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Study Tips and Tricks

  1. Aug 6, 2006 #1
    When you study, do you take notes on a laptop/computer or by pen and pencil. Also, what do you think about recording lectures? When reading a textbook, do you highlight certain points (do you read it like a novel or do you scan it over?)? Any other study tips/tricks that you might have are greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 6, 2006 #2
    I take notes with pencil and paper (no pens). How would you take notes in physics or math with a laptop?

    When reading a textbook I read every sentence and every word, like a novel, and then I read it over a couple more times if I need to to ensure that I understand every last bit of the reading. If you cannot find the motivation to sit down and read the reading material extremely thoroughly then you are not in the correct field of study.
  4. Aug 6, 2006 #3


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    courtigrad, good question, I have terrible note-taking skills, I can hardly ever ressociate my scribbles and scratches, so I always end up using the text book instead of notes (and various online resources, including here).

    For me, it's best to just do the problems over and over in all kinds of instances, i.e. Homework
  5. Aug 6, 2006 #4
    For me:
    I use pencil to take notes. I tried the voice recorder method but found that it actually made it harder for me since I was more inclined to let my attention drift during class. When I have to focus on the lecture it helps my retention/understanding. I also tried the laptop method (since my handwriting is awful), but then I read somewhere that memory is better aided by physically writing something vs. just typing it, so I switched back to hand writing (No source on that info as I don't remember where I read it, nor do I know if there is any truth to it, but it did stick in my brain).

    When reading the textbook I'll scan the section or/chapter first, for the main idea, and then I'll go back through for a second, closer reading -- working all examples and exercises.

  6. Aug 6, 2006 #5
    Well, I take all my notes with paper and pen. I cannot seem to write fast enough with a pencil. I'm an excellent note taker though. I've learn to short hand a lot of things so that writing notes do not interfer with listen.

    When I read a textbook, I generally scan first. I need to find the general idea of the chapter first. Then I get down and read all the fine details. At the same time i'm working on the examples giving and basically rewriting the textbook.
  7. Aug 6, 2006 #6


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    I write down everything as it is said and then never refer back to the notes again unless it was something administrative. If I need information I go to the book. Writing the lecture down just helps me remember it as it happens.
  8. Aug 6, 2006 #7
    so recording lectures is a bad idea then?
  9. Aug 6, 2006 #8
    i go to the lecture, purely listen. I join discussion if possible. I dont take any note unless that is something i have never thought of. Go home and read again.
  10. Aug 6, 2006 #9
    This is pretty much what I do too, I take notes in class but never really look at them it just helps me to remember the stuff if I actually take notes during a lecture.
  11. Aug 6, 2006 #10
    I generally read/scan the book before the lecture. Then I take notes with pencil and paper. During the lecture if my professor is doing any proofs/examples I try to prove/solve them myself before s/he does, and ask questions if something is not clear. Later I read the book again (making sure I understand everything).
  12. Aug 6, 2006 #11
    I actually take notes on my convertable laptop PC (http://www.gateway.com/products/gconfig/proddetails.asp?seg=hm&system_id=cx210x" [Broken], to be exact). I use OneNote to take all of my notes (if the lecture gets going too fast, I just tap on the voice recorder and it gets placed right into my notes for that class). It is really awesome and convenient. If you need to buy a laptop for college, I seriously recommend it. (they are kind of spendy, but I used all of my graduation money and some scholarship money to buy it).

    Paden Roder
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  13. Aug 7, 2006 #12


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    holy cow. you guys have great study habits. i never did any of this stuff, but i recommend all of the tips you give. i once recorded an important lecture by my advisor when i wanted to really get it. i played it over and over and it was so helpful, because it took me numerous istenings to grasp everything. ultimately i wrote my thesis on this topic.

    one thing apparently very rare is the experiment of not taking notes at all during lecture, just listening and then going to library afterwards to write down what one remembers. it would still help immensely to have it recorded though. oh leon does this!

    some people apparently hear better if taking notes but with me it is opposite, taking notes distracts me almost completely from listening.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  14. Aug 7, 2006 #13


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    one thing i do in opreparing clases as teacher, is use lots of books, and also rewrite the course myself. in opreoparing to teach grad algebra next week i currently have over 20 algebra books in my room at home that i am using, plus several sets of free notes on the web, including my own.

    oddly, my own notes from 1996 are some of the clearest, and i am finding them well enough written that i can understand them quite well. i am glad now i spent so much time writing them in detail. still they are not entirely flawless.

    also i do not feel so dumb when i read 10 books and note they mostly copied from each other. only a few real masters like Jacobson, Brauer, Artin (both father and son), Van der Waerden, Sah, maybe Lang, do things in their own way, and do things the others do not. (Brauer has no book, but i have his harvard notes from 1957-8, rev. 1963-1964. he apparently wrote a complete book on every course he gave, as did Mackey.)
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
  15. Aug 7, 2006 #14
    I take notes, but skip familiar bits. I try to compress it to breif points with occasional detailed notes if i think its something that isnt covered in the text.

    Then i read the text and cross refrence what i pick up with my notes, compress them into some short notes that i can then use repeatedly to weld the information into my head before tests, or to jog my memory at later dates without having to read usless bits.

    I think Audio/Video recordings of lectures are a great idea, infact most lectures should have auto-recording features that all students can download after a lecture. But i never did this myself.

    The type of lectures that i dont take notes in are the informal public type or revision type lectures.

    I like to use lots of colors and highlight and analyse key words for a quick visual summary.

