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Preparing for class and tests?

  1. Sep 14, 2008 #1
    Preparing for class and tests??...

    What do you guys you guys usually do to prepare yourself before a lecture? Whether it be a physics, organic chem, poly sci course, what is the one thing you usually always do before lecture?? Also, how about tests? Read prior notes, outlines, etc..?? Just trying to figure out if there is anything i should be doing that I am already not...Thanks in advance!!..
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 14, 2008 #2


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    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    In an ideal world I would look up on the syllabus what was to be covered for a particular lecture, read the relevant questions in the text, and attempt some sample problems. However, normally, I was lucky if I could get to the lectures on time.

    As for test prep - it varies by subject. For physics/math I generally used a problem-based approach, reviewing homework problems, doing problems in the text, reviewing previous exams, and I'd make a best-guess at what was most likely to be asked on the exam and prepare myself the most for that. For 'squishy' subjects (bio, chem) I did a lot more review of the notes, reading the text, and summarizing of important facts. My friends and I quizzed each other a lot, which helped generate a consensus on what was important.
  4. Sep 14, 2008 #3
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    To prepare for a lecture in Bio I usually read before hand a few times and make notes. I read the notes whenever I'm not doing Calc/Chem, which are much less time consuming. I plan on reading the notes and going over whatever before the midterm.
  5. Sep 14, 2008 #4
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    Well, during my undergrad I never prepared for anything there was no time. But now in grad school, I find myself practically reading the entire book before a lecture. Not because I have to, but because I can.
  6. Sep 14, 2008 #5


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    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    Er, just to confirm what you just said. You said you had no time to prepare for lectures in undergrad but you had time to do so in grad school? I would have thought the opposite was more likely to be true.
  7. Sep 15, 2008 #6


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    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    My experience with grad school was similar. That's because you're spending only about half your time on classroom learning and the other half on research. With research, you have more time to multi-task...I could bring my reading material for my courses to the lab with me, and whenever I had 10 or 15 minutes of downtime waiting for a centrifuge run, or some reaction to proceed (or back in those days, a computer to finish crunching out a statistical analysis, or print out my assay results), I could sit and read.

    Anyway, back to the OP, here's what I recommend to students as an ideal situation:
    1) Read the textbook chapter before attending lecture
    2) Attend lecture, and listen more than write. Only jot down things that are being emphasized, or that go over concepts you don't recall being covered in the textbook chapter, or things you didn't understand when you read the textbook chapter.
    3) As soon as possible after lecture, go back through your notes and make sure they are clear.
    4) If anything in the notes is still confusing, go back and re-read the textbook section on it with more emphasis of looking for the details. Add those to your notes for later review.
    5) Do your homework assignments.
    6) If you get stuck on homework problems, go back through your notes and the textbook sections covering those topics and see if you can figure out what you've missed, then attempt the problem again.
    7) Review the material from the previous lectures and make sure you still remember how you did everything there.
    8) Gather together any questions that you still can't understand, or haven't found the answers in your notes or book, or that are confusing, or where you have conflicts between lecture notes and the textbook, and either ask the professor at the end of the next class (if it's only one small question), or set up an appointment (if it is several questions, or a very complicated one).

    In the not-so-ideal real world, I modify this advice:
    1) Skim the textbook chapter ahead of lecture to know the general topics that will be covered and what order to expect them to be discussed.
    2) Attend lecture, pay attention, take whatever notes you think is necessary.
    3) Go home, try the problem sets, if you can't figure them out based on your notes, go back and read that section of the chapter thoroughly, then try again.
    4) If you have to read a section of the chapter for clarification, add notes on it to your lecture notes.
    5) Review your lecture notes from previous lectures.
    6) If you're still confused, ask the professor.
  8. Sep 15, 2008 #7
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    I never prepared for lectures, but looked on lectures as the preparation. Immediately after the lecture I produced a 'fine copy' of my notes fixing any gaps in my knowledge using (1) the set textbook and, if that failed, (2) Feynman's lectures and (3) if that failed, ransacked the library for anything that worked. By that time it was time for the next lecture...

    Also, I would repeatedly rewrite my notes throughout the term (not just before tests!) producing ever more succinct notes -- leaving out things that were not 'permanent acquisitions' . To test that I was 'getting it' I would do the hardest examples in the textbook and past exam papers before each revision session. I would stagger revision, so for any topic I would revise it the same day, the next day, next week, next month, three months, exam! This follows a recommended practice in learning research called "expanding rehearsal" (see Alan Baddeley's works on memory). Before the test I might just have a few pages of stuff that I would always be forgetting and tough examples that I needed to plough into my brain. I would start reading them after breakfast and until the test started. I also made full use of mnemonics (Roy G. Biv and all that), plus mind maps, and other learning techniques (see Tony Buzan's excellent works). When I did all this :-) I got 'A's. I also enjoyed it. (I'm funny that way...)
  9. Sep 15, 2008 #8
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    mal4mac that is a genius method to use, I actually never thought of reducing my notes to only those topics that I still had troubles with. Do you by any chance have any links that expand on some of your methods as well? Or stuff you read that gave you help in developing these types of techniques or are these more or less your own creations :smile:.
  10. Sep 15, 2008 #9
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    x2 on that request...
  11. Sep 18, 2008 #10
    Re: Preparing for class and tests??...

    I just tried this on some multivariate Calculus....unfortunately, I ended up with MORE notes after the revision. lol
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