With the inevitable on the horizon, it might be time to refresh those studying strategies…

Unless you’re really going hard with Summer A and B courses, it’s been a while since any of us have had to sit down and study. And after a year of online school, those classic methods may have faded away from memory. But not to worry! Bwog Staff brings you their own tried-and-true study methods. Not just a list, but the nitty-gritty, farm-to-table details of their very own studying procedures.

Caroline Mullooly, Managing Editor

  • Highlighting: The day before a test, I highlight every key term and concept in my notebook. That night, I read and reread all the highlighted material. I like to think it helps things stick. 
  • Flashcards: Flashcards are the only way I can really memorize material. Some people like Quizlet, but I hand-write my flashcards. I have to see the words in my own handwriting—I’m sure that’s some sort of psychological thing. I then read them out loud until I can confidently say what’s on the other side of the card, taking out the known cards so I can focus on the harder ones. Pro tip: it’s better to make more cards with less words than less cards with more words.

Jeffrey Ndubisi, Publisher

Organization-wise, I use:

  • A couple 5-subject notebooks. (These are just for sources of paper. I don’t keep one tied to any one class because I have…)
  • A few 2-pocket plastic folders with prongs. (One per class; this is where my homework assignments, practice problems, “in-class” notes and “permanent” notes go after the week’s end. I just tear the relevant pages out of my notebooks and put it all here).
  • Flashcards, as necessary. (I’ve lately become fond of Anki, though. Amazing spaced-repetition software, and only a little bit of a learning curve).

My basic procedure:

1. I go to lecture (gasp!) and take notes in the style of the instructor’s lecture (for example, if teaching from a blackboard, I’ll turn my notebook horizontally and try to copy down what’s being drawn). If there are slides, I’ll try and print them before class and annotate them during the lecture. I’m a big fan of pen and paper. I try to understand what’s going on in lectures as best as I can, but for me, it’s a lot more important to just scribble down whatever I can.

2. After class, I go back and write my “permanent” notes. This takes a while, but the upside is that combing through the in-class notes forces me to realize what I didn’t understand the first time around. Rewriting creates questions for office hours, which are good. (Rewriting can also mean taking the time to puzzle through and organize lecture content on my own terms, which is better, imo.) I like doing this in a library and while listening to the radio/Pandora/etc. My (kinda) motivational quote that I work by: “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

3. I do as many practice problems as I can. I like to do these after having rewritten the notes since it means I’ll have better processed the topics that the problems address, but that’s not always feasible schedule-wise. I just try to solve problems often, ask questions, and write down little insights I have in solving problems to later add to those rewritten notes. (As I have learned the hard way, the homework assignments are not enough practice––and heck, sometimes there isn’t assigned homework for pacing’s sake, a la Columbia’s intro bio class).

Lillian Rountree, Deputy Editor

  • For humanities courses: Do the readings on schedule. Like, actually. That’s it. It’s not always possible but I’ve found that nothing is quite as good as it for exam prep/any kind of final. If I’ve actually done the readings, bay the time whatever comprehensive final exam comes around, the amount of studying I need to do is very low-key—sometimes I’ll just write out summaries and key themes of the texts, or flip back through the physical (not digital if I can help it!!!) versions to unlock those wonderful sense memories of my thoughts and opinions (of which there are unfortunately many). 
  • For math courses: Office hours, office hours, office hours. I always feel like a fool, like an absolute, absolute fool who can’t put two numbers together in her head, but I’m also always glad I went. I would put my life on the line for most of the TAs I’ve met (especially the stats ones), and in terms of exams, TAs know what they will actually be like, and they’ll usually let you know what to expect more than the professor will. Aside from that, when it’s time (read: two weeks out?) for yet another loosely-defined “midterm,” I’ll first go back through my usually messy but in-depth notes from the lectures and try to pull out the key concepts into a handwritten study guide. I don’t use the study guide—well, like, I mean to use the study guide, but what the process really does is makes me familiar with the formulas and theorems and concepts and, crucially, where they are in my notes, which makes them easier to find for open-note tests. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself now that those kinds of tests might be off the table in this “post-pandemic” world… Anyways! Redoing difficult homework problems and if I’m feeling really inspired (and know where to find the solutions online), other problems from the textbook and reviewing the solutions to them, too. Going through those problems and key concepts—and the practice exam, if I am blessedly given one—with other people in person, especially if those other people are the same level of smart/clueless as me, just in different areas so we all balance out for a net smart. I didn’t know anyone in my math classes this past year, and I missed having a partner like that. 

Student Still Figuring It Out #54, Staff Writer

  • Do some of the readings.
  • Eavesdrop on other people’s questions to the TA to gain the knowledge they then produce for your peer.
  • Make a friend in class so you can vent about it together and talk about what you’re studying (or trying to study) and you can discuss how the exam went after you take it.