    EDIT: of course, %50 of the time i just sleep and dribble over my notes
  16. Aug 7, 2006 #15
    what about those small white/dry erase boards? Do you find that these help you organize your thoughts (i.e. organize homework problems/ study for tests etc...)
  17. Aug 7, 2006 #16
    I bought one about a year ago and it's ok for writing down test dates and other important things you have to do. However, usually you remember these things if they are important enough so writing them down might not be necessary. Regardless, I still use mine to write down important things I need to do just incase I forget(although I never have yet). I don't think they are good for actually working out math problems, they are too small, and it's much more comfortable to use pencil and paper.

    As for study tips, the best study tip is to actually study, and one way to know if you are actually studying enough is to time yourself. Keep track of your study time and what subject you studied in an excel spreadsheet. Only start the timer when you start studying. If you go to the bathroom, stop the timer. If you go get food, stop the timer. Phone rings, stop the timer. Girlfriend comes over, stop the timer, and so on. Basically you are only accounting for time actually spent studying.

    The main thing you get from this is it lets you know how much you are actually studying as opposed to chatting online, watching tv, reading forums, writing long posts like mine, etc. It's very easy to get distracted if you are sitting in front of a computer doing math. Now you might say that doing math away from the computer is a better idea, but having a computer in front of you is useful incase you forget something or need an alternate explanation. Websites like mathworld and wikipedia are a quick and easy way to look up things.

    Remember it is very easy to convince yourself that you are studying enough when you really aren't. You might find a class difficult, and chances are, you aren't studying nearly enough for that class. This is one way to let you know if you need to study more and how much you need to study to do well. The higher your study time, the more you learn, the better you do, it's as simple as that.

    Another tip is to use good pencils. When you are doing 4 hours of math a day or more(and you know how much you are doing because you time it), a good pencil makes all the difference. These are the pencils I use:
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  18. Aug 7, 2006 #17


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    auslander told us to write 3-5 pages for every page you read, doing examples, working out details, posing questions,...
  19. Aug 7, 2006 #18
    I'm a terrible note taker. I've tried a lot of ways to get better at this and it just doesn't work for me. What I found in the past was that I would concentrate so much on trying to take good notes that I wouldn't get what the teacher was saying. Then, because my note taking was so poor, I wouldn't be able to go over my notes and get anything out of it. For me, the worst was trying to copy down example problems, I simply can not write fast enough, accurately enough, and neatly enough to follow the steps the professor is going through to solve the problem and capture all the details.

    Last semester though, I think I finally hit on what works just right for me. I don't attempt to take complete notes, I just listen very carefully to what the teacher is talking about and I write down the basics of the concepts and whether or not I feel like I understand the concept. Then I research the concept on my own if I don't feel like I understood it or contact the professor for more details.

    When example problems come up, I copy down the original problem completely with diagrams and such. Then I write down the steps the professor went through to solve the problem and I write down the correct answer.

    I can write down.
    "form matrix from vectors and solve matrix for V0, V1" a whole lot faster then I could ever copy down all the details of each step the professor writes down. Also, because of how bad I am at copying complete example problems, I'm a lot less likely to make a mistake and if I find that I can't solve the problem on my own after class, I'll have a nice list of the steps I've been using to ask the professor about.

    I also like mathwonks idea about recording lectures, now that I have an MP3 player in the car, it might be worth it to pick up a decent recorder and listen to lectures in the car.
  20. Aug 7, 2006 #19
    As far as dry erase boards go, I love mine. I built a huge 4'x7' board out of a piece of plywood and covered it with something that dry erase markers would wipe off of easily, I want to say marlite, but I'm not sure if that's right. Total cost was like $30, but I already had a small TV cabinet to build a stand out of.

    It's great to be able to get up and walk around while working on a problem, plus, I can leave it up and then it's kind of haunts me until I solve it.
  21. Aug 7, 2006 #20
    Tool is not important at all. If one watns to learn, a pencil and a piece of paper should do all the work. I have 2 laptops at home and I hardly use any of them during lecture. Also, preview is a very important process to learn.
    Here is an equation for that:

    During preview, you learn 25% of the topic
    During lecture, you understand 90% of what the professor said about 70% material of the book.
    0.25+ 0.9*0.7 = 88%.

    No preview, you learn nothing.
    During lecture, you have no idea what the teacher is talking about. You only learnt 50% of what he said about 70% material of the book.
    After the lecture, you go party and forget 50% of what you have learn.
    0.7*0.5*0.5 = 17.5%

    Moreover, if you think something is important for you to learn, you can get it when that is needed. College has not started yet. You might want to relax, and explore your new "life" a little bit before you get nervous about everything.

    Side note: In USA's consuming tradition, you can always return it if it does not work for you.

    Comment associate with Mathwonk:
    I also read many books about a particular topic instead of just listen to my teacher purely. Especially for undergrad, most teachers are "asked" to teach that class under standard time table. They know how to solve a problem but they might not totally remember the mechanic behind it. Moreover, there are a lot more information associate with that topic. For example, my teacher was teaching exterior differential forms in vector calculus (He was very good, but he cant really teach that class using purely maths point of view due to other non-maths major students in the class.). I ended up borrowed and bought books about variational calculus, tensor, and differential forms. I strongly recommand "A course in mathematics for students of physics 2" by Bamberg and Sternberg. it has a good treatment of electric circuit using exterior calculus, and algebraic topology. Maths world is so large that what you learn from teacher is not even 1% of the entire topic. You cant really learn much from a teacher in an undergraduate level since they are very standard. My point is that if you are an undergraduate, you can find a book that is almost identical with all your note. Why bother to take note again? If you want to be successful in college, learning is no longer a single-direction process from teacher to you. Save yourself some money and use your library wisely. You shall learn much more from so many different points of view. The only problem for me is that I am spending too much time on that topic and totally forgot to study my History test the night before.

    Last semester, I borrowed different books for my linear algebra, and ODE. I scored better than most people and saved myself lots of money and paper.
    Last edited: Aug 7, 2006
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