Once you have established a schedule to study you need to get the most out of that time. Several things will help increase your effectiveness. As already mentioned, maintaining a regular schedule is one. Another is creating a comfortable environment for studying that is free of distractions. Finally there is the What and How of studying.
Generally all the material that you should know for an exam is presented in lecture or in your lab work. Therefore you can use the lectures and labs as a guide to what is important and emphasize this material in your studying. To be most effective your lecture/lab notes must include all of the key points covered in lecture/lab. As an aid many instructors provide lecture outlines. These can be very helpful as a guide but should not replace good note taking.
DO NOT take this to imply that you do not need to read the text. Textbooks often may be thought of as a supplement to the lecture/lab that you can use to preview the material, to fill in gaps in your notes, to answer questions, and for review. They are, however, a critical component in your learning and should not be omitted. Use the text!!
Note: Different instructors utilize textbook information to different degrees. Some test only from lectures while others test heavily from the text (even if the text material has not been discussed). It is up to you to determine what your instructor expects of you. In either case it is rare for an instructor to discuss something that they do not think is important.
There is no single "best" way to study. Each individual must find the best method for them. This may even vary for a given individual depending on the subject matter. However, three components are common to all: (1) repetition, (2) effort, and (3) time. Repetition is a key component necessary to move information into memory. As an absolute minimum you should plan to review the material three times, in lecture, in reviewing the lecture, and in reading the text. This should be active review during which you organize your thoughts and test yourself. Actively studying requires effort, learning is hard work. It also takes time, there are no shortcuts.
The following is a compilation of many of the techniques used by successful students to study. The more of them that you can incorporate into your collection of skills the more likely you are to succeed.
1. Preview material to be presented prior to attending lecture or lab.
2. Take good lecture notes - good note taking is a valuable skill that is difficult to master.
don't try to write everything that is said, just note enough to remind yourself what was discussed (your notes should be clear to you but not necessarily to anyone else).
note all figures presented in lecture for later review.
3. Rewrite your lecture notes as soon as possible after the lecture (note: this should be an active process - do not simply re-copy your notes, think about what you are writing and write it in your own words).
4. Draw out flow diagrams of complex processes or relationships.
this can be a simple or very complex "map" to help you visualize relationships (note: if you learn the relationships and the general concepts it is often possible to reason out the details, however, learning the details alone often is not helpful in learning the concepts).
5. Draw simple anatomical pictures illustrating structures and relationships - these do not need to be artwork but should be clear to you.
6. Use additional resources when needed (i.e. texts) - frequently texts used in prerequisite classes can provide a clear overview of the general concepts helpful in keeping perspective (in advanced courses it is possible to lose sight of the big picture).
7. Test yourself - self study questions can often be found at the ends of chapters, in study guides, and in computer applications.
8. Review what you have studied with a study group - study groups should not replace individual study but are frequently the best way to review what you have learned.
9. Take advantage of instructor office hours to clear up any questions that you cannot answer on your own.
10. Review and analyze your mistakes on your tests - what are the correct answers, why did you miss the questions, how can you improve your studying and test performance?
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