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How should one study?

  1. Jun 19, 2009 #1
    I was reading the 'This is so unfair!!!' thread, and it raised an important question: how should one study? In that thread, Moonbear pointed out some awesome advice.

    I just graduated from high school last month, and will be entering NAU as a freshman in August as a Physics major. Studying properly will be very important for my success, so what's the best advice you can give? Tips? I realize everyone is different and blah, blah, blah, but surely there are some general ideas. Even if you could just share how you managed to do well it would be helpful.

    At NAU they gave some interesting advice like, for x credit hours per week you should study 2x hours per week for that class if you really want an A. Think this is true?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 19, 2009 #2


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    Study until you know it. I don't understand why people ask these same questions. There is no magical number of hours to study. I've been given A's in classes I studied 2 hours the entire semester for. Then theres classes that I probably could have studied for 30 years straight and still not have received an A. I know people who study for 8 hours a day and still get B's and C's. With that in mind I suppose I have a few tips from what I've seen.

    1. The answer isn't important. Except that it is vastly important. Huh? Yah, I know, that doesn't make sense but knowing how to get an answer and why you're doing what you're doing is incredibly important. You need to know the mathematics behind it and the methodology and what you're doing and why you're doing it. With that in mind, you better be getting the right answer too! If not, you don't know what you're doing most likely. Your answers need to make sense, be dimensionally correct, etc etc. I don't know how many times I've seen people who think they know what they're doing but get something ridiculous like an electric field having units 1/charge or something.

    2. Don't work alone. Always ask questions to fellow students, professors, on certain highly respectable forums (wink wink), whatever. If anyone tells you how to do a problem, don't be afraid to ask why. Some people find it annoying if you question their explanation because some people might take it as "hey, i'm helping YOU, how dare you question me?" but in reality, if you ask questions in order to understand it, you won't have to be continually asking them the same basic question over and over! Win Win!

    3. Don't copy. Simple as that. Unless you have no aspirations and just want to get your bachelors and go teach elementary school, don't copy, learn!

    4. Learn the math! Looking back, i don't think its possible to overstate how important knowing the math is. If you don't have enough for a math minor by the time you're done with your bachelors, you haven't taken enough math courses. My undergrad and heck, grad quantum mechanics was just one massive exercise in linear algebra. I know someone who hadn't taken linear algebra when he took grad QM and it was a disaster for him (he was the one who studied 8 hours a day or so).

    What else what else.... i don't know. It's hard, take no shortcuts because there are no shortcuts in studying.
  4. Jun 19, 2009 #3
    So how much did you study per week for hard classes such as the physics classes or maths classes? Did you thoroughly learn the material until it was tatooed on your brain and then rarely look at it again, or was there a time each week or something where you looked back at previous material? Did you study over the summer to keep the material fresh? Did you form study groups? How many hours a night did you study in total? Did you take breaks in between subjects? I hear one can only focus for about 10 minutes before one needs a short break.
  5. Jun 19, 2009 #4
    Jeez man, relax. You haven't even sat down in class yet.
  6. Jun 19, 2009 #5
    Don't overdo this one. Some people just don't read notes .. and ask things that were well explained in the class.

    I love when people point out things
    1) that are not in the notes or in the course book
    2) that are either wrong in the course book or notes

    If someone wouldn't read notes/assigned book material, then I don't think it is productive to work with them.
  7. Jun 19, 2009 #6


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    I never kept track and honestly these tips are because i DIDNT do them as an undergrad. Honestly, think of it as riding a bike. You dont keep riding a bike until it's "tattooed" into your brain. You just do it until you know what's going on.

    Study groups are stupid in my opinion because they typically seem to degenerate into "hey what did you get for #3" which is meaningless for learning. When you study on your own, just study until you know it. Again, there's no magic number, there's nothing special to make you study better (except being rested and not hungry). During summer you could look back on the material if you want, maybe it'll help but I don't see it as important. Again, like riding a bike, if you take a year long break from riding a bike, you probably are gonna know how to ride the bike a year later.

