Always have a “why” for the thing that you are studying. This will help the material to have a transformative effect on your life or on those around you. If you don’t have a clear “why” it’s easy to get lost and you could walk away without clear results.
Use “accountabilabuddy”*. Have a few friends with whom you have an agreement to keep each other accountable for study. You can help each other avoid distractions and stay on task with assignments.
Develop a relationship with your instructors. If you are unsure as to how to tackle an assignment they are more than willing to dialogue and help you think right. But make sure that you genuinely want to learn and are not just looking for an easy grade. Ask for assistance armed with humility and a willingness to understand. Don’t be afraid of not knowing something or asking questions. You’ve heard it before – there are no “dumb” questions! Seek to understand.
Beginning of the semester
At the beginning of the semester, use the “semester-at-a-glance” calendar that is provided by PBC. Go through all of your course syllabi and enter every assignment on the appropriate due date. Include all papers, exams, readings, and any other assignments. Use this calendar only for your schoolwork. Display it prominently where you can refer to it easily and often. Then note the weeks that have many assignments and weeks that are lighter. Plan your study time so that you can work ahead when you have a lighter schedule. This will also help you turn in your assignments on time and not overlook one.
Prepare yourself for each class session. Your instructors have spent hours studying and getting ready to teach you. Your part is to come prepared:
- Read any assigned text pages before you come to a class session. Often these will help you with the lecture. Instructors assign the readings in a way that will add to your understanding of the topic of that day’s lecture.
- Check your attitude! It should be one of anticipation for what you will be learning. You will get out of each lecture what you put into it.
- Don’t have anything with/near you that could distract you. Unless you are using your phone specifically for that class put it away so it will not tempt you. Even seeing that you received a text could take your attention away from the lecture. If you are using your computer, don’t have anything open on it that does not directly pertain to the class.
- Choose the best place for you to sit in class. If you are highly visual, sit in the front row so you can clearly see your instructor and the power point. Then you won’t be distracted by what other students are doing. If you are auditory, sit where you can hear well; you won’t want to sit in the back row where your hearing might be impaired.
- Be involved with class discussions. Show your interest in the topic.
- Come prepared physically for class. Use the restroom before class begins so you won’t have to leave in the middle of class.
- Pray before each class session! Ask the Holy Spirit to quicken your mind and heart to hear what He wants you to hear – not just for a grade but for your life. This is especially important for a class that you are not necessarily excited about. He loves to answer this prayer!
- Remember that you are in class to prepare for your future. You don’t know now what God has planned for you and what you are learning might be just what you need in your future ministry. Keep that mindset with you during the semester.
- Consider taking some lecture notes by hand. Although taking notes on your computer is convenient, there is something that happens when you write things down. Studies have shown that there is a connection between the physical act of writing and what happens in your brain as a result. More actual learning takes place.
- Date all of your notes. That will help you know when something was said in class and you might use it in the future as research in a paper. It will also show your instructor that you were in class in case you did not check your name off on the roll sheet.
- Make your notes brief.
- Never use a sentence where you can use a phrase.
- Never us a phrase where you can use a word.
- Use abbreviations and symbols, but be consistent so you remember what they mean.
- Put most notes in your own words except:
- Definitions and terms
- Specific facts (i.e., dates)
- Anything presented on the screen
- Numbered or listed items
- New words and ideas
- Use numbers and bullet points on your notes and indent in order to see relationships of ideas.
- Highlight important items with asterisks, circles, boxes, underlines, and starring. Use different colored highlighters.
- Pay attention to qualifying words: sometimes, usually, rarely, etc.
- Watch for signal words: on the other hand, for example, as a result, etc.
- Use the power point slides as a beginning of your notes. But listen to the lecture and add more information under each power point item. The slides are provided as an outline of the content of the lecture.
- Use loose-leaf paper and a binder to keep your notes in if you write out your notes. Write on one side of the page so you can leave room for study notes on the back. You can also insert handouts with the corresponding lecture notes.
