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Really need to change my study habits -- Any suggestions?

  1. Nov 12, 2015 #1
    So let me start with my high school habits. Basically I never cared about school. Always more concerned with my current girlfriend than getting good grades. I actually dropped out because of one of them, and cashed in my California High School Proficiency Certificate my senior year. One of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. I continued this carelessness into my first two years of college. I got some decent grades, but ultimately my transcript for those two years is embarrassing. So starting fall 2014 I decided I was going to make a change. And I did. I have been getting some of the best grades of my life (averaged about a 3.5 this last year). I've been doing fairly well In my mathematics courses, but know I can do better. This semester has really shown me how unprepared I am to work hard at school. I am currently taking Calc III Physics I and geology. I am getting an A in geology, a B in calculus, and fighting hard for a B in physics. Now, what I've noticed is that I try very hard when the pressure of a test is coming up. But the day to day diligence I need to be successful is missing. So I am wondering how do you tackle these difficult courses? Do you plan out your free time and study time in a planner? What is your mindset that helps you succeed? Any input at all would be appreciated. I really need this B in physics this semester. I'm a civil engineering major if that helps to know.
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  3. Nov 12, 2015 #2


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    curiosity and play instinct - you can play with physical or mathematical concepts as well as you do with RPG
  4. Nov 12, 2015 #3


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    One things that has helped me has been to design a strategy that make sense to me, and execute it reliably. It is easier to execute if you see the point of the strategy, and, of course, if you like what you are doing. Some ideas:
    1) don't let material get stale. Review each class you have been to, even for a few minutes, and take some notes for yourself; go over them in your free time. In the best case , do a light review of the material ASAP after each class. You may not understand everything right away, but by looking at it and trying to understand it, you start breaking it down. And this is the general approach: don't try to take-on gigantic tasks in one sitting; you will feel overwhelmed and ultimately discouraged. Break tasks down into manageable sub-tasks. If you don't keep the material fresh, it will be very hard to get back on track with it.
    The general approach is to drill-in and break down the material. Then, before tests, double down. The material should be broken down by then, from previous reviews and homeworks.

    If a plan makes sense to you, you follow it and see results, you are more likely to follow it.

    2) Identify critical tasks and start doing them as early as possible. Critical tasks are those you need to do in order to go on, i.e., those without which you cannot accomplish a goal. An example: If you live far from the school , finding transportation is critical. Finding food too. Similar with homework assignments: to do a given homework you may, e.g., need to know how to do a Fourier transform. Then you jump on this as early as possible. Other, non-critical parts of the HW can be left for later, and will most likely just take care of themselves.

    Logistics plays a role in activities where you make many choices, so thinking up a strategy along the lines of the ones I suggested should be helpful.
    Good luck!
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2015
  5. Nov 12, 2015 #4
    To add a couple pro-tips to your schedule:

    1. Read the section you're getting lectured on next class and do the examples and simpler problems before you go in. That way you're establishing connections in your brain on your own and are likely to be better off than having them founded on lecture material. Physics Education research has shown this to be a significant factor in students who do well in classes. Lecture should be reinforcement, not a foundation.

    2. Do all the homework as soon as it's assigned when the material is fresh in your head. Again, research has shown this to be more effective than waiting until days before it's due. Do the assignments in a group if you can.

    2. For exams, I always find old exams from the professor online or harder exams from other schools and work one of them out a few days before the exam. If I get anything wrong, I identify where I was mistaken, and retake it until I get it perfectly. Rinse and repeat if you have time with different exams.
  6. Nov 12, 2015 #5


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    In the end everybody has to find his own approach to 'tackle' the stuff. What you wrote makes sense to me, and even more important, if it makes sense to you it's fine. There will always be hurdles and difficulties but that applies to every part of life. The goal is to overcome them. And to be honest: frustration is part of the job because there will always be things you won't understand in the first place. Maybe even not in the third. Just to mention an - I admit extreme - example: Andrew Wiles proved a conjecture that was more then 350 years old and not solved by any of the thousands who tried it since. It took him more than 10 years of research and his first 'eureka' wasn't even correct. He had to adjust it. And still, there are only a few people on this planet who can fully understand what he did.
    That's for sure a special case. But it shows that even the bests have to struggle frustration. The crucial point is to deal with it. The next 'eureka' comes for sure.

    So if you belong to the planning people, that's fine.

    Good Luck and never give up!
  7. Nov 12, 2015 #6
    Love this. Something I have known for awhile, but have not been able to implement.
  8. Nov 12, 2015 #7
    How many hours a week should I be dedicating to homework/studying? I know this isn't an exact number, but a ballpark answer would be nice.
  9. Nov 13, 2015 #8


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    This is given by the number of credits in a class. n credits for a class usually means for every hour of class you must put in n hours of study outside of class. Of course this is a statistical statement.
  10. Nov 13, 2015 #9


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  11. Nov 19, 2015 #10
    I was in the same boat. I had pretty solid grades in high school (there were two classes I cared about, other than that my effort was minimal) without caring, which made for quite the rude awakening in college.

    What I've found is making a schedule for block of time is very helpful. Allow yourself frequent but short breaks. For example, if I had 2 hours, I might break it down as
    8-8:50 - review E&M
    8:50-9 - make a cup of tea
    9-9:50 - start quantum homework
    9:50-10 - go for a quick walk

    and so on. I have also found it helps to write the short term schedule down so that it feels more concrete. I also do this with a longer term schedule to help organize how I construct my short term schedule. This has helped me quite a bit. Also, don't think about deviating from the schedule. Once you've made it, unless there's something important (of course) or you finish something early (like that ever happens), accept it as law. Remove as many distractions as possible.

    Good luck!
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