    And of course, everyones different, do what's most effective for you. Also I have a small inkling that you might be the stressful type. Don't stress, it's wasted energy.
  8. Jun 19, 2009 #7


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    I don't understand this. What do you mean they point out? Are you talking about people saying things that are completely wrong because they don't know what they're talking about themselves?
  9. Jun 19, 2009 #8
    I think he means to say that you shouldn't rely on a fellow student to explain things if you haven't read the book or lecture notes.
  10. Jun 19, 2009 #9


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    Ahh yah, I see. I figured the spirit of what he's asking is that he's a dedicated student and i assume he'd try to learn the material first. It was actually quite amazing how little I looked back on my notes in undergrad to later find out the problems had solutions that were practically done for us during lectures. Maybe because I use to be such a bad note taker (screw writing in cursive!).
  11. Jun 19, 2009 #10
    Including this, I also meant that I use groups to work more efficiently (i.e. I am expecting to save my time if I choose to work with other people rather than myself). I do not want to use groups for understanding material that is already in the notes/other assigned material.

    It is easier in the groups to find new methods to solve problems that are more efficient than the one discussed in the class or to confirm that the professors' notes don't have any typo.
  12. Jun 19, 2009 #11
    I think successful study stems from proper "basic" levels of personal care and stems up from there:

    -If you don't get enough sleep and/or feel tired, you will have an EXTREMELY difficult time having any form of effective study or getting anything out of the days lecture.

    -If you don't eat right your blood sugar will spike and you will feel energized to study one minute and a few minutes later your drive will plumit and you will feel like giving up.

    -If you don't exercise (minimum of vigorous 30min per day) you will not perform at 100% potential, and exercise increased memory benefits and just makes your mood better.

    -If you have serious personal issues that distract you, good luck studying.

    -If you have any addictions (alcohol, television, gambling, computer, video games, whatever) they will occupy your mind and make it difficult to study.

    -Budget your time for effective studying when you youself will be most alert

    There is no 'set' time to study but if you budget your time EFFICIENTLY and make sure you yourself are running at 100%... you could study much less than you may be doing now.

    I know some of my friends kept in shape and a positive attitude and did the right things and studied MUCH less (hours less) for exams and whatnot and did as good and usually far far better than the kids who practiced poor study and personal habbits.

    There is no 'magic' number, EVERYONE goes through the same thing (not factoring in the personal and genetic differences and just general smartness), so just bare with it...
  13. Jun 19, 2009 #12
  14. Jun 20, 2009 #13
    When I went throught the mill Santa Clara had something called the Santa Clara Plan. Classes were on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. Monday nights and Thursday nights I would read and set up the problems but not do them. If I ran into problems or needed clarification this gave me Tuesday and Friday to harass the faculty. Homework was done on Wednesday and Saturday. Sunday I did housework.

    I don't know if you can arrange such a schedule, but it worked well for me. I did this working my way through, as a single mother (my daughter was a fixture in the Physics Department in those days). So if I can do it, you can, too.

    - Catherwood
  15. Jul 8, 2009 #14
    Thanks for this thread. If only I read it three weeks ago before my exams! Studying is my kryponite.
  16. Jul 8, 2009 #15
    also, does homework go a long way for helping you in exams? because i always do half my homework.
  17. Jul 9, 2009 #16
    It is of the essence. Physics is not a spectator sport.

    - Catherwood.
  18. Jul 9, 2009 #17
    If you are studying for an exam in math, science or any technical field, in my experience, doing all the homework does help a lot. Then again, some courses are easier than others for different people. Only you can tell if you've prepared enough for a test.
  19. Jul 21, 2009 #18
    well i do finish the revision sheets. But I'm still not confident and keep getting C's. I don't know what else i can do to convince myself that I'm ready.
  20. Jul 21, 2009 #19
    Maybe try talking to a TA or the professor? Possibly ask some of your classmates who are doing well what they do? Some classes require a unique approach to doing well, but Pengwuino gave some really good tips that will help:

  21. Jul 21, 2009 #20
    Make the Most of Your Mind (A Fireside book) by Tony Buzan

    Only $0.01 on Amazon, the best cent you'll ever spend...

    I read this when I was a school kid at a mediocre school. It taught me how to learn -- something the teachers never did. I got A's in scince, something the other kids never did! (Boy was that a c*&p school!)
  22. Jul 21, 2009 #21
    1.) Study till I know it
    2.) Study in groups
    3.) Always ask how to do a problem, even if it annoys the other person

    And I'll have a look at the book "Make the Most of Your Mind (A Fireside book) by Tony Buzan" too.

    Ugh! back to the grind!
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