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Learning to study 101

  1. Oct 15, 2011 #1
    Hi guys !
    I've just found out about this forum and i must say that this is awesome because in my country nobody cares about engineering and physics !
    Anyway, I'm on second year of mechanical engineering college and I've become victim of lazy lifestyle :)
    Since i am repeating second year i becomed very worried about my college success .
    I know i love engineering and physics but the school (meaning a lots of theoretical stuff) or my lack of imagination is killing me, last year i messed around and did nothing and now i want to clean up that mess and finish my college as quickly as i can .
    So I am asking you can you tell me your "methods" or routines of successful studying !
    I would be very greatfull !
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2011 #2
    Memorization is key. But I'm a Bio major. Good luck trying to clean up, man. I'm in a similar boat as-well. Been trying to clean up after a bad first year but I'm still making silly mistakes again. I really don't know what do at this point anymore
  4. Oct 16, 2011 #3
    I was lazy in High School and a few years once I entered college, and what's worse was I didn't care about getting bad grades. I turned that around with a schedule I created for myself because I was tired of fail after fail.

    Like everything, you must train yourself to follow the schedule and stick with it. Took me a few months to finally seamlessly follow it, and I tweaked it every semester.

    Mondays -T-W- Fridays (After classes, I would spend 1.5 hours on two courses, so 6 hours on the week days for two courses)

    Th-Sat-Sun, I mostly spent 1.5 hours on all of my courses because those were days off (keeping in mind I only had 4 courses at 4 credits a piece; went to a private university)

    Overall 6 hours on courses (9 hours on the tougher courses)/ week. I was able to keep on top of my homework and work ahead because I didn't stop working by the schedule. You don't really need 8 hours on a course if you know how to study effectively. Emphasis is placed on "effectively", and that doesn't include transcribing words in a book onto your tablet, that isn't studying.
  5. Oct 16, 2011 #4
    I schedule a 4-5 hour gap between courses which is just enough time for me to think that driving home is a waste of time. I study every day during that time. Even if I think I am a master of the topic, I will study something, or work ahead.

    2 days a week I schedule only one class, and I show up 5 hours early to handle homework, lab reports, and so on. If all of that stuff is complete, I will study and/or work ahead during that time.

    This goes on all 5 weekdays, 1 or 2 classes a day. Sunday afternoon I take my dog out to the park and you guessed it, study. My clockwork like routine is what keeps me on top of things. I feel like I put a whole days work in each day, I still have Saturdays to do things, and all of my evenings can be spent with friends or doing whatever I like.

    If you just make sure you are on top of things, and NEVER wait until the last minute, you should do fine. One huge benefit of working ahead, is that you know whether or not you are going to hit a brick wall on the next topic(s) and can add extra time to learn the material if you need to.
  6. Oct 16, 2011 #5
    Good points, Phoenix. The problem with me and following schedules is that schedules require you to schedule "x" amount of time for a subject. With me, the amount of time that I schedule for a certain subject can take me longer than what I scheduled for. In that case, I can't say I'm going to spend "x" amount of time on each subject a day because I don't know how long it will take to learn material. *it varies*. Looking over my courses, there's really 3 courses out of 5 that I have to study for. I've spent the first part of the semester, screwing up only to learn that, memorization = key. And that if I don't read ahead of time before lectures, I wont understand a thing. And when I don't understand a thing, I can't concentrate on what the prof is saying which leads me to having to re-teach myself everything which leads to falling behind. Good thing is, I have found a memorizing technique that works for me now.

    Currently, I've got a stack of papers to memorize for an exam tomorrow, and it isn't going so well. I screwed up big time on the first test but looks like things might not be the different this time around. So I decided I'm going to not bother studying for this exam and begin working on the next chapters and next exams.
  7. Oct 16, 2011 #6
    Nice. I had a plan like that at the start of the semester but I couldn't keep up with it. I fell behind. Falling behind = big trouble. So going ahead is a very good idea.
  8. Oct 16, 2011 #7
    Hey OP, based on the replies you've gotten so far, a good list for "Learning to study 101" is this:

    [1] Discipline to create, follow a study schedule
    [2] Keep up with the course material (go ahead IF/WHEN possible)
    [3] Memorization
  9. Oct 16, 2011 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    That's not true, unless you are studying things like anatomy and Latin names of body parts. Memorization won't help you with math, physics, chemistry, engineering and so on, where understanding is the key to success.
  10. Oct 16, 2011 #9


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    Science Advisor

    Borek is right especially for the science subjects: if you don't understand what you are doing, no cheat sheet will help you.
  11. Oct 16, 2011 #10
    I must agree that memorization is the primary thing among all others like understanding the problem.
    For example, 2 years ago when I had kinematics exam that I've failed, i knew the all the problems that were in my notebook but at the exam i just couldn't REMEMBER the main and catchy little but specific thing that solves everything. 2 months later i passed the exam but i was just killing myself and I had to take a longer break because i was brain dead .

