Dec 06 2013

Effective Study Habits

When one group of students receive their degrees, a new group is always there to take their place. Each one of us have our our way of successfully demonstrating the acquired skills and knowledge on exams. But in some disciplines such as Engineering and Geology, just a one method will not always work. While I am not the modeled student you should look up to, here are few things that worked for me from first to fourth year at the University of Calgary.

Time management

You do not have to make a timetable to use your time effectively. I personally use arbitrary deadlines as opposed to having a timetable. Some of my friends in Geology have allocated time slots for each subject to make sure no subject is left behind till the end of the semester. For me it will only result in rushing through important concepts just to stick to the time slot. This is not very effective for subjects like Geology. Geology is a mixture of Science, Arts and History. It also involves practical knowledge; lab exams. I recommend all first year students to spend more time on your weak points rather than dividing time equally for each subject. For example, if you are struggling with Mineralogy, you should put more time and effect to that subject over others.

Type of subject matters

Do not expect to study Hydrology or Physics the same way you would study for Paleobiology or Geologic History. The amount of memorization without much of a logical process in subjects like Paleobiology is much higher than that of Hydrology. Hydrology involves understanding of mathematical equations derived from empirical Geologic data. Paleobiology involves studying the history of life derived from the empirical Stratigraphic data. Very few students will be able to study both subject using a similar method. I found it is important to understand logical concepts in any subject that involves Mathematics and Physics than just to memorize formulas. While Professors/Instructors may disagree with my view on how each subject is differ from each other, let’s face it, we all know this is one of the reasons why some students are good at memorizing and others at mathematics!

If you are student in Geology or similar multidisciplinary program, I highly recommended improving both memorizing skills and logical skills.

Tips for studying

If the subject require little of no logical thinking then,

  • Learn the concepts right at the first time early on.
  • Repeat what you have learned by transforming your knowledge into others forms; writings down, anticipating questions for exam, etc.
  • Try to teach someone (your friend or even your dog…) by acting like a teacher. Ask your friends to ask you questions to see if you remember.
  • Test what you have memorized few week earlier by trying to “pull-out” your memory often.
  • If you found that you have learned something wrong, correct immediately. Sometimes I have incorrectly answered questions because I memorized the incorrect information.
  • It is scientifically proven that studying in the early morning improves memory. In fact, this technique has been used by Buddhist monks in India for thousands of years. May be you should try weaking up at 4:00 AM even on Saturday instead of studying all night.

If the subject require logical thinking and memorizing (about equally) then,

  • Addition to what is posted above, relate theoretical concepts to real world issues. For example, hydrological conductivity is not only can be summed up with few equations, but also can be relate to Calgary’s groundwater supply.
  • Never memorize a logical concept like Darcy’s Law. Instead find practice problems and use the formula over and over until you understand how to use it. Memorizing a formula will not only hurt you on exams, but also will effect the quality of work you will do as a Professional Geologist or Engineer.
  • If something makes no sense (logically), probably something is wrong. In other words, if you find things you studies makes no sense, may be it is time to stop studying and time to figure out what went wrong. In multi-steps questions, spend more time getting the first part right before you move on to the next step.
  • During studying and exams, make sure your tools good. What I mean is that if you need your calculator in Degree Mode, make sure it is in degree mode before attempting a question.
  • In subjects like Geophysics and Hydrology, there are often connections between the mathematics side and observational science. Try to find relationships between them to understand the concepts better.
  • Some problems may not have right or wrong answers but rather a logical answer. So make sure you can manipulate what your instructor taught you in any form in any way. Do not just go for questions similar to what you have learned in class. I can take a simple question and without changing any values, I can make it into a complicated one. If I can do that, so can the Instructors.
  • Never assume that all questions have to “make sense”. Do not be confused between the “logics” and “making sense”. They are not always synonymous to each other.

In addition… engineering and Geoscience students should always try to relate their lecture materials to lab materials. It will help bridge the gap between the theoretical knowledge and practical applications.

Some students have found other ways to improving their skills like, mediation/yoga, “puppy theory”, sports, pron, etc. Whatever you do I recommended starting early and not so close to the exams. Changing your habits close to exams could actually hurt you rather than helping in improving your grades.

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  1. […] pull offs most likely not going to work at the university level. Additionally, I have written up on Effective Study Habits tips on a previous […]

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