Flashcards: Make ‘Em Right!

The other day I decided to sacrifice my Math Quiz Section in favor of three hours of pure study time for the finals. I must add, I do not regret this decision, as lately things with organization have been getting out of hand.

While studying for my upcoming Psychology final, which has just so many theories and hypotheses, I decided to go for making flashcards (these have some great advantages!) To make things a bit different this time, though, I put the definitions in my own words and added some comments relating to my life experiences, movies I’ve seen or songs I’ve heard. For example, one flashcard that came out looked like this:

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From this experience, I realized that there are several things I need to do to make my flashcard-making time worth…my time. Because if you think about it, after spending hours (sometimes even days) drawing these up, how much do you actually study from them? I’ll be honest and say that I give up the second I put the pen down, thinking that making the flashcards was helpful by itself. So, if you are like me, I would suggest following these quick tips to remember more while  making flashcards:

1. paraphrase
1. Paraphrase
– always restate the key definitions in your own words. This is help you to actually think about the meaning of the words and remember them a bit better. Read more

Study for Multiple Choice Tests

file211251473046 (1)When preparing for a multiple choice test, it’s quite easy to relax and think “Oh, this test will be easy because all the answers will be on paper.” Unfortunately, this kind of thinking often sets us up for failure. Professors and teachers are familiar with such attitude, and make the tests even harder and more confusing.

To avoid this, it’s important to study as if the test will have open-ended questions.This means that you have to practice in a way that will let you understand the material, not merely recognize familiar terms on paper. There are a few components involved in this kind of test prep, and if you do a little bit of each, the knowledge and practice will add up in the end to form a bigger picture.

This is the procedure I’ve been going by in the last couple of months, which has been working out quite well for me:

mc drawing1. Go over and annotate all notes and textbook readings

Start doing this as soon as the quarter/semester/class begins. It’s easy to get behind, but if you review and annotate every evening for 20 minutes, it will be much easier before the test.

2. Create a mind map that links all of the new concepts together and helps you create a bigger picture.

3. Start taking practice tests at least a week before the test.
It will be useless to cram and do five practice tests on a Sunday night, but if you take a test each day of the week in advance, it will not be as difficult and overwhelming.

4. Practice answering open-ended questions.
These have been saving my butt these last few weeks. Even though all of my exams are multiple choice, the best indicator of your knowledge is how well you are able to pull information out of your archival memory and into your working memory. And as a bonus, the more times you do this, the better you remember it in the future and the easier it is to recall again.

5. Identify Key Terms.
It doesn’t matter whether you create flashcards or cover the definitions with your hands: knowing the key terms and formulas is crucial to creating connections between concepts and coming up with “the big picture”. Just remember to actually think as you memorize the terms, because mindless memorization can only get you as far.

To sum it all up, I would like to say that the key to remembering information better and long after the test is to use a technique called elaborative rehearsal.  The basic science behind it is easy, though: pay the most attention to the meaning of the words and concepts, link new and old ideas right away, and try to mindlessly memorize things as little as possible. There are numerous sources and articles (1, 2, for example) that show that people who memorized a list of random words by focusing on how the word looks like or sounds like instead of focusing on the context in which the word was given to them, have remembered much fewer words than those who understood the meaning.

iPad Apps for Students

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If you have made the decision to use a tablet or an iPad for school, congratulations! I have found it to be so helpful, both in terms of freeing up some space in my backpack as well as keeping everything organized and in one place. One frequent question I get from my Tumblr followers is what are the top apps you can use for school?

Here is a quick list of productivity, note-taking, document reading, to-do list and some fun apps that can be integrated into your school life.

1. To be Productive

  •  When studying, the Pomodoro Timer can help you organize your schedule. The Pomodoro Rule (aka 45-15 rule) allows you to work for 45 minutes and rest for 15. Studying in smaller chunks like these helps you keep your best focus and re-energize when the concentration goes down.
  • If you are not a fan of set schedules, but would like to keep a clean and organized to-do list for all your activities, I’d recommend the GoodTask app

2. To Be Organized

  • To those who enjoy keeping a calendar online, Sunrise Calendar is a beautiful app. Similar to iCal, it includes Google calendar, Exchange and iCloud support, and is available on laptops, iPhones and iPads. It is also offered on Android!
  • StudyCal is also a great option for students who like to keep their daily tasks, class schedules, assignments and even grades all in one place.

3. To Take Notes

  • I take notes using GoodNotes app (Here is a screenshot). It is very simple and easy to use, doesn’t lag, and has handwriting recognition in case you need to do a search of you notes. Also includes PDF annotations as well as allows you to take photos and insert them right into your notes.
  • Another option is Notability an app very similar to Goodnotes, except that it offers a voice recording device and allows you to listen to the recording and see how you wrote your notes during lecture. Super cool!
  • Evernote and OneNote are also great apps for taking notes in class, but mostly if you prefer to type them. Both are saved on a cloud and are accessible from any device!
  • For various short and random notes, the App Store offers Post-It app, which lets you create Pinterest-like boards of post it notes from your photos.

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4. To Study 

5. To Keep your Files

  • Microsoft Office: Word, PowerPoint, Excel, OneDrive, etc. These can be found in Bundles in the App store for free! Good to have just in case.
  • The app I use is Documents Free. It’s very simple and saves everything even if I’ve just opened it once. Helps with files like class syllabus that I randomly decide to check in the middle of the year.

6. Other Helpful Apps

Here is a screenshot of my iPad and the apps that I use:

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How to Take Notes from a Textbook

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Textbook readings

Hey guys! I’ve received so many questions about reading textbooks and taking notes on that, so I am going to share with you how I do it.