    And that's why I'm asking you guys with experience or maybe just smarter ones with good organization plans, although that kinematics exam was 2 years ago i still have that organization problem that in the past i solved a week before the exam and that was suffering. This year i'm going on all of my classes and learning it after in my apartment but i have that constant fear that i'm doing that for nothing and that i'm going to forget that anyway 2 weeks before the exam and it will be kinematics all over again :)
  12. Oct 16, 2011 #11
    The fact that several people are pushing memorization as key is pretty concerning to me. Of course you have to memorize some things. But, the better you understand the concepts and basics, the less you have to memorize. And I have never explicitly set out to memorize equations/theorems. If you practice solving problems enough, then you just end up remembering them.

    When you try to memorize solutions to certain problems, if you forget one step, you aren't going to know how to finish. And you are certainly going to be screwed when a problem appears that is a little different than what you memorized. This is probably what happened to you on your kinematics exam a couple years ago.

    Understanding what concepts and basic equations/theorems are relevant to a problem is the first step in solving it. If you have plenty of practice solving problems that use certain concepts, you will be much more comfortable when you see the concept applied in a new situation.
  13. Oct 16, 2011 #12
    I think that the best way to memorize an equation is to learn where it comes from. Sometimes it's not possible at your current skill level, and in that case, practice will burn it into your head anyway.
  14. Oct 16, 2011 #13
    I have heard great things about Cal Newport's Book, "How to Be a Straight A Student"; look it up ;)
  15. Oct 16, 2011 #14
    It's all true and i totally agree with you .
    But I can't explain to you, it's like i don't have concentration enough at the exams to figure some problems out but in my room i end up with 20 solved issues at one night .
    It has been with all of my "hard" courses. I passed all of my matemathics and i still have one left (it is quite tough ) and all of my statics,kinematics,mechanics of materials etc but i just couldn't pass them without going 3-4 times back at them to solve again .

    P.S. nickadams, is there any site that that book can be downloaded ?
  16. Oct 16, 2011 #15
    Bor, notice I said I'm a Bio major? Anyway I'm also speaking from experience. I went to a teacher asking for help and I was told, "it's not that hard. It's mostly memorization". Many occasions during lecture this semester the professors have said, "you need to memorize this for the test", or, "you don't need to memorize this..." one teacher recommended the use of flash cards. What for? Memorization. In Chem right now, I have to memorize things like conversion factors and the SI units. I have to memorize pre-fixes for nomenclature. I had to memorize the laws, theories, what was discovered during what experiment. Remember when one is learning times tables they memorize it. Grammar rules are also to be memorized. Memorization is key to passing. Passing vs. learning now that's a new argument
  17. Oct 16, 2011 #16
    You still have to memorize when you think about it. Don't you have to memorize formulas, theories, laws?
  18. Oct 16, 2011 #17
    No mater what you can't escape memorization. That's why you even wrote "you have to memorize some things". In math it would be silly to memorize solutions to problems. :-D that's bizarre. We are doing Lewis Dot diagrams and the professor told us to memorize 2 of the compounds. I'm a strong advocate of the whole study concepts, learn the material but exams seem to stress of memorization. I've decided not to buy textbooks anymore because I can simply pick up any textbook and the material, CONCEPT should be the same regardless of edition, author. But exams seem to stress on memorization more than concepts which puts one in a situation where they might end up learning extraneous information which won't be on the exam or even discussed in class. Which it wasn't that way though. P.s. I was told by a med school graduate that it's [med school] mostly memorization.
  19. Oct 16, 2011 #18
    I second this, it's a great book for study techniques; he makes some assumptions that don't apply across the board but overall it's a great read.

    His blog is good too

  20. Oct 16, 2011 #19

    what assumptions are you talking about just out of curiousity?
  21. Oct 16, 2011 #20
    Bad assumption, the delivery and presentation of the material is different from author to author; Wangsness' treatment of presenting E&M is pretty different from Griffiths for example.
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