Your Study Skills and Grade Point Average: The Real Connection
By Anna Dornier
Incorporating your five senses into studying and repetition of information are two important factors in learning. Read through each strategy below to have a better understanding of these factors.
I. Pay attention during class
You probably heard people around you say that you have to go to class in order to get good grades. However, the mistake I see some students make is they start doing other things such as sleeping, taking to classmates, listening to i-pods and even reading a newspaper during class. This does not make sense to me at all. If you gave the time and effort in attending class, wouldn’t you want to get something out of it! You can be missing out on future test questions when you do this. This is true because, from experience, I found that teachers focus on discussing the most important concepts that will be on the test. Attending class can also help keep you up to date with announcements such as cancelled exams or topics that you don’t need to study.
I admit, keeping focused in class can be really difficult. There are just too many temptations (far more attractive then your balding professor) even in the smallest of classrooms. You will even be in greater trouble is your class is scheduled right after lunch which is a great time to take a nap.
Because of the issues I mentioned above, I found that there are ways to keep focused during class. First sit in the front row. The idea is if your teachers can see you, they will more likely catch you doing something else and you may get in trouble. You don’t want to be on the bad side of the people who grade you right?
Next. Take notes and keep them organized. If you are doing something with your hands by writing notes (not doodling), you will more likely stay awake and not pay attention to that cute guy winking at you from across the room. Also, studies have shown that people can only retain a small percentage os information in their long term memory after only hearing it once. Think of your notes as your long term memory so that you can read it again when it’s time to study.
II. Read your text book
Ok, so a lot of students probably do this already but I found that most of us read our text books passively (I was guilty of this too). To be able to get the most out of your reading, you will need to read actively. This works especially if your teacher relies heavily on material from the text book.
Some teachers like to discuss material from different sources so they might have their own presentations and hand outs. If this is the case, then you’ll need to focus more on those rather than reading your text book.
Back to active reading: What do I mean by this?
Let me demonstrate. Let’s say that you need to read chapter 1. Look at chapter 1’s table of contents and flip through its pages first. Pay attention to the headings. This will give you an idea of how the chapter is organized and it will also prepare your brain by giving you the “big picture” of that chapter.
Next, reading the chapter once. Making a dialog with the ideas presented there. For example, if you find that you disagree with something, write it on the white space by the text. If you’ve read something that you feel is important, underline/highlight it. However, use highlighting judiciously. I see some students’ text books with the whole page highlighted. Remember, the purpose of highlighting is to isolate that important thought so that you easily find it the next time you need it.
After reading you text book once, read it a second time but this time take notes. This process basically repeats the information in your head and we all know that we learn better with repetition! Furthermore, by writing down notes and important ideas, you are incorporating more of your senses into the learning process (e.g. your sense of touch in addition to your sense of sight). This helps you remember things faster and easier than just reading passively.
Ok, this may sound too much like hard work but it does have an advantage … you don’t have to study that chapter again. All you need to do is to look at your note cards for the midterms or finals. I found that when I use this strategy, studying for the finals is less stressful because I can easily recall the materials that I read previously.
III. Read before you go to class
Ever wondered what a course syllabus is for? Besides giving you an idea of what the course will cover, the syllabus is a great tool if you like to read ahead. Most of the time, teachers will put page numbers besides the topics that they are going to discuss for a particular day. Even though your teacher may not assign a reading, it is a great idea to read ahead.
Why read ahead?
The answer is one word, repetition. Once your brain gets exposed to a particular topic, your memory retention will be much higher. This relies on the fact that information gets “transferred” from your short term memory to your long term memory after you have been to it a bunch of times. Why do you think you forget the names of the people you only net once but remember you roommates name easily?
I also found that reading ahead makes understanding difficult concepts much easier since most books will show examples and illustrations along with full paragraph explanations of the topic. This can be much better when compared to your teachers’ power point presentation which are usually in a list of bullet points. When I understand parts of the topic before even getting to class. I usually get that “light bulb” in my head because the material just makes a lot more sense.
IV. Study with a group
Studying with a group of friends or classmates is yet another way to integrate one of your five senses into your learning experiences. When you study with a group, you can hear yourself or other people talk about various topics out loud. Besides, I would rather be in the company of people that are in the same situation as me than be miserable by myself (although I do know some people who study better by themselves). This is also the time to test yourself is you fully understand something. The logic behind this is: if you can explain a concept to your friends and they understand what you’re talking about, there is a high probability that you know you’re topic pretty well.
Also, think of this as a time to help each other out and ask questions. Chances are, if you don’t understand something, somebody else can explain it to you and vice versa.
The best place to find people for your study group is the front row (another reason to sit there). Studies have found that people who sit in the front row do better in school either because they are already smart or they just focus better. This also helps if you’re shy because the people in the front might be nicer than the people in the back row (ok, this is not a proven fact but I’ve met the nicest people there).
V. Go to office hours
Universities require teachers to have office hours for a reason; because they help you, the student. And yet, a lot of students forget about this important opportunity. In some cases, the office hours may not fit a student’s schedule who works part-time. In another case, students may be just plain lazy because going to office hours requires extra time and effort on their part. If you are one of these students think of these benefits for a moment:
? You can ask the teacher whatever topic or homework you’re having trouble with
? Your teacher will remember you … brownie points! (this is especially beneficial if your teacher awards extra points during grading time
? Your teacher may unknowingly ask some future test questions (I used to have a teacher who did this intentionally)
? You would be able to tell how your teacher wants essay questions answered in the exam by how he/she answered your question
Don’t take office hours for granted. You paid for this benefit so why not use it?