I like to write on the margins. Not highlight. I don’t use a special color coding technique to separate my comments from key terms from titles from definitions.

My system is very simple and makes sense to me. All I use are:

  • A pencil
  • An eraser
  • Small (not tiny) sticky notes

To start, I think it’s important to read actively. This means to think through the material, note things you don’t understand, complete little practice problems at the end of each section and connect new concepts with each other and the old ones.

The margins of my textbook are pretty thick – so thick I can fit a small 2 x 1.5 inch sticky note.

  • On the sticky note, I write definitions and very important concepts that go with the definition. This means that I have anywhere from 2 to 6 sticky notes per page.
  • I underline important explanations and quotes in pencil. Whatever I think is super important, I underline. I choose not to highlight in order to avoid stupid highlight-every-word-what-if-I-need-to-see-it-later kind of thing.
  • I write small comments in pencil on the margins, near the sticky notes. Usually these are longer explanations of the sticky notes, a little map of the concepts (how what I’ve just read connects to each other), and, most importantly, my own connects that I make while reading. This seems to help a lot, because if I look at this text in a few weeks, I’ll be able to remember my train of thought at the moment of reading.

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That’s it.

It sounds like a lot, but come test time, I will only use the margins and skim the text part of the book for any underlined parts.

I’ll let you guys know how that goes for me this quarter: I’m taking two Psych classes (4 chapters a week, 30 pages each…..) and a Math class.

How to Make a Study Plan

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*My fall quarter starts on September 24th. Professors started posting textbook information, test information, syllabus, etc. on the course websites a couple days, so I thought it would be a good idea to prepare for each class before it starts *

Once you have your textbooks, a little bit of information on the website, and the syllabus, start preparing your study plan for the quarter.

1. Read the course syllabus. Professors know exactly what they will be teaching, how big the workload will be, exam schedules, reading material, etc. Once you read the syllabus, you are already mentally prepared for the class, and it won’t seem as overwhelming on the first day.

** Important information to take away from the syllabus:
– Homework load
– Class schedule, test information
– Retake and make up policy
– Any class- specific information

2. Look up your professor on RateMyProfessorsBy reading other students’ reviews, you can get a preview into what your classes will be like. It’s important not to believe every word you read there, simply because every student has a different (or no) relationship with his professor.

** Info to take away from Ratemyprofessors:
STUDY TIPS. A lot of students write what they’ve done to be successful in the class
– How to professor teaches the class. What materials to use
– Homework/ work load

3. Write down your goals for the course. Whether it’s a specific grade you want to earn or the information you’d like to learn, it’s good to have something to motivate you.

** More info:
– Create a Work Document, a poster or just some random sheet and write down your goals on it
– Hang in somewhere where you’ll see it as a reminder and motivator

4. Note exam dates, reading schedule, etc. Look over the syllabus or a schedule chart, if one is available, and assign yourself pages to read a few weeks ahead. You can always modify this list as the quarter progresses

5. Attend the first few Lectures. Probably the most important thing you could do to prepare for the future classes.

** Info to take away:
– Professor’s teaching style
– Plan a note-taking technique
– What you’ll actually need to read/ do to succeed.
Talk to the professor, ask for tips on how to study for his/her class!!

Small Things That Affect Your Concentration

 

Humans can’t pay full attention to two things at once: it’s a fact! (Source 1, 2, 3). While we think we can do two things at the same time, like doing homework and watching a TV show- we’re actually doing neither.

Thus, when there are distractions around us, we cannot fully focus on our work no matter how hard we try. Small things that we usually don’t think about affect our concentration, but are easy to control:

1. Cell Phone
-put it on silent, out of reach and check only once an hour. It can totally wait and whoever texted you can wait a few minutes.

2. Mess
-It sets the mood. The messier your room, the less organized YOU are! Clean and organize your desk, make your bed, and make a schedule everyday.

3. People
-I’ve found that if I study at home, everyone always bothers and distracts me because they know I’m home and can answer a question, clean something, drive, etc. To avoid the same fate, go to the library! Bring a snack, some tea or coffee and focus!

4. Too many pens
-For those of us who like to color code….let’s use up to 3 colors. The more pens and pencils, staplers and little stickers we have around us, the more distracting they are. Three colors are sufficient enough to mark 1) important terms, 2) explanations, 3)titles (that’s an example, you can do it differently). When there are purple, orange, blue, green, red, yellow, etc. colors, the point of highlighting gets lost- your notebook becomes a rainbow.

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Remember Better: Active Recall

To remember new information better, we have to look at studying at a more biopsychological level.

When new information enters our brain, it is first processed in the working memory. This type of memory is not very big- with it we only remember things for about 30 seconds. Example: when you do a math problem, you think about the numbers you’re working with. However, when the problem is solved and you move on to the next one, the numbers are forgotten immediately.

In some cases, the information (now a memory) moves to the short-term memory (STM), where it is kept for a few minutes longer. However, if this memory is not recalled enough times, it will be forgotten. That’s why when we procrastinate and leave the memorizing and studying until the last minute, we don’t remember that information after the exam.

Now for the final part, to transfer the new memory from STM to Long term memory (LTM), we have to use something called active recall. Basically, it’s like quizzing yourself: the more times you remember/recall something, the better you’ll remember it in the future. Like finding your dorm room- the first few times you get lost, but eventually you remember it and have no trouble finding it.

“How to Win at College” by Cal Newport

Hello everyone!

I’ve been reading a very interesting book by Cal Newport (he has a website called Study Hacks, haha, but we’re not the same people): How to Win at College: Surprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students.

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Honestly, this book has been the most helpful guide to studying that I’ve ever read.

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