the task is easy, invigorating, and effective. Moreover, your body will strengthen with the regular exercise, rather than wearing out. That means the next oak will fall even faster.
Consider, a simple habit change such as studying every day on campus between classes instead of waiting until the evening, the weekend, or the week before finals. This is one of the simplest changes you can make to your current study habits, yet it pays huge dividends. Studying between classes every day…
- leads to less (no?) study nights and weekends
- which leads to lots of free time to do the things you want and
- a better social life (or maybe carpal tunnel syndrome from playing too much xBox).
- It also leads to better comprehension in class
- which leads to needing fewer notes and less study
- as well as better grades on tests.
- It also leads to no need for cramming before the test
- which means no all-nighters and sleep deprivation
- which leads to better grades on tests and
- roommates and friends jealous of your seemingly effortless A’s.
- It also leads to putting the information into long term memory rather than short term memory (which is what you get with cramming).
- That means less study next semester in the second part of the course and
- that means more free time and better grades.
Those are all the benefits from one simple habit change! The trick, of course, is to actually make the habit change. So make sure to learn how to get rid of bad habits and replace them with good habits. It’s where easier A’s begin!
Start here to begin developing the habits of an excellent student.© Cody Blair, All Rights Reserved.
Mid-terms and finals are the bane of most college students’ existence. One final exam would be bad enough, but at the end of the semester we often have to take two or three exams in a single day! It’s enough to make even the most studious among us pine for the life of a beach bum.
If you find yourself in this unenviable position, here are some tips and tricks to help you make the best of a bad situation.
These study tips can make good study habits easy!
Riiiiiight. If you believe that I’ve got some fantastic diet pills that will let you EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT and NEVER GAIN AN OUNCE (HALF PRICE TODAY ONLY GET’EM WHILE THEIR HOT). Good study habits involve a lot more (and less) than hard work during crunch time.
There is no magical connection between hard work and great grades. Let me be as clear as the school parking lot the day after finals; I’m NOT advocating sloth. You must definitely work, but smart work is MUCH better than hard work. Did you know that a professional athlete expends less energy performing a given skill than does a novice doing the same skill? That’s because the pro knows what muscles not to use. The pro knows just how much energy to expend to get the desired results. The novice, on the other hand, uses too much muscle and too much energy which translates to poorer results and more fatigue.
Many good students make the same errors in their studies, especially at crunch time, but a few simple study tips can make a big difference in getting them great grades. Most students put too much energy and brain power into the wrong things. In the coming days we’ll look at the top five ways students work too hard for less-than-wowing results. Let’s start with …
When crunch time comes, college students start cramming. Cramming to do well on a test or project is like spending four hours in a tanning bed the day before Spring Break. It hurts. It costs you now and later (now it’s expensive and painful, later it causes skin like fried pork rinds and visits to dermatologists). It hurts. The effects will peel away in a few days. And did I mention it hurts?
Cramming during crunch time hurts too. Crunch time leads to cramming leads to PAIN. Failing to use good study habits costs you now and later, and you end up losing more than you gained.
You may spend all night working your keister off (the keister is located just south of the duodenum, if you were wondering). You may actually pass the test without using good study habits. But now your brain is seriously sizzled leading to poor performance on other tests and assignments. You’ve also stored everything in short-term memory, meaning that all that time and energy will net you exactly bupkiss since you’ll forget it all three days after the test. So next semester, when you are taking the second part of that subject, you’re going to have to learn it all again. Congratulations. To summarize; 20 hours of mind-numbing study + 14 Red Bulls = an undewhelming exam score + the functional IQ of a drunk weasel + zero recall three days later. Nice.
Study Tips for Crammers
Use these good study habits instead. Take that same twenty hours of study and spread it out evenly over the course of the semester; thirty minutes per week day should do it. Study the same stuff, but in small doses. That way it’s not mind-numbing–not even mentally taxing. Now it’s going into long term memory, so three days after the test it will still be there, not to mention next semester when you need it for the second part of the class.
If you’ve done that, then you can apply these study tips. Go watch a movie the night before the test; then turn in early for a good night’s sleep and a prof-impressing performance on that exam the next day. To summarize; (30 minutes of easy study x forty sessions) / over a semester = an impressive exam grade + the IQ of the ideal you + the envy of your friends – that Christmas card Red Bull sends you every year in thanks for your support.
Next time we’ll look at number two of the Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard…
Taking too many notes on the wrong stuff
Top Five Ways College Students Work Too Hard
Imagine 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