Learning to Read Textbooks
Learn to read college text books. Each text book has its own purpose so work to understand what the instructor expects. These are general “myths” concerning reading college text books:
- I have to read every word. Instead:
- Pre-read a text: the title, the preface, the table of contents, the index, the chapter summaries
- Skim a text: the first sentence of each paragraph, key words & definitions, a summary statement at the end of a chapter
- Reading once is enough. Instead:
- Skim the first time.
- Then use a pencil/pen/marker to underline, use symbols, write in numbers, circle key ideas.
- Write questions and comments about what you are reading in the margins.
- Don’t skip passages in a text. Instead:
- Understand that some textbooks are useful as a reference. Know them well enough to be able to find information that you need.
- Look for passages that reinforce what the instructor says.
- Look for passages that have been already covered in the lecture and are redundant.
- If I read too rapidly, my comprehension will drop. Instead:
- Learn how to speed read.
- Vary the rate of reading with the nature and complexity of the material.
- Train your eyes and brain to “read” a whole line at once. Use your finger to track!
When you write an essay, follow the five-paragraph-essay format and adapt it as needed for the assignment:
- Introductory paragraph
- Narrowing sentences
- Thesis statement
- Body paragraphs
- Concluding paragraph
- Thesis restatement
- Summary sentences
Learn how to effectively complete homework assignments.
- Choose a quiet work place with space to spread out your work.
- Find the time of day that you work best.
- Make a list of what you need to do. Break large assignments into several small ones. Cross off items on your list when you have completed them. This will give you a sense of accomplishment!
- Concentrate on one assignment at a time and give it your full attention. Don’t be distracted by other things that need to be done.
- Set a specific amount of time you will spend on each assignment and keep at it until it is done or the time is up. You can go back later if you need to.
- Take study breaks and turn off your brain for a bit. Do something totally unrelated to study. Set up rewards for yourself.
- “Just do it!” Sometimes doing the hardest assignment first will be helpful and keep you motivated.
Studying for Exams
Develop a system for studying for exams.
- Be sure to find out ahead of time:
- What material the test will cover
- What type of test it will be
- How the test will be graded
- How much the test will count toward the final grade
- Don’t wait until the last minute to study. Study a little bit for several days leading up to the exam.
- Be free of distractions.
- Study when you are not hungry or tired.
- Hand-write the answers to your study guide. Read the answers out loud as you write them. This focus on three differente methods of learning – writing, reading, listening.
- Create study aids:
- An outline of the main ideas
- A timeline of important dates or the order of events
- Online quizzes or flashcards
- Use Mnemonic devices when studying for an exam.
- A visual image – associate an image with a word or name to help you remember it better; make it positive, colorful and three-dimensional to make it easier to remember.
- An acrostic or sentence – make up a sentence in which the first letter of each word is part of or represents the initial of what you want to remember. Make it silly!
- An acronym – a word that is made up by taking the first letters of all the key words or ideas you need to remember and creating a new word out of them.
- Rhymes and alliteration – make these up to remember more mundane facts.
- Chunking – break a long list of items into smaller, more manageable chunks.
- Method of Loci (location) – imagine placing the items you want to remember along a route you know well or in specific locations in a familiar room or building.
- Study in a group.
- 3 – 5 people is best.
- Choose a leader to keep the focus and keep things moving.
- Quiz each other; you all learn that way.
- Take advantage of SRC Open Study Nights.
- Ask the SRC staff to quiz you.
- Record yourself reading the correct answers and listen to the recording in the background while getting ready for bed.
- Read the instructions carefully.
- Look over the entire exam before beginning.
- Answer the easiest questions first.
- Keep moving. Don’t get stopped at one question that you are having trouble with.
- If you don’t know all of a question, answer part of it.
- It’s ok to guess on a multiple-choice exam.
- For essay questions, plan your writing in your head before you begin. You can also make a simple outline on scratch paper to help you organize your thoughts.
- Keep your work neat.
- Look over the exam before you turn it in.
*TM Chris Hubbard, Professor Emeritus
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