Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Prepare NOW to Study for Semester Finals

School has started and so should study for January’s final exams. A little effort NOW can pay off in huge benefits 12 weeks later. It’s the first rule in “STUDY SMARTER -- NOT HARDER!”

#1 SET A GOAL. Think about your previous results in similar classes. Don’t underestimate yourself (or overestimate your motivation). Set a goal for the final grade and work toward earning every point possible in all assignments, quizzes and tests. Strive toward meeting that goal on every quiz and test.

STUDY SMARTER -- NOT HARDER! One way to approach grades intellectually is to keep track of where you stand in the class at every moment. This way you’ll know how close you’re coming to meeting the goal you have set.

#2: KEEP TRACK. For many classes, you’ll have a spiral notebook. Staple a sheet to the inside front or back cover and record every score you get in the class.....homework points, quiz scores, and test results. As you finish off the first spiral, take the grading sheet along to staple on the next spiral. When the Winter Break rolls around, there will be no question about where you stand in class and how far you’ll need to go to earn the semester grade that was your original goal.

STUDY SMARTER -- NOT HARDER! Another suggestion in our plan to make studying for Finals a breeze is to KEEP EVERYTHING!!

#3: SAVE ALL CLASS WORK. I’ve mentioned before my “box” organization system. I keep everything from each class so it’s all available when the Final Exam Review Sheet is assigned, somewhere around Winter Break. My simple system uses sweater boxes (although recently I discovered a boot box that is nice and sturdy, a little bigger than the usual 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper, and fits under the bed). When I need to clean out the old book bag, I drop class notes, worksheets, returned tests, etc. into the appropriate box and slide it under the bed where it lives until the next clean-out job. When the Review Sheet comes, all my notes are easily accessed.

STUDY SMARTER -- NOT HARDER. Fourth on the list of suggestions for preparing for final exams will undoubtedly not be your favorite -- but stick with me here.

#4: CONSISTENT REVIEW. Some classes will assign homework daily, others only periodically. But your review should continue to consistently occur daily. Well, not ACTUALLY EVERY day -- that would be obsessive. But there are ways to productively invest 10 or 15 minutes 5 days a week, even when homework is not required.

Review class notes. Reread a chapter. Work unassigned math problems. Rework missed questions on old tests and quizzes.

Here’s a little dose of reality (for me). I AM the compulsive student, so recognizing that not everyone will study every course every day (or spend 4 hours on Sunday doing more Calculus problems) is a major milestone for me. Realistically, it is probably not necessary to paw through all your work every day, but it is beneficial to periodically review everything you have, maybe on a weekly basis.....or at least monthly.

OK, let’s agree to monthly as a reasonable compromise. Say you have 5 academic classes. Each week, review your boxfull of materials for one class. The next week, review a different class. Now that’s not OCD, it Studying Smarter.

Following through on this "collect and review" plan will have significant impact on lessening the amount of work you'll have to do come semester final time. A little consistent effort NOW will allow more time to enjoy Winter Break and STILL earn grades that will knock the socks off an admissions counselor when you apply to college!!

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