Study tips

Study Tips

Should I read my science book?

A good text book can be enormously helpful, but only if you use it wisely. How many times have you plodded through the pages assigned as homework in chemistry or physics or any other science only to find you have no clue what you just read? What a waste of your time! Try, instead, what I term active reading. At the end of every page or section ask yourself questions: What did I just read? Did it make sense? How does it relate to what I already know? Taking notes in the margin is a good way to stay focused (use post-its if you don’t own the book, or, much better, buy a used, clean copy of the book so you can write in it). Try the sample problems. Then (it bears repeating here) go on and do more problems. The more you practice, the more confident you will become. Learning doesn’t happen all at once. Write a brief summary, in your own words, at the end of each chapter, relying on the chapter headings and your margin notes. This is a good way to test your understanding, and the summaries are really helpful come exam time.


Previewing before class

Here’s a novel idea – preview the next chapter or topic in your book beforeyour teacher discusses it. All it takes is ten minutes, and the payoff is worth it. Read the introduction and summary. Skim the titles of the sections and the diagrams. Its O.K. if you don’t understand it all, you’re not supposed to yet. You will, however, gain a general idea of what your teacher will next be talking about, and that will make following along in class and taking good notes a lot easier.


Best Class Note Taking Strategy

One effective strategy for improving retention is note taking – not just because you’ll have a written record of what was covered in class to refer to in the future, but also because the actual act of taking notes can help cement concepts in your mind.

What are some of the best strategies for note taking? First, pay attention to what the teacher emphasizes during lecture. What excites them? What do they repeat?! He or she will outline for you what they feel are the most important concepts and points you need to know. Write them all down! Even if you feel a bit (or a lot) lost, write down the key points so you can later go back and clarify them. If it is possible, ask the teacher for clarification right then. If not, put a question mark in the margin and ask after class, or ask a friend, or look it up in your text. Do not wait until a few days or a week has gone by, or, worse still, the night before a test! Learning in most classes is sequential, so missing a link in the chain now make make later concepts harder to grasp.

Avoid writing down every word said in lecture. You cannot truly listen and write at the same time. Listen for key points, then write those down. Use abbreviations to speed up your writing. Common ones such as b/c for because, ex. for example or w/ for with are helpful. So are ones you make up on the fly. Cellular respiration becomes CR, valence electrons becomes v.e-, and so forth. Leave room in your notes so you can add more information later on from your reading. With practice, note taking becomes an easy and effective way to support your learning in the classroom.

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