Sydney Contreras, Staff Writer

(This is mostly about essay-based exams/papers because I don’t take classes that have exams…)

  • Note Revision: I don’t always do this because it is a lengthy process, but taking (even sparing) notes before class on the homework truly helps me formulate my thoughts before discussion sections. Then I take notes during lecture, and before I go to sleep/before I do the next assignment I try to sort of add them all together to have a more comprehensive set of notes for each topic. I’ve also tried this with just handwriting class notes and typing them up later and revising while typing. The key for me is just really looking at the stuff a second time shortly after I learn it the first time so it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other. 
  • Paper Outlining: For essay exams I like to try to come up with a few possible prompt ideas with friends and write short outlines of how I’d try to answer the questions. It makes it easier to not fully panic when you see the question because at least you’ve been thinking about it. 

Leora Schloss, ESC Bureau Chief

  • Random Associations (or Smart Ones): when you have to memorize something, make up any sort of trick to memorize things. I recently was forgetting the aldehyde functional group, but remembered that I know some named AL whose name has an H and that helped me remember part of the functional group. Alliteration, mnemonic devices, word association: everything is fair game as long as it makes sense in your head.
  • Rewriting Your Notes: tedious? Extremely. My go to study strategy? 100%. Recopying your notes or creating an abbreviated version of them is more active than just rereading them. If you’re short on time, highlight your notes and rewrite details that you feel are important and/or that you’re likely to forget. 
  • Whiteboard Markers on Window: this can be done in Milstein or if you have a whiteboard marker and confidence that it’ll come off of your dorm window when you’re done. Drawing things out like this is bigger than a diagram crammed onto paper. Plus, if you leave it up for a bit, you’ll be able to look up and see it for an extra reminder as you go about your day.

For Essays:

  • Chaotic First Drafts: After I get an essay assignment, I first let it stew for a few days (ie: do nothing really but occasionally think about it). My next step is to word vomir into a Google Doc. This usually ends up looking like the roughest of rough drafts. Don’t worry about the contents of your draft until it’s all out of your brain and in a document. Then you can read it and figure out what you’re actually saying. 

Victoria Borlando, News Editor

For Essays:

  • Take your argument in parts. Literally. When it comes to writing essays, I like to create several word documents, all dedicated to different parts of the essay. For instance, my “scrap” document is filled with random sentences and points I want to say at some point in my essay. One document is dedicated to one subject/text/person/thing, and another is dedicated to something else. Then, I copy and paste all my edits into a new document, and voila! Finished essay that has already been scrutinized. Separating my thoughts allows me to focus on the task at hand and produces well-developed ideas, while the scrap document helps me to keep in mind my main argument and how the essay will end. It’s a lot of work, but I always found that it produces great results.
  • If you’re having problems starting your essay, just go right to the first point of analysis/evidence. Again, your essay should guide the reader through your thought process, indicating that you knew where everything was going to end since the first sentence. So, if you don’t know where you’re going, analyze and write until you draw your conclusions. Then edit for focus and write the fun bits.
  • TAKE YOUR TIME. My strategy is to divide the pages by days you have to write. For instance, if you have a five page essay due in five days, plan/gather evidence/come up with points (approx. one sentence) the first day, write two pages the second day, two pages the third, last page the fourth, and final edits on the fifth day. This way, you won’t be overworked, you’ll be able to see your progress, and you won’t get discouraged by writer’s block or whatnot. And you won’t even have to write an extra email asking for an extension!
  • Cite as you go along. People are insane and just put the footnote and write “citation here,” but I’m not about that. In fact, if you’re working with multiple sources, at least jot down the author, title, and page number and do the complete citation later. Just don’t lose your citations or forget to cite a quote/idea because that happens A LOT.

For Humanities Classes:

  • Annotate, annotate, annotate! If you get an essay prompt/topic and genuinely believe you don’t have any thoughts on the book/text, that means you didn’t annotate! Have a conversation with the author, argue with questionable points, highlight interesting sentences, notice strange patterns, and ask rhetorical questions!! Engage with the text, and you’ll be surprised at how much you can actually write about something you otherwise thought you couldn’t care less about!
  • Talk to the people in your class outside the classroom. Even if it’s making fun of the text you’re working on or a question on something that confuses you, it’s always great to find other perspectives on the same book. I guess this point is also to say that sometimes you’ll get too far inside your own head, and when working in classes that require understanding others’ thoughts and ideas, you need to actually try to do that with the people around you. There’s a reason most essays have an et al. section!

For Foreign Language Classes:

  • Actually take your time on the homework. I know language courses require different energy than a class for your major, but in order to make the most of it, you have to take your homework seriously. Do the exercises and actually try without opening G**gle Tr*nslate; it’s okay to make mistakes sometimes! You’re literally taking this class to learn it, not prove to others that you’re magically The Most Fluent Speaker in the World.
  • Try to think in the language you’re learning (even if it’s only to yourself) to work on your translation, speaking, and comprehension skills. This is a good exercise in learning what your strengths are, how effectively you need to communicate, and which words/phrases you need to learn next.

Now you’re ready to take on any assessment that comes your way! Go forth, dear student, and study hard!!

Student Studying via Bwog Archives