How to Study

  1. PAY ATTENTION IN CLASS and try your best to understand there so the need to study is less.
    • When coming into class, ask yourself:
      1.  Why are we learning this?
      2. What are the concepts and
      3. How will we apply those concepts in the future
    • Identify areas of weakness in understanding and make plans on how to address them
    • Work hard problems over and over again to figure it out.
      • Figuring the answer out is not enough. Understand the underlying reasoning.
    • Don’t be afraid to get clarification in office hours via clear and concise questioning
  2. SLEEP!!!
    • This point is so important to stress that I cannot iterate it enough. 

      Studies have repeatedly shown that sleeping improves memory and recall of information and even plays an important role in replenishing the amount of information we can even learn in a given day. 

      It is never efficient to give up sleep to stay up studying or complete an assignment and that if you do need to lose sleep to complete an assignment, it’s a sign that you need to change your prioritization, as sleep is the last thing you want to sacrifice. 

      In psychology, there is something called the spacing effect.The spacing effect shows that spreading out studying improves retention and effectiveness. Plan in advance how many days it’ll take you to go over the required content you want to know by a certain date and commit to it. Eg: if you know you have 2 midterms for your hardest classes in the upcoming two weeks, spend one week studying on each subject and block out certain parts of the week dedicated to that subject. Take advantage of the spacing effect if you’re studying for a subject like biology or organic chemistry by periodically reviewing the MOST missed flashcards to retain and emphasize that information over the easy flashcards you already understand or know.

Direct, Practical Advice:

Studying in college is very different from studying in high school. Material in college is much less spoon fed and the onus is on you to make sure you understand the material.

-Office hours

First, make sure you understand all the lecture material and all details of the HW and midterm solutions conceptually. If some details of the lecture material remain confusing to you, notice that in a lot of classes, a majority of lecture discussions paralleled material in the textbook, so finding and reading these associated book sections/examples can help.  Don’t neglect any part of the course, *especially* what you haven’t been tested on yet.

– PRACTICE!!!! In lower division classes such as general chemistry and physics, there are many practice tests and practice problems given by instructors that you can use to practice and understand the material. However, do not become reliant on “memorizing” problem types to succeed on tests, as this won’t help as much in upper division courses from my experience.

Practice is *key* to acing exams, because it will expose things you thought you understood completely but didn’t know how to actually apply.  In particular, practice by correctly re-solving the practice problems, the midterm, and all HW problems *without looking at their solutions*.  Repeat until you get it right (doesn’t take as long as you think).  This is how to guarantee that you’ll be fast, most confident, and won’t waste time on “gimme” items on the exam at the expense of hard stuff.

– One way to test that you truly understand the material is to reimagine problems in slightly different scenarios. If you have time, think how you might be able to extend problems or lecture examples, but still in the realm of material we covered (i.e. a different geometry, not neglecting convection, etc.) and try to re-solve them. Ex: a problem on mass transfer in a 2d rectangle now about mass transfer in a cylinder. What would you put on an exam if you were writing it?  Try that.  When you inevitably get stuck, bring your Qs to office hours. By struggling with these types of new setups, it forces you to think about why you set up a problem in a certain way and to no longer rely on your notes for the step by step process done in